Virtual SpaceFlight Network

Black Phoenix

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Jun 5, 2011
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This is a project I work on as a hobby. It's still mostly closed to the public, though by now it reached a stage when I'm interested in finding more interested people. Though probably the thread will fall through, this forum seems more or less parallel to this thing.

VSFL Network is an online spaceflight network oriented towards the aerospace engineering enthusiasts. In simple words it's a spaceflight simulator which runs 24/7 and propagates internal and external state of all vessels in its orbit in realtime.

This simulation is interfaced with other simulations through various ways (networked protocol to communicate with a simulator I wrote extending X-Plane, and in future towards Orbiter and my own separate simulator). It includes an internal systems simulator I'm writing.

It doesn't have any renderer yet, but it's actually a simulator I originally wrote to extend X-Plane flight simulator:

It serves two goals actually - I want to learn more about aerospace (I don't have money to build any rockets, gotta use mathematical models instead), and it would be fun to work with people in learning together.

I've only got the nerve to post this because I got a working virtual satellite in orbit now, it transmits time and magnetic field data continuously.

Anyway, the whole thing is welcoming towards working on aerospace designs - unbuilt spacecraft, or making new systems for old ones. Pretty much backseat engineering, it's encouraged to play with concepts (if you need to go beyond simply running it in your local simulator). This is why I'm posting about this at these forums in the first place (maybe someone wants to let imagination run free with some specific designs?)

To give you a general idea of the aerospace focus of this network, here's a short summary of first fiveseven space missions done so far (so far they all have been done with a derivative of Ares/Orion stack, both SRB and Zenit as first stage). All the missions have been autonomous, meaning that I only rely on data from telemetry (where applies):
  • XS1A, XS1B: qualification suborbital flights testing the rocket. About 12 flight control system issues were found and fixed during these flights
  • XS1: first orbital flight, mostly served as testing of a slightly updated guidance system and autonomous flight capability of the capsule
  • XS2: second orbital flight, testing long-term autonomous flight. This flight lasted 1 day (and 16 orbits). There has been a scanning camera on-board, and it downlinked a fairly large amount of pictures (see below). Also has tested command uplinking from ground stations.
  • XS3A: qualification flight of a modified RV-553 rocket (Ares upper stage, Zenit first stage, dummy satellite as a payload). This has launched two objects into permanent orbit (well, decaying).
  • XS3B: qualification flight of the third stage that should get my payloads into higher orbits (10,000 kg into LEO, 4,000 kg into MEO, 2,000 kg into GEO)
  • F1-S1: a suborbital launch of my friends Falcon-1 (it only shares the parameters, I wrote my own guidance). This carried a virtual video camera and downstreamed a very poor quality video.

All the missions were flown by the computer, I only worked with it via the radio transmissions (simulated: spacecraft encodes binary data, ground stations decode binary data and feed it to the website).

Selected data from various missions:
There's examples of downlinked imagery on the website. Here's one frame from the downlinked video stream (MPEG compression, and it barely fits the 384 KBPS bandwidth):

Downlinked XS3B ascent telemetry (runs on a guidance system that's roughly based on PEG, noise can be seen during switchover from via-pad telemetry to Sary Shagan tracking):


Realtime heating:
Something I'm working on, only used in X-Space. Estimates heating by roughly calculating heating transfer between TPS, hull, environment, based on empiric models and just generally wrong. But gives at least some data...

Might be interesting too... in scope of a potential aerospace simulator maybe.

Appreciated: suggestions for improvement, pointing out errors (physics errors, errors in guidance, various bad properties of control systems preferably by the last operational flight). I am searching for interesting designs, though I'm fine doing it myself, if there's some design you have a feeling about tell me about it though.

It takes plenty of work to get one design running (though I've been mostly doing stuff from scratch), so enthusiasts are appreciated too.

There's also satellites, which can run almost any platform that I can get a virtual machine for.

More information (website): (the main website, flight archives) (realtime tracking) (launch schedule) (list of all registered/launched vessels) (all of the downlinked images for XS2) (telemetry from the satellite, available only while in coverage of Evpatoriya). (RV-55x, which is Ares/Zenit, tracking system, offline since there's no rocket). (TCP port that streams data from time satellite. The format is if you want to parse it yourself. Telnet there if you want to have random characters running over your screen?).

I will not apologize for materials on the website being too rough, because I will loose my sanity if I try to fix everything before presenting it to public. The whole thing is incomplete and I'm not an aerospace engineer, it's just my hobby.

P.S. The designs I'm currently doing stuff with are some canard derivative of Buran (and much bigger, different cockpit shape), X-30D derivative, Ares/Orion (with Zenit instead of SRB), and some others which I'm not doing anything with right now.


ACCESS: Secret
Feb 5, 2011
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Seems interesting - and very all encompassing at the same time. It would perhaps be nice if you posted links to sites or resources where one can develop one's proficiency in all the various areas of expertise that one can employ with and in this project. It's not like material cannot be found separately, but you having already been down this path perhaps has some added "meta" value to others finding their own unique way and approach. The nice thing about this is that while virtual spaceflight and vehicle design as such is a bit esoteric perhaps, many of the associated skills are generally interesting and not unique to this project in themselves. As things stand I probably couldn't contribute anything of real added value, but in due course things may change somewhat.

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