Atomic Space News #3: Relative motion plotting

It’s time for another installment of Atomic Space News! Since I only just thought of that heading for these posts, but will be editing it retroactively into the titles of the existing posts, this is both the first and fourth installment, and since I’m a programmer, it’s post #3.

Last time I talked about some things that I was doing or wanted to do that I’ve since done! Invigorating progress.

First off, the change in how headings are displayed is done. Inputs now mimic a compass, though you’re free to do things like enter in -090 degrees instead of 270. Forcing everything to be displayed in the 0-360 range is on my to-do list, but not a high priority item despite the fact that it should be dead easy to do.

Secondly, I’ve added a second smaller marker to every burn to show when the burn ends. Last post I included a shot of an Io encounter. Here’s what it looks like now! All images are clickable links to full size screenshots.

In addition to that I’ve implemented relative display, meaning you can now view the simulation as if a particular object were the center of the universe. This can lead to quite interesting patterns, and is also helpful at in refining a near encounter into a very close encounter. Here’s that same course shown from the perspective of Ganymede. This view is not especially useful, but it is interesting to look at! Note the circular path of Jupiter, mirroring Ganymede’s own orbit around it, just from a different frame of reference.

In fact using the Io relative display I was able to refine this course down from a three burn, 24.5 km/s delta-V course that takes 22 days, I refined it to a two burn, 17 km/s delta-V course that takes just shy of 5 days.

And again from Io’s perspective, which makes it much easier to see that they definitely encounter each other.

In fact this encounter is so close that in real life your spacecraft would be directly encountering not only Io’s atmosphere, but also it’s surface. Not bad for about a minute’s refinement of the course.

Right now my next goal is more PR related than code, but code is happening as a direct result of it. I’d like to make a narrated video of assembling a winning course with the current tools, like the video linked on the front page of this site but with explanations of what’s going on. Without those it’s quite opaque to people that don’t already know what the game is about, and can get rather dry. I’ve taken a few stabs at this already, but each time I do I find some aspect of the interface is slowing me down and drawing the run time out unacceptably long. Some editing down is possible, but I want to keep it to a minimum in large part due to my lack of familiarity with video editing software.

That’s where the coding comes in, as each time I do this I come up with ideas on how to modify the GUI to speed up the process, and then get to work on implementing those. So next time I should have either a lot of small GUI refinements to talk about, or have a nifty video to share. Until then!

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