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SMK-23 Flight Simulator at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama

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Published on Feb 23, 2010

What you are seeing there is not a LM landing simulator, but rather that footage is showing the SMK-23 Flight Simulator at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. That particular version of the SMK-23 was modified by the Simulation Branch of MSFC so that it could be used by NASA as the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) simulator.

The USAF had a LOT to do with the development of that particular training simulator, which was supposed to be used by NASA as a "driving" rather than a "flying" sim. The SMK-23 was most definitely a "flight" simulator though, and could simulate not only various LRV-type driving vehicles, but also could accurately mimic the flight characteristics of several different LFV (Lunar Flying Vehicle) variants in a lunar environment. The SMK-23 was in fact designed as a fully modular concept flight simulator, and it could be quickly modified to simulate a wide variety of different vehicle types - both grounded and flying versions. It was a pretty sweet little sim any way you look at it, and it also utilized the highest detail three-dimensional lunar surface terrain models made for the Apollo Program simulation efforts. The scale of the 3-D terrain models for Hadley Rille, the Descartes Highlands, and Taurus Littrow that were used in the SMK-23 LRV trainer were locked at only 1/150 scale. Projected through a 441 scan-line TV system, the SMK-23 offered some pretty impressive 3-D surface detail for the astronauts to visualize and practice on, though interestingly, while the system was fully color-capable, NASA elected to remove the color wheel from the camera and chose to simulate the Apollo LRV training in black&white.

Rather than using just a stationary terrain model with a motion-control camera system running on a track and carriage assembly to simulate a traverse, the SMK-23 was designed so that the camera system and the 3-D terrain model would both move in response to the astronaut control inputs.

The 3-D terrain model the SMK-23 simulator used was actually a 27-foot by 12-foot conveyor belt, so any X-axis inputs (usually north/south) made by the astronaut on the three-axis hand controller would cause the terrain model to scroll forward or back beneath the camera. While the conveyor belt provided the required longitudinal movement effects, the servo-driven camera system would move in response to any lateral pitch, roll and yaw inputs or simulated wheel suspension effects, and the camera would also raise or lower to simulate changes in altitude when in flight sim mode.

Video Description by LunaCognita

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