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Designing and making a full scale Open Source Gemini spacecraft simulator for Kerbal Space Program
Designing and making a full scale Open Source Gemini spacecraft simulator for Kerbal Space Program
Designing and making a full scale Open Source Gemini spacecraft simulator for Kerbal Space Program
28 backers pledged $1,685 to help bring this project to life.

About

Open Source Gemini Simulator

$1,685

28

What is a prototype?

A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:

Proof of Concept

Explorations that test ideas and functionality.

Functional Prototype

Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.

Appearance Prototype

Looks like the final product, but is not functional.

Design Prototype

Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.

Production Prototype

Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.

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Prototype Gallery

These photos and videos provide a detailed look at this project’s development.

Who hasn't at some point dreamed of being an astronaut?  Although most of us will never get the opportunity to fly in space, with your help we can bring a small piece of the space experience to anyone.

Overview

The Open Source Gemini Simulator project is designing and building a full size replica of the Gemini spacecraft and adapting it for playing Kerbal Space Program (KSP).  The best part is, that unlike a custom built museum piece, this one will be completely open source and designed to be built by anyone with hardware store parts, a workspace, and a maker attitude!  All of the CAD files, drawings, documentation, and software will be made freely available for anyone to use to make their very own spaceship.

CAD Model of Capsule Exterior
CAD Model of Capsule Exterior

Project Goals

The primary product of this project will be the open source documentation on the design, construction, and programming of all aspects of the capsule.  This will enable anyone to construct their very own Gemini "sim-pit" without needing to invest the tremendous amount of time needed to recreate the shape and size of the Gemini spacecraft.  Additionally, it will be possible to build individual elements of the capsule if someone does not want to build an entire spacecraft.

Secondary goals include making additional software addons for other simulators/games and bringing the completed capsule to events for others to experience.

Features

The capsule will be an "ergonomic" recreation of the Gemini capsule adapted for playing Kerbal Space Program.  The point of the project is to give any user a realistic experience of what it must have been like to work inside of a Gemini capsule; balancing a strict adherence to original specs with cost and ease of construction.  This is not meant to be a museum quality replica; rather, it is a recreation of the Gemini experience for Kerbal Space Program.  Every effort has been made to preserve the original look and feel of the Gemini capsule, though there are some minor changes to make assembly possible with readily available tools and materials, as well as keep costs low.  Furthermore, the entire capsule is designed to be easily assembled and disassembled into sections that can be transported in the average family van.  The intent of this is to allow for individuals to easily disassemble and store the capsule, as well as transport it for public display.

The exterior will be crafted to conform to the original Gemini spacecraft in terms of size and shape. The materials used for construction are chosen to all be readily available from the average home store (Home Depot, Lowes, etc..). The frame will be made primarily of wood, with the skin made of foam board.  Again, one of the key directives of the project is to make it easy for anyone with access to general woodworking tools to make the capsule.

Exterior View of Capsule CAD. (skin not shown to show inner structure)
Exterior View of Capsule CAD. (skin not shown to show inner structure)

The interior of the spacecraft will also conform to the size and shape of the Gemini interior.  As with the exterior and frame, much of the interior will be made of wood.  Some internal dimensions are being adjusted to permit larger people to fit inside the capsule (Remember, the original Gemini astronauts were limited to a maximum height of 6').  The instrument and control panels are all being themed after Gemini.  Because there are some controls that KSP needs that weren't in the original Gemini, and some controls in the original Gemini not in KSP, the panels will be "themed" after the original Gemini panels.  This means that similar controls will be located in similar places whenever possible and controlled in a similar manner.  Whenever possible, readouts in the replica will be operationally and aesthetically similar to the originals. There are already plans to include mechanical 3-axis navballs, mechanical panel meters, and analog gauges throughout the capsule.  In many cases the controls and readouts will directly translate from Gemini to KSP, and whenever this is not possible the "spirit" of the Gemini capsule will be translated into this replica.

CAD Interior View of Capsule from Rear (panel graphics are from original Gemini to show approx. panel layouts)
CAD Interior View of Capsule from Rear (panel graphics are from original Gemini to show approx. panel layouts)

The capsule will have over 100 controls and displays.  This includes:

  • 55 Toggle Switches
  • 10 Lighted Buttons
  • 8 Panel Meters
  • 3 Joysticks
  • 10 Alphanumeric 14 Segment Displays
  • 6 Rotary Switches
  • 7 Dial Inputs
  • 2 3-Axis Mechanical Navballs
  • Numerous Indicator Lights

The toggle switches and buttons will be illuminated to provide further user feedback on the status of the connected function.

Open Source License

I plan to release all of the documentation under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

Project Budget

The base funding for the project is budgeted to cover materials and supplies costs as well as rewards for the Kickstarter.  The $1675 goal can be generally broken down as follows:

  • $900 for electronics and interior equipment
  • $500 for building supplies and hardware
  • $125 for Kickstarter Rewards (stickers, shipping, packaging)
  • $150 for Kickstarter fees

Timeline

The project timeline is somewhat flexible to accommodate personal schedules, as this is a interest project, and not my full time job. The goal is to complete the project in time to have it on display at MakerFaire New York in Sept. 2017. All of the open source documentation will be made available as it is ready throughout the design and construction process, with the goal of having all documentation for the project released by the end of Oct. 2017

Work to Date

So far, the work has concentrated on the design and specifications for the capsule.  The vast majority of this work has focused on using scale models, scale drawings, and hundreds of photographs to meticulously recreate the Gemini spacecraft shape out of readily available materials.  Check out the renderings in the prototypes gallery to see the finished structural CAD model. Other work has concentrated on interior layout and sourcing of materials to accurately estimate costs, and whenever possible, keep them down.

Some construction work on the frame has begun already to assist with the proper scaling and design of various aspects of the capsule.

Work To Do

  • Design

The structural CAD may get some updates once construction begins to adjust for unforeseen issues.  Additionally, as the project progresses, dimensional drawings and cut sheets will be produced for all structural elements in the design, so that someone constructing the capsule would not need knowledge of CAD software to build it.  A sample drawing of one of the seat frames is shown below.

Sample Drawing for Documentation
Sample Drawing for Documentation

The largest design element to be completed is the interior layout and modelling the cutouts for all of the controls. Additionally, some of the mechanical controls, namely the navballs and the panel meters, need to have their design finished.

  • Construction

There is still much construction left on the capsule.  Although the basic frame and ribs are assembled, the internal consoles and panels need to be manufactured and installed.  The assembly and installation of all electronics are waiting for the completion of the Kickstarter, as this is where the majority of the funds are going.

  • Software

The writing of the software has begun, though only for basic validation and proof of concept work.  The vast majority of the software has yet to be written and will be completed once hardware is available for testing (after the Kickstarter).  The software work will have two major components, the kRPC interface, and the Arduino software.  The kRPC interface software runs on the main computer connects to the kRPC mod for Kerbal Space Program and serves as the interface to get data out of and send controls to Kerbal Space Program.  The kRPC interface software will send data via USB connections to the Arduino boards (Teensy 3.5) that will be directly connected to the hardware.

Rewards:

  • "Adopt a..." Rewards

The "adopt a..." rewards give you the opportunity to get a personalized look at the life of a particular part going into the capsule.  Each adoption includes a picture of a particular item going into the capsule, it's purpose in the simulator, and what would go in it's place in the real Gemini capsule.  Additionally you will receive regular updates when the part arrives, is installed, and tested.

  • Stickers

YAY STICKERS! There are two stickers available for this project, and any donation above $10 gets you a sticker and any donation above $50 will get you two stickers (along with the specific $15 reward).  Pictures of the stickers are below.

"I Build Spaceships" Sticker Design
"I Build Spaceships" Sticker Design

 

"Ask me about my Swizzle Stick" Sticker Design
"Ask me about my Swizzle Stick" Sticker Design

Stickers are 6"x 3" bumper stickers.  After the Kickstarter finishes, you will receive a questionnaire to choose which sticker(s) you want.  Shipping will be handled by USPS First Class International mail.  Please check here: https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/Notice123.htm#_c419 if there are any concerns about the availability of this service to your location.  Shipping will not be available to any location not serviced by USPS First Class International.

  • Sign the Capsule

These rewards allow you the option of having your name placed on the exterior of the capsule.  The $25 reward allows you to get your name up to 25 characters (in 0.5" tall font) on the exterior of one of the hatches.  The $75 reward will also get you 25 characters, however in a much larger (approx 1" tall) font on the exterior above and between the hatches.

  • Thanks in documentation and website

All backers who contribute at least $5 will have their names listed on the project page on my website, venturesinmaking.com, as well as have their name featured in the documentation for the project.  All backers who participate in the "adopt a..." rewards will be mentioned along with their respective adoption in the documentation.

Stretch Goals  

Stretch goals for the project include the following with estimated costs shown next to the goals. Depending on the funding raised, backers will be asked how they would like to see stretch goal money spent:  

  • Dedicated high performance computer to run in the capsule ~$1,500
  • Screens for the windows: Installing screens in the capsule windows to give a realistic "out the window" view.~$800 
  • Climate Control: with an insulating exterior and computers inside, it could get hot, especially if it is visiting an outdoor event ~$200
  • Enhanced interior and exterior: Additional funding can be used to outfit the capsule with a more detailed and realistic interior and exterior. ~$500
  • Travel and Transport costs: Additional funds not used on the capsule's construction will be put towards travel and transportation costs to bring the capsule to various events (MakerFaire, Gaming Cons, etc.) to allow others to see and try flying capsule.

Risks and challenges

As with any project there are always potential pitfalls, and with big projects such as this, they can be numerous and unexpected. As mentioned previously, nearly all of the work to date has been on the design and specifications for the project. This has been to ensure that all of the goals can be met within the budget, and that all of the planned elements will be possible. As a result of this intense planning there are very few unknowns left to be sorted out.

One other possible concern is time: As an open source project, this is not my primary job, it is an interest project. As a result, the project is going to be completed in my free time, which could vary week to week. However, in the end this really is an advantage because although the project may take a bit longer to complete, the lack of hard deadlines means that the project can be completed without cutting corners to get it done "on time". With the Kickstarter funding providing for all of the supplies and materials for the project, there freedom to focus on the quality of the final product as opposed to completing it as quickly as possible.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    "Throw a buck in the hat"

    Throw a buck this way and you'll get a personal thanks for supporting the project

    Includes:
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
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    1 backer
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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Adopt a Switch

    Toggle switches, everyone loves 'em! And boy does this capsule have a lot of them. Adopt a switch to get individualized updates on one of the switches going into the capsule!

    Includes:
    • Everything described in the "Adopt a..." section
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Limited 1 backer
    $
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Adopt a button

    Although certainly less popular that toggle switches, buttons are use for some of the most important events on the spacecraft. Activities such as staging, jettisoning parachutes, and aborting all need buttons. Adopt a button to get individualized updates on one of the buttons getting installed in the capsule.

    Includes:
    • Everything described in the "Adopt a..." section
    • Your choice of sticker
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 2 backers
    $
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Get a Sticker

    Donate $10 and either the "I Build Spaceships" sticker or the "Ask me about my swizzle stick" sticker.

    Includes:
    • Your choice of sticker
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 2 backers
    $
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    Get Two Stickers

    Clearly, if one sticker is good, two must be better, get both the "I Build Spaceships" sticker and the "Ask me about my swizzle stick" sticker.

    Includes:
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    • Your choice of sticker
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    $
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Adopt a "14 Seg"

    Rocket science involves a lot of numbers, and 14 segment displays are the way to show us those numbers! Adopt a "14 seg" to get individualized updates on one of the displays getting installed in the capsule.

    Includes:
    • Everything described in the "Adopt a..." section
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    • Your choice of sticker
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 3 backers
    $
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Adopt a Rotary Switch

    Rotary switches are like toggle switches, only more fun! We use rotary switches anytime we need to select from many choices. Adopt a rotary switch to get individualized updates on one of the rotary switchs getting installed in the capsule.

    Includes:
    • Everything described in the "Adopt a..." section
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    • Your choice of sticker
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 5 backers
    $
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Sign the Ship!

    Get your name on the spaceship! Names will be located on the exterior of the hatches in 0.5" font

    Includes:
    • Name on exterior of hatches
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    • Your choice of sticker
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    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 4 backers
    $
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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Adopt a Panel Meter

    Panel Meters allow us to measure fuel levels, electricity levels, and RCS levels. Adopt a panel meter to get personalized updates on one of the many panel meters to be installed on the craft!

    Includes:
    • Everything described in the "Adopt a..." section
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    • Your choice of sticker
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 1 backer
    $
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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Sign the Ship: Gold

    Get your name or short phrase prominently featured on the exterior of the spacecraft in between the hatches.

    Includes:
    • Name on the exterior between the hatches
    • Your choice of sticker
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 3 backers
    $
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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Adopt a Joystick

    Gemini was a capsule meant to be flown, and the joysticks made that possible! Adopt a button to get individualized updates on one of the three joysticks getting installed in the capsule.

    Includes:
    • Everything described in the "Adopt a..." section
    • Your choice of sticker
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 2 backers
    $
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  12. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Adopt an Ejection Seat

    Gemini was unique among spacecraft because it used individual ejection seats instead of an escape tower. Our seats aren't going to have rockets on the bottom, but without them there would be nowhere to sit! Adopt one of the two ejection seats to get personalized updates on it's construction and installation in the capsule.

    Includes:
    • Everything described in the "Adopt a..." section
    • Your choice of sticker
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    $
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  13. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Adopt a Window

    The Gemini spacecraft had two windows, each one made of three layers of high-strength glass and could stop hypervelocity impacts from micrometeorites. The windows on our capsule will only be double pane polycarbonate, but will still provide adequate protection for our purposes. Adopt a window to get personalized updates on its construction and installation in the capsule.

    Includes:
    • Everything described in the "Adopt a..." section
    • Your choice of sticker
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    $
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  14. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Adopt a Navball

    The Navball is one of the most important instruments in the craft, it tells us where we are pointing! Adopt one of the Navballs to get personalized and inside updates on the progress of its manufacture and installation. Furthermore, you will get early access to all of the documentation on the design and manufacture of the navballs during the build process.

    Includes:
    • Everything described in the "Adopt a..." section
    • Your choice of sticker
    • Thanked in documentation and on website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Reward no longer available 2 backers
    $
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Funding period

- (30 days)