POV-Ray models of spacecraft

This page contains a few POV-Ray renderings of spacecraft I've modelled. These were also my first "real" POV-Ray projects. The only POV-stuff I had done previously were some modifications to several of the sample scenes supplied with POV-Ray, a few very simple scenes and a few bump map and heightfield renderings, some of which can be seen on other pages at my website.  The models were originally inspired by Constantine Thomas' model of the Voyager spacecraft.


The model of NASA's Galileo spacecraft was the first model I finished of a spacecraft and overall it should be reasonably accurate. It was somewhat difficult to locate information on the appearance of some parts of the spacecraft, in particular how the scan platform (which carries the remote sensing instruments) is fixed to the spacecraft body. The star scanner is also largely based on guesswork and there are definitely more inaccuracies (e.g. the probe relay antenna). The model is based on photos and diagrams I've found in magazines/books and on the WWW. One problem is that in some cases the photos and diagrams conflict. In these cases I have used the photos, however one problem is that most of the photos I have are old, crappy, underexposed GIFs, they are from the old days when JPGs were not common on the WWW and GIFs dominated.

The most complicated part to model was the high-gain antenna. It was to be unfurled like an umbrella but 3 of the 18 ribs got stuck to the central mast. I ended up writing a small program to generate a triangle mesh.

In this model, I have not included thermal insulation. This means that fuel tanks, struts associated with thrusters etc. are visible and not hidden behind black stuff.

The accuracy of this model is probably somewhat lower than the accuracy of Constantine Thomas' model of the Voyager spacecraft and much lower than the accuracy of my Cassini model (see below). This is mainly because Galileo is a much more complex spacecraft in appearance than Voyager and because many of the photos/diagrams available of it are of relatively low quality.

Below are a few renderings of Galileo. Click the images for full size (800x600) versions.

An overview showing the entire spacecraft, including the partially deployed high-gain antenna. A close-up showing the scan platform carrying the remote sensing instruments (lower right). Here the atmospheric probe (bottom) has just separated from the spacecraft.
A detailed rendering showing the probe relay antenna, the probe, scan platform, star scanner etc. An overview of the spacecraft showing all of the booms, the scan platform and probe relay antenna. This is what Galileo would have looked like if the high-gain antenna had deployed properly.



Below are a few renderings of a POV-Ray model of NASA's Cassini spacecraft that I recently finished with one exception: I'm still working on improving textures and colors although they are now roughly correct (at least the colors) for most of the spacecraft.

This model is highly accurate, sometimes possibly down to a millimeter ! The POV source file is almost 8000 lines. As mentioned, the colors and textures of parts of the model may be wrong, in many cases I do not have color photos to guide me there, only diagrams, huge wireframe meshes or black-and-white photos. Also some of the objects look too 'perfect', for example the fuel tanks on the spacecraft's side shouldn't reflect light like perfect mirrors, their surface should be a little rougher. To better show individual spacecraft components I decided not to include the golden thermal blanket that in reality covers most of the spacecraft body. I may add it as an option later (also it is difficult to model realistically ;-) ).

The model is based mainly on "obj" (Wavefront) files available at David Seal's site. I imported these into Moray. They turned out to be a big monochrome triangle mesh which didn't look nice in POV-Ray so I decided to use this model as a guide to build a proper POV-Ray model. I have also used various diagrams and photos available at the Cassini website.

In the renderings below I used only a single lightsource in all cases except for two in the last row. Strictly speaking this is more realistic than using multiple lightsources (in space the sun is usually the only significant lightsource) but using multiple lightsources usually looks better. I'm still experimenting with which combination of lightsources works best given the spacecraft's overall appearance, color, texture and reflectivity.

Click the images below for full size (800x600) versions

An overview of the entire spacecraft. Here we see the antenna's "underside" together with the upper part of the spacecraft body. The remote sensing instruments are prominent at left. A close-up of Cassini's fields and particles pallet and other stuff.
An overview of Cassini showing the big 4 meter main antenna. An overview of the entire spacecraft seen from below. The retrorockets and the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) are prominent. A close-up of Cassini's retrorockets. Also visible are two of the reaction wheels, the RTGs, one of the thruster clusters and the lower part of the Huygens probe.
An experiment involving the use of several lightsources to illuminate the entire model. This is not like the way the spacecraft would look like in space but shows it more clearly than renderings with just one lightsource. This rendering is identical to the one on the left except that the Huygens probe has been released. A rendering showing how extremely detailed some parts of the model are. These are the spacecraft's retrorockets. A problem with some of these detailed components is that I have very limited color/texture information - only wireframe meshes. An even more detailed rendering can be seen here.

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