Space Sunday: rockets, water and spaceplanes

Starship SN9: three platform engine test firings in three hours.  Credit: Mary “BocaChicaGal”

After a build-up of excitement around a potential start-of-year flight for SpaceX Starship prototype SN9, things has slowed down somewhat – but the vehicle may now be on the brink of making its 12.5 km ascent to altitude and an attempt to land successfully after an unpowered “skydive” back towards Earth.

As I noted in my January 10th Space Sunday report, SpaceX had managed to accelerate the processing of SN9 in comparison to SN8 to a point where the majority of pre-flight checks for the vehicle – including a static fire test of the engines on January 6th –  had been completed in just a 2-week period following its delivery to the launch stand on December 22nd, compared to 2 months taken for prototype SN8 to reach the same point.

However, as I noted at the time, that static fire test was far shorter than had been expected – just 2 second in length, signifying a possible issue. This appeared to be confirmed when SpaceX attempted further engine tests between January 8th and January 12th, of of which had to be scrubbed for various reasons (including weather), before a further test was made on Wednesday, January 13th – and things took an unexpected turn: after the first brief test, two further tests took place within a 2-hour period for all three tests.

The three firings were apparently “test starts” of the three Raptor motors, rather than a full pre-flight static fire test of all three simultaneously. Following them, and a successful de-tanking of excess fuel, inspections of the motors revealed that two needed slight repairs, causing the company to swap them out for other units.

As part of streamlining starship operations, SpaceX have refined the processes related to engine swap-outs to a point where they can effectively be achieved within days rather than weeks, depending on the availability of replacement motor units – the actual physical removal of an engine can be completed in hours, as can the installation of a replacement. In this case, the work was done over a couple of days, the engines requiring replacement being removed from the vehicle and shipped out of Boca Chica before the replacements were delivered and installed, clearing the way for a final engine test.

This took place on Friday, January 22nd, when all three engines were ignited for several seconds before shutting down.

Outside of SN9, it appears work at Boca Chica has commenced on starship prototypes SN17 and SN18, and on the second Super Heavy booster prototype. Also, in my January 10th Space Sunday update, I noted that work had been discontinued on starship prototypes SN12 through SN14. Work has now commenced in dismantling those parts of SN12 that had been fabricated. This is likely due to the fact that SpaceX are iterating the design and construction of the prototypes so fast, SN12 had become effectively obsolete due to the materials used.

The rapid rate of iteration is also reflected in the move of a new fuel tank section – SN7.2 -, which has been moved to a test stand where it will  be pressurised to destruction in a similar manner to the SN7 and SN7.1, each of which also saw iterations in the basic tank design. SN7.2 in particular is built using 3 mm aluminium rather that the current 4 mm material in an attempt to reduce the overall “dry” mass of the vehicle.

In 2020, Musk raised the idea of launching starship / Super Heavy vehicle from sea platforms, suggesting this could be used for vehicles intended to reach orbit or in passenger-carrying sub-orbital transcontinental flights.. While passenger carrying point-to-point will not happen (for reasons I will explain at some point), evidence has emerged that SpaceX are planning to make sea launches a thing, and is in the process of converting two former offshore drilling platforms for use as floating launch platforms.

Aerospace Photographer Jack Beyer was the first to bring the news to the public eye after exploring the port of Brownsville, Texas, not far from the SpaceX facilities at Boca Chica whilst waiting for the SN9 static fire tests to resume. In particular, he spotted an oil platform apparently called Deimos (“dread”) undergoing extensive refit work. Not long after, a image captured over the port of Galveston, Texas, and dated January 13th revealed another rig with the name Phobos (“fear”), and which was later moved to Pascagoula, Mississippi, between January 17th and 22nd.

Phobos and Deimos are, of course, the names given to the captured moons of Mars, and the discovery of the two rigs sparked speculation that the platforms had been purchased by SpaceX.

The soon-to-be SpaceX sea launch platform for Super Heavy / Starship. Credit: Jack Beyer via

Michael Baylor from started digging into things using further images captured by Jack Beyer, and discovered that the two rigs in question were originally owned by the world’s largest offshore drilling / well drilling company: UK-registered and Texas-based Valaris plc (formerly ENSCO-Rowan).

Originally constructed in Singapore in 2008, the two rigs were originally called ENSCO 8500 (later Valaris 8500 and now Deimos), and ENSCO 8501 (later Valaris 8501 and now Phobos). However, following the company declaring bankruptcy, the company offered the platforms for sale and US 3.5 million apiece. The purchaser was company called Lone Star Mineral Development LLC, which had only formed in June 2020. Further digging revealed that one of the principals for Lone Star Mineral Development is none other than SpaceX Chief Financial Officer (CFO), who is also the head of the company’s Strategic Acquisitions Group, Bret Johnsen.

Wreathed in cloud, the Deimos arrives at Pascagoula, Mississippi, January 22nd. Credit: Brady Kenniston via

Both platforms are classified as “semi-submersible”, meaning they float on large pontoons that can be filled with water ballast that both settles them in the water to stabilise them while dynamic positioning water thrusters hold them in a precise location, making them an ideal launch platform, as does their deck loading of around 8,000 tonnes, means that are more than capable of supporting a Super Heavy  / starship combination and their fuel loads.

The work to convert the two platforms to support fuelling, payload integration, launch, and landing operations is extensive. As such neither is likely to be ready for use in 2021. However, once operational, they will effectively double the number of Super Heavy / starship launch facilities – SpaceX is currently building the first Super Heavy platform at Boca Chica, and have plans for a second. Multiple launch facilities will be essential in the future if SpaceX is to start to build towards the planned number of launches for the system..

Continue reading “Space Sunday: rockets, water and spaceplanes”

Virtual Community Radio: music and more for your world

Virtual Community Radio in Second Life

Virtual Community Radio (VCR) is a new 24/7 new internet radio station based within Second Life and service the wider metaverse, be it other virtual worlds, those who reside in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States and their associated territories, can listen to the service via a web browser – including using the links on the right of this blog -, whilst the the station’s URL ( can be used through in-world region and / or parcel media and suitable app players such as VLC or WinAmp.

Founded by Richard Elen, known in-world as award-winning DJ and radio presenter, and co-host of Designing Worlds, Elrik “Rik” Merlin, will officially launch on Saturday, February 6th with an in-world gala at their new headquarters. Programming is hosted through Live365 and primarily consists of light classical music, with some selected additional classical, baroque, early music, soundtracks and easy listening pieces.

Virtual Community Radio is about Virtual Communities – groups of people with common interests in virtual worlds like Second Life® – and about Community Radio – talking to people in those groups and providing entertainment and information they enjoy. In addition to being aimed at listeners in virtual worlds, it’s also for listeners on the wider Internet.

from VCR’s About page

Outside of their primary programme schedule, VCR will provide additional and wider selections of music genres on a rotating basis of special programming, alongside an an expanding schedule of additional content with a particular emphasis on spoken word presentations – live and recorded readings, radio drama and other similar material.

In this latter regard, VCR will be working with the likes of Seanchai Library, Engines Of Our Ingenuity and ZBS Media to present  unique, quality content, and the station is open to suggestions for similar suitable spoken word programming – so if you know of an individual or group presenting such, please contact the station.

Virtual Community Radio Theatre

With the launch of VCR, initial programming will include Where’ve You Been? This will be a discussion-style programme covering a range of topics: interesting sights and places around Second Life and Tarot @ Teatime a series on the history and techniques of Tarot card reading. Meanwhile The Grove (commencing on Saturday, February 13th) will offer live presentations of new age music on an evocative starlit sea.

Drama presentations will launch with the airing of the classic landmark radio drama series The Black Mass, featuring thirty tales of mystery, imagination and the human mind, created by the late Erik Bauersfeld over half a century ago.

As a non-commercial, non-profit public radio service, VCR is supported by direct sponsorship by individuals, organisations, and businesses. Those who would like to support the station can do so by visiting the station’s sponsorship page, but in brief:

  • Currently, there is one level of sponsorship set at L$5,000 (approx. US $20) per 4-week period. In return, sponsors receive a 300x300px graphic panel on the VCR website, which is displayed in rotation with those of other sponsors; a link to a URL or SLurl, and a crafted, suitable public service announcement (PSA) that will be frequently broadcast as a part of programming.
  • Those interested in providing sponsorship should contact VCR via or IM / send a note card VirtualCommunityRadio Resident in Second Life.
  • Additional sponsorship opportunities will be made available in due course.
  • Those who appreciate VCR in-world presentation or enjoy listing to the station’s programming can additional make donations towards the station’s costs via the tip jars within the VCR Theatre or by direct in-world payment to VirtualCommunityRadio Resident.

As noted above, the station will officially launch with an opening gala ball that will be held at the VCR Theatre, commencing at 14:00 SLT on Saturday, February 6th. Formal wear is requested for the opening.

With thanks to Caledonia Skytower.

SLurl and Links

A Dialogue in sculpture and art in Second Life

Kondor Art Garden, Dialogue Exhibition by Artemis and Hermes

I was back at the Kondor Art Centre, operated and curated by Hermes Kondor, just a few days after witnessing and writing about Melusina Parkin’s Lockdown and Hope (see here for more). The occasion for such a reasonably quick return was the opening of a new exhibition.

Located in the Art Garden at Kondor Art Centre, Dialogue Exhibition by Artemis and Hermes presents the remarkable sculptures of Artemis (ArtemisGreece) displayed alongside Hermes’ art.

It’s a part of my desire to create a place for different Art and Cultural expressions – music, art, conferences, readings, and more; a garden display of Artemis’ sculptures and my photographic interpretations of them.

Hermes Kondor

Kondor Art Garden, Dialogue Exhibition by Artemis and Hermes

Hailing from Greece, Artemis was attracted to Second Life due to it many opportunities for creativity and expression. She initially found an outlet building houses, but wanted to be more expressive. Whilst not a trained artist, she taught herself to use tools like PhotoShop and Blender, and moved to producing and selling sculptures and 3D designs, developing a portfolio of work, ranging, encompassing everything from neo-classical pieces through to humorous pieces (yes, you can have a farm cat riding bicycle!) and figures of musicians, as well as more general items – frames, cushions, etc.

For this exhibition we are presented with eight individual pieces that brings together elements of her work that lean toward  neo-classical pieces that appear to be cast from brass, and figurines that look to have been cast and painted, to a complete set of her Chamber Orchestra collection.

Kondor Art Garden, Dialogue Exhibition by Artemis and Hermes

These are genuinely marvellous pieces, many encompassing themes, ideas and  or statements, some animated to add depth to their story / increase appreciation of their form. All are offered for sale to those who wish to purchase them. And believe me when I say these are pieces that will grace almost any setting; so much so, I could not resist obtaining a copy of Woman Makes The World Go Round for our garden; while those seeking something a little more special, Artemis presents an exclusive twin set Out of the Box.

Partnering the sculptures are ten pieces of Hermes’ digital art, rendered with his use of Second Life’s wireframe mode (see: Behind the Scenes in Second Life), but here given additional depth through an expressive use of colour.

Some of these images are placed as a backdrop to the sculpture they represent, as is the case with, for example Artemis Sculptures – 010 and Artemis Sculptures – 026; others stand a little more apart from their inspiration – but all of them a depth of narrative to accompany the pieces they represent. Artemis Sculptures – 010, for example, tells the story of how a dancer is inspired by the figure of The Ballerina, while Artemis Sculptures – 021 brings together a tale of Artemis’ Chamber Orchestra playing for the benefit of her Dancing Couple, in a tale of music, dance and romance.

Kondor Art Garden, Dialogue Exhibition by Artemis and Hermes

Individually, Artemis’ sculptures and Hermes’ art are each captivating to witness and appreciate; together they make for an enchanting exhibition that should not be missed – and don’t forget the telephone station connecting the art garden with the rest of the Kondor Art Centre.

SLurl Details




2021 TPVD meetings week #3: summary

Yukina, November 2020 – blog post

The following notes are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, January 21st, 2021.

These meetings are generally held every other week.  They are video recorded by Pantera Północy, and her recording of the  meeting is embedded at the end of this report – my thanks to her for allowing me to do so – and it is used with a transcript of the chat log from the meeting and my own audio recording to produce these notes.

SL Viewer News


  • Current release viewer version, formerly Cachaça Maintenance RC viewer promoted on November 12 – No Change.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • Dawa Maintenance RC Viewer, version, January 20, 2021.
    • Project Jelly viewer (Jellydoll updates), version, January 7, 2021.
    • Custom Key Mappings project viewer, version, January 7, 2021.
  • Project viewers:
    • Love Me Render (LMR) 5 project viewer, version, issued on January 7, 2021.
    • Simple Cache project viewer, version, November 12.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version, October 26.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version, December 9, 2019.
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version, November 22, 2019.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version, July 16, 2019.

General Viewer Notes

  • Viewer updates / releases had been held-up due to some Uplift related issues. This have now been rectified, and viewers should start rolling forward again.
  • As noted in my 2021 week #3 CCUG summary, the Dawa Maintenance RC viewer was the only viewer updated during the week, and this will likely be the next viewer to be promoted to de facto release status.
  • The Simple Cache project viewer (VFS replacement) and the Legacy Profile project viewer are both now “close” to be promoted to release candidate (RC) status. That latter had been blocked due to some required UI fixes, with Kylie Linden indicating these are in progress.
  • Graphics fixes continue to be added to the LMR-5 project viewer, but this is liable to end in the next week or so, in order to allow this viewer to progress onwards through RC and eventual de facto release.

AMD GPUs “Blue View” Issue


Some users running systems with AMD GPU has been encountering a issue with scenes being rendered with a strong blue bias when running the SL viewer with Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) enabled and using the most recent (post October 2020, I believe, and particularly the latest Adrenalin drivers) AMD drivers.

  • General reports can be found here, and a formal bug report is available: BUG229727.
  • LL have acknowledged the issue, and believe it to be driver related. However, AMD driver bugs must apparently be reported using a specific reporting tool provided by AMD, and thus far LL have been unable to reproduce the bug when running said software and so are apparently having issues getting AMD to accept it.
    • The issue appears to be somewhat similar to an Nvidia bug of a few years ago, possibly resulting from a switch to using a BGRA for textures rather than the more usual RGBA format.
  • There are reports that an AMD driver update issued on January 21st, 2021, but at the time of writing this summary, this has yet to be more broadly confirmed.
  • In the meantime for those affected by the issue,the following workarounds are recommended:
    • Rolling back to an older driver version (e.g. Adrenalin 2020 Edition 20.11.2).
    • If that doesn’t work:
      • Disable ALM in the viewer (Preferences → Graphics → uncheck Advanced Lighting Model).
      • Log out and back into the viewer.
      • Enable ALM (Preferences → Graphics → check Advanced Lighting Model).
      • Remember to disable ALM prior to ending your session (so you only need to re-enable ALM when you next log-in.

In Brief

  • [16:32-34::45] The meeting saw a significant amount of text chat concerning the technicalities of viewer CPU / CPU core usage, TPV work in trying to rebuild viewer threading, etc. As this is text-based (and may not be of relevance to many users), please refer to the video from around the 16m 32s mark through to .
  • [34:47-48:00] and continuing after the brief discussion on chat lag] A further text conversation is on graphic API options and moving away from OpenGL. This is covered in my 2021 week #3 CCUG summary, but it appears that around 20% of Windows users running systems incapable of supporting Vulkan (notably those using Intel integrated graphics).
    • That said, Vulkan isn’t the sole option available to LL, and much is still in discussion internally at the Lab.
  • [48:37-49:15] Some are experiencing an increase in chat lag post-Uplift. LL are currently re-starting the chat servers as an interim means of improving reliability of chat services, but it’s not clear if this is also helping reduce general performance issues.

An away team mission to Planet Idun in Second Life

Planet Idun, January 2021

Note: the Blushock team relocated and have established a new setting, the USS Sleipinir and Planet Freya – of which more in my update – Boarding the USS Sleipnir in Second Life, so the SLurl within this article has been updated to reflect the new location.

CK Ballyhoo dropped me a line concerning Planet Idun, a new role-play / photography region with which she has been involved, inviting me to hop over and join her in taking a look around, with region holder and co-creator Fazzy Constantine (Faisel Constantine) also on-hand to chat and answer questions.

Idun. A tropical jungle planet, set in the far reaches of the Milky Way galaxy. Featuring a full day and night cycle, dynamic weather, stunning scenery, views and hidden spots.

– from the region’s About Land description

Planet Idun, January 2021

Located on a Homestead  region, Planet Idun is the latest design Fazzy and his team have worked on under the BluShock RP group banner – a group with a role-play history that stretches back over a decade, and which has been responsible for some impressive designs, such as the ice world Vanargand, complete with its Oblivion-inspired spaceport tower, and also the world of Aegis Prime (as will as having a penchant for Norse mythology, as some of the name indicate!).

For Planet Idun, the BluShock team have opted to create a setting potentially warmer than Vanargand: a rugged, rain forested world where water in places falls from a teal sky to join with that tumbling from high cliffs into the gorge of a narrow river. Largely untamed, this is a world that does have some signs of civilisation – but finding your own way around will call for the explorer within you, as paths are not always obvious, at times relying on narrow ledges of rock.

Planet Idun, January 2021

The clearest sign of habitation is the large ultra-modern base built into the high cliffs towards the north-west of the setting. It is built around two covered landing areas for air / space craft, one of which is dominated by a monster hammerhead of a spacer I’d personally not have liked to pilot into its landing. Inside the base are comfortable living spaces as well as multiple workspaces, whilst its location is marked by both the manner in which its backs into the cliffs and the impressive communications arrays sitting on the peak above it.

However, this in not the only structure to be found within the setting. awaiting discovery on the tip of a high finger of rock pointing to the sky on the east side of the region is Idun’s Roof. A bar / house constructed of wood, presumably gathered from the local forest and reached via a long, winding stair. Elsewhere are other artificial constructs – an open-air landing pad, the region’s own landing point (complete with teleport connecting it with the Deep Space Destination Hub, a nexus for travelling between different sci-fi settings (just accept the experience to use the system for automatic teleports).

Planet Idun, January 2021

As a role-play environment, the region is intended to support free-form RP by members of BluShock and can support short RP situations created by other groups (e.g. as the location for an away team mission). There are a fair number of opportunities scattered around that can be used to built game play – camp sites, crashed vehicles, hidden walks and tracks (some obvious, others not so – as I said, you’ll need the explorer in you), and kayaks to explore the waters as well as the aforementioned bar and the cliff-side base.

Our last region, Vanargand, relied heavily on missions and events, off world time travel and so on. But this time we’ve decided to take a back seat and just build an enjoyable region. A few interested parties are also coming down from other groups to enjoy role-playing.  We’ve been inspired by a few sci-fi games – Mass Effect and Halo, for example.

– Fazzy Constantine

Planet Idun, January 2021

friendly group BluShock is also open to those interested in free-form sci-fi based role-play where the emphasis is on fun rather than an overburdening set of rules and requirements. In addition, those looking for sci-fi / fantasy-based photography may also find Idun to their liking, the dynamic custom day / night environment helps to add depth to the setting / photography.

Planet Idun will be officially opening at 11:00 SLT on Saturday, January 23rd, with a party and celebration at Idun’s Roof. However, it is currently available for general visits for those wishing to look around ahead of the official opening.

Planet Idun, January 2021

SLurl and Links

Fantasy Faire 2021: sponsor, store & performer applications open

via Fantasy Faire

Fantasy Faire, the largest fantasy-related event to take place in Second Life, will take place in 2021 from Thursday, April 22nd, through Sunday May 9th, 2020 inclusive, with the scheduled activities programme running between April 22nd and Monday, May 3rd.

As with previous years, Fantasy Faire 2021 will comprise multiple shopping regions offering space to Second Life’s top Fantasy Creators, offering the most comprehensive opportunity for fantasy shopping. In addition, there will be further regions focusing on entertainment, the Fairelands Quest, art and more.

On Friday, January 22nd, the event organisers formally announced the opening of applications for sponsor, stores, and performers.

It’s time. It’s time to turn our weary eyes from the darkness toward the approaching spring. Toward the approaching Fairelands, the promise of hope and delight.

– The Fantasy Faire Website

Fantasy Faire 2020: Autumnium

Sponsorship and Store Applications

Sponsorship options comprise:

  • Shopping regions sponsorships (as available) – LS65,000:
    • Sponsor Store with 1600 Land Impact allowance, which can be shared between 2+ merchants and located in front of the region landing point.
    • Sky platform for rezzing builds as needed.
    • Name in Region Title and on Region landmarks.
    • Region crossing recognition.
    • Sponsor spot on Fantasy Faire Radio to play during the entire month of April.
    • The opportunity for a sponsor’s brand profile on the Fantasy Faire website and prominent logo placement on the website.
  • Region Event Sponsorship – L$60,000:
    • Includes a THEMED store on a shopping region if desired.
    • Name in Region Title and on Region landmarks.
    • Region crossing recognition.
    • Sponsor spot on Fantasy Faire Radio to play during the entire month of April.
    • The opportunity for a sponsor’s brand profile on the Fantasy Faire website and prominent logo placement on the website.
  • Event Sponsorship – L$60,000:
    • Includes a THEMED store on a shopping region if desired.
    • Region parcel with name on landmark.
    • Logo placement on corresponding event poster.
    • The opportunity for a sponsor’s brand profile on the Fantasy Faire website and prominent logo placement on the website.
  • Quest Sponsor – L$30,000:
    • Does NOT include a store.
    • Logo placement on the Quest HUD and on the Fantasy Faire website.
  • Fantasy Faire Radio Sponsor – L$30,000:
    • Does NOT include a store.
    • Recognition on Fantasy Faire Radio and on the Fantasy Faire website.
  • Matching Funds Sponsor:
    • Please contact Elizabeth Tinsley for details.
Fantasy Faire 2020: Zodiac

Store options comprise:

  • Featured Creator Store + Quest Sponsor – L$35,000 (no more than 2 per region, with potential for region of your choice):
    • Featured Creator Store with 1000 Land Impact allowance, which can be shared 2+ merchants, and can have a sky platform for rezzing builds as needed.
    • Prominent placement next to Region Sponsor Store.
    • Advertising on the Hunt HUD and on the Fantasy Faire blog.
  • Featured Creator Store – L$8,000:
    • 700 Land Impact allowance, can be shared between 2+ merchants.
    • Prominent placement around region landing point.
  • Themed Store – L$2500:
    • 300 Land Impact allowance, generally of one merchant only.
    • A second merchant can be added for a surcharge.

Full details on requirements and guidelines for performers can be found on the Fantasy Faire 2021 Store Application form.

General enquiries relating to performing at the event should be addressed to Elizabeth Tinsley,

Performer Applications

Note that this is for dancers, actors, particle performers and various other artists, it is not for live of DJ entertainment, applications for which will be announced in due course (as will blogger applications).

  • The organisers are seeking fantasy themed shows (~1h in length) that are family friendly and don’t use any copyrighted material without permission to do so.
  • Performer applications will remain open through until the end (SLT) of Sunday, February 21st, 2021.

Applications should be made via the Fantasy Faire 2021 Performer Sign-up form.

General enquiries relating to performing at the Faire should be addressed to Aelva Resident.

Additional Links