2021 viewer release summaries week #42

Logos representative only and should not be seen as an endorsement / preference / recommendation

Updates from the week ending Sunday, October 24th

This summary is generally published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog.
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.
  • Note that for purposes of length, TPV test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are generally not recorded in these summaries.

Official LL Viewers

  • Release viewer: version version 6.4.23.564172, formerly the Apple Notarisation Fix RC viewer, issued September 24th and promoted October 15th – No change.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • 360 Snapshot RC viewer, version 6.5.0.564863, issued October 21.
    • Maintenance RC viewer updated to version 6.5.0.564805, on October 20.
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V6-style

  • No updates.

V1-style

Mobile / Other Clients

  • Radegast updated to version 2.36 on October 21.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

A little corner of Japan in Second Life

Hasunohana October 2021 – click any image for full size

It’s been several months since I had the opportunity to jump into a build by Lotus Mastroianni and Fred Hamilton (frecoi), so when Shawn Shakespeare pointed me towards Hasunohana, I decided to start the week by hopping over and taking a look.

Occupying a 4096 sq m parcel, this is a setting that is not going to tax your feet (or camera!) when exploring – which is not to say it doesn’t have anything worth seeing. Rather the reverse, in fact, since the build makes good use of the placement of streets and buildings to give the impression of both being large than first appears, and a genuine sense of forming – as the About Land description states – a little suburb siting in a much larger metropolis. And also as the About Land description makes clear, and the setting’s name suggests, it is a setting with a lean towards Japan, something that is again liable to tweak my attention, given my love of the orient.

Hasunohana October 2021

A visit starts aboard a suburban monorail train as it arrives at the local station – something that adds a degree of depth to the setting, giving the suggestion that we are joining the locals in coming home after a day at work. From here, steps lead down to the first of the setting’s narrow streets, little more than an alleyway boxed on either side by the squat forms of apartment-style (at least in looks) houses mixed here and there with a little shop or store.

While the buildings are all façades, they nevertheless have a sense of homeliness about them: potted plans sit outside of doorways, together with shoe stands and benches, dustpans for cleaning down front steps hang from hooks on the wall, bicycles are parked on stands in alleys between houses – there’s even a thermos and steam mug outside one, suggesting the owner is not far away.

Hasunohana October 2021

Similarly, the balconies to the upper floors of some of the houses are rich in the floatsam of life: deck chairs for enjoying the Sun are folded against railings, toys clutter floors, clothes are draped over dryers – there’s even a washing machine clearly too big to fit inside a house that has been parked to one side of one of the balconies. Where balconies aren’t available, window railings and the tops of air conditioning units mounted outside of windows are used for various domestic purposes, whilst roofs that can be accessed have been turned into little garden spaces.

Although none of the occupants of the houses are to be found, this doesn’t mean the setting is deserted; curious eyes are to be found everywhere in the form of the local Feline Overlords as they sit on rooftops, balconies, sit in doorways and – in one case – carrying out an inspection of a cart of luggage.

Hasunohana October 2021

Finding your way around is a matter of keeping an eye out for the steps linking the streets that sit at slightly different heights one to another. Some of these steps are obvious, sitting directly at the end of one street to reach another that crosses it; others might not be so obvious; they might be hidden around a corner or at first appear to be stairways leading up into buildings.

Those who fancy a meal al fresco, one corner of the setting features a little street-side eatery. Tucked into another sits a little garden that offers one of those touches of green that can catch the eye in the most unexpected of places as we explore somewhere new.

Hasunohana October 2021

Small, richly detailed – if somewhat texture-heavy – Hasunohana is an engaging setting, neatly blended with its high-rise surroundings through the placement of the monorail, roads and mist. Rounded out by a balanced soundscape that fits it perfectly, it makes for a tidy visit whether or not photography is your thing.

SLurl Details

Space Sunday: Mars wake-ups, SpaceX and NASA updates

Looking over Utopia Planitia – a panoramic image captured by the mastcams on China’s Zhurong rover ahead of its period of “hibernation” during the October 2021 conjunction. Credit: CNSA/PEC

The 2021 Earth-Sun-Mars conjunction that saw Earth and Mars on opposite sides of the Sun, interrupting all communications between the two, is now over. This means that the multi- national missions on and around the red planet (America, Europe, the UAE, and China) are switching back from automated activities to more regular operations.

China’s Tiawen 1 orbiter and their solar-powered rover surprised mission controllers by calling home earlier than had been anticipated, to report that they are resuming science operations after their enforced semi-hibernation. The wake-ups come in advance of a change in both missions that will be taking place in early November.

At that time, the Tianwen 1 will switch to a new mission phase, a global mapping and analysis of the Martian surface and subsurface with its suite of seven science instruments. This will reduce the opportunities the orbiter has to act as a communications relay for the rover from once a day to once every few days. To help fills the “gaps” when Tianwen 1 is unable to act as a relay, Europe’s long-running Mars Express orbiter is going to attempt to step up to the plate and relay communications between the rover and Earth – pending the outcome of several communications tests to take place at the start of November.

Another view across Utopia Planitia returned by Zhurong. Credit: CNSA/PEC

Down on Mars, the Zhurong rover had covered 1,182 metres from its landing platform before going into stand-by mode for the solar conjunction. Since waking up, it has resumed its trip south in Utopia Planitia, and is approaching the end of its second 90-sol period of operations, opening the door for a re-assessment of its science targets. Of particular interest to Chinese scientist are a series of “mud volcanoes” and features that may have been formed by movements of subsurface water and ice, where Zhurong’s ground-penetrating radar is expected to provide “fundamentally new perspectives” on potential subsurface Martian water ice, that might be applied to any development of past life on Mars and on the use of sub-surface water by future crewed missions.

For NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, the end of the conjunction means a resumption of flight operations following tests to run its contra-rotating propellers at high-than-usual RPM to counter the thinning density of the atmosphere in Jezero crater as winter approaches.  This flight was initially scheduled for as early as Saturday, October 23rd, but at the time of writing had yet to be confirmed as having taken place.

Meanwhile, NASA has released a new video showcasing many of the sounds of Mars that have thus far been recorded by Ingenuity’s companion on Mars, the Perseverance rover.

“Percy” carries two off-the-shelf microphones, one mounted on it hull, the other on cover on the camera mounting frame located at the top of its instrument mast. Since the rover’s arrival on Mars, both microphones have been used to record a range of sounds both of Mars and of the rover and Ingenuity operating on the planet.

One of the two microphones mounted on the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Located on the moveable camera / imager housing at the top of the rover’s mast, this microphone is somewhat directional in nature. Credit: NASA/JPL

The Mars 2020 mission is the first to Mars to carry microphones that allow us to listen to the planet – but their inclusion is not merely due to idle curiosity. Listening to the sounds of the planet and the rover can reveal a lot, as mission scientist Nina Lanza, one of those behind the microphone project, explains:

First, we can learn about the atmosphere by understanding how sound propagates through it. We can also listen to the sounds of rover analyses on rocks and learn about rock material properties from that. And finally, we can also listen to the sounds the rover makes to help better understand the state of our instruments.

– Nina Lanza, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Analysis of the sound picked-up from Ingenuity’s rotors, for example, has revealed that sound propagates through the Martian atmosphere a lot different to how it had been believed. Changes in the sound the rover makes during driving and other operations could also help give an early indication of possible problems / mechanical issues, making the microphones invaluable.

SpaceX Update

With the public hearings into the Federal Aviation Authority’s draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) report on the SpaceX “Starbase” production, test and launch facilities in Boca Chica, Texas, now completed, SpaceX continues to push ahead with preparations for its first Starship  / Super Heavy test flight and other work critical to that, and future Starship / Super Heavy launches.

The tank farm that will store and deliver propellants and other consumables to the launch facilities has seen the last of its vertical tanks and their concrete sheathing installed. At the same time as this work was progress, a set of horizontal tanks, thought to be intermediary tanks that may be used to hold propellants, etc., when detanking boosters between things like static firs tests, arrived for installation at the farm.

The Starbase tank farm showing the new horizontal tanks being installed, with the final sleeve for one of the upright tanks waiting to be lifted into position. Credit: RGV Aerial Photography

The launch facility itself has most recently seen the assembly and installation of the gigantic “Mechazilla”, the extraordinary mechanism that will both lift Super Heavy boosters onto the launch table and stack Starships on top of them (as well as being able to remove both from the launch facilities) and  – eventually – actually “catch” returning boosters and Starships, allowing (in theory) both to be rapidly turned around and re-used whilst eliminating the need for either to have complicated and heavy landing leg systems.

“Mechazilla” will achieve this by travelling up and down the launch support tower on three rails whilst having a “head” that can rotate around three side of the tower, and two huge “chopstick” arms than can open and close around a Super Heavy or Starship vehicle, allowing it to raise or lower them – and eventually catch them as they make a (hopefully) precision return to Earth that brings them down alongside the launch support tower.

The massive system will not be used for the first orbital flight attempt with Booster 4 (currently on the launch table) and Starship 20, but may be used in an attempt to catch Booster 5 (currently under construction as the “next generation” of Super Heavy vehicles)  when that launches in 2022. However, captures of Starship vehicles will not be seen for some time.

A rendering of “Mechazilla” and the QD arm mounted on the Super Heavy / Starship launch support tower at Boca Chica. Credit: Owe BL, with additional annotations

Also during the past week, Starship 20 has completed a series of static fire tests of its Raptor engines – including the first firing of a Raptor vacuum engine integrated into a Starship vehicle, and the first joint firing of a vacuum engine and a sea-level motor. Some of the vehicle’s heat shield titles were blown off during the tests, but otherwise the firings were viewed as successful.

Such is the progress at Boca Chica that Elon Musk has indicated the company will be ready to make that first orbital flight in November, pending regulatory approval. However, it would seem unlikely this would be granted in time for a November launch. The review period for the PEA doesn’t close until November 1st, and the public hearings mentioned above drew strong feedback both in support of, and against SpaceX’s expansion of the Boca Chica facilities, with the latter focused on already noticeable environmental issues.

The static fire test of a Raptor single vacuum engine and a single Raptor sea-level motor, marking the first time the both types of motor, integrated into a Starship, have been test fired. Credit: BocaChicaGal / NASASpaceflight.com

After November 1st, the FAA will require time to complete its report, incorporating all of this feedback and a separate report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Even if the report is positive, it still has to be reviewed and digested by the arm of the FAA responsible for granting launch licences. Given that November is something of a “short” month in the US due to the Thanksgiving holiday, it seems doubtful the FAA would complete all this work and grant a licence to SpaceX for Super Heavy / Starship flights by the end of the month.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: Mars wake-ups, SpaceX and NASA updates”