Artsville: a new arts venture in Second Life

Artsville, June 2022

Artsville is the name given to a new collaborative arts hub in Second Life, which opened over the weekend of June 24th through 26th with a trio of 2D art exhibitions. The hub is the work of Vally Lavender-Prodigy (Valium Lavender), who provides the space for the hub on her ValiumSL region; Frank Atisso, who has closed his own Art Korner to focus on curating Artsville, with the overall design and layout of the hub by Megan Prumier.

In the latter regard, Megan has produced an engaging, modern setting for the hub in the form of artificial island-platforms sitting directly above the surrounding water, each with its own features and attractions and linked one to another by flat glass walkways.

Set under a twilight sky that gives the impression the Sun has not long since set, these stucco-finished platforms and the buildings to be found on some of them has an understated, slightly sci-fi presence, edges limned in white strips and low lamps periodically spaces around edges – this is very much a place where Advanced Lighting Model is needed (Preferences → Graphics → make sure ALM is checked and disable Shadows if required) to appreciate the point lighting.

Artsville, June 2022

Between them, the two largest of these island-platforms present, respectively, the landing point, offering a minimalist touch of horticulture in the form of box hedges and junipers given a topiary twist, and the island housing the three 2D gallery spaces, of which more in a moment.

Four glass walkways reach outward along the cardinal edges of the landing point, each marked by a great arch. Beside offering the way to the 2D galleries, these walkways respectively lead to: a small island with the promise of Coming Soon; the centre’s café and presentations centre; and a further sets of island platforms of various sizes, each featuring 3D at by Mistero Hifeng.

Artsville, June 2022: Maloe Vansant – Freaking Beauties

Whether the 3D art areas represent a single, permanent display or will feature other 3D artists over time, I’m not actually sure. However, they offer a sense of space and peace as they all eventually leading the way south and east to where an impressive event space has been placed out by Megan, with one of the routes to it leading through an impressive sculpture tunnel constructed by Megan.

The 2D galleries are arranged on three sides of a platform which almost mirrors the landing platform, with the exception that the glass-over-the-water area forms the events space for exhibition openings. For its first exhibitions, The galleries are simply numbered 1 through 3, and for Artsville’s opening, they bring us exhibitions by Maloe Vansant, presenting Freaking Beauties; in Gallery 1; Hayley Dixon’s Just a Little in Gallery 2; and in Gallery 3, When You Open A Door, by Scylla Rhiadra.

Maloe’s Freaking Beauties is the most visually striking of the three, presenting a series of avatar studies offered in powerful, vibrant colours and strong contrasts; the magic of post-processing giving them a captivating and eye-popping edge, with a richness of tone and focus to draw the eye into each of them.

Artsville, June 2022: Hayley Dixon – Just A Little

With Just A Little, Hayley Dixon offers a short introduction. In it, she notes how, by adding just a little colour and / or light into an image, it is possible to completely transform it.

This is thoroughly demonstrated within the 10 images she presents, all of which are presented in black-and-white or monochrome tones, and which use light to great effect. Some make use of light in the most minimalistic of ways, drawing the eye into them, causing us to almost adopt a tight focus on the lines before slowly pulling back in the manner of a cinematographer so that the complete scene and its narrative might become clear (such as with pause); others intentionally contrast the use of light and dark in an almost yin/yang balance to present their mood and story.

Just A Door is another thought-provoking series by Scylla Rhiadra. Like Hayley’s, it comes with an introduction. However, I would urge visitors not to read it directly – or at least, to not read beyond the first question and the two sentences that follow it.

Artsville, June 2022: Scylla Rhiadra – Just A Door

This is because – for me – framing the exhibition through the supplied exposition beforehand risks diminishing the power and layering of metaphor waiting to be peeled back within each of the ten images and their accompanying texts – all of which combine to form a rich treatise on love, relationships, attitudes, the unlocking (or blocking) of potential; the richness of allowing the imagination to flower and bloom (and the potential emptiness of turning it aside). It is a layering that deserves to be examined free from the preconceptions which might result from reading such notes in advance, so as to allow their narrative richness of each piece to percolate freely through our subconscious thinking and challenge us in the most subtle of ways.

Which is not to say Scylla’s exploration of her work should be ignored; it does provide additional depth and underpins the exhibition as a whole. But in coming to it last (which, fortunately is easy to do given it is tucked between the entrances to the gallery, and so can be missed when initially entering), we allow her words to underscore our own thinking on, and reaction to, the individual pieces, rather than having her words shape that thinking.

Artsville, June 2022: Scylla Rhiadra – Just A Door

Artsville is an engaging new addition to the SL arts scene, and I look forward to further exhibitions there. I do, however, have one small critique: the gallery spaces could benefit from lighter interior finishes than was the case at the time of my visit; the tomb-like darkness left me squinting to make out details of some images, and then scrambling around in inventory for an alternate EEP by which to view the art (the images of the exhibitions shown here have all be had their contrast altered via post-processing to better present them); a lighter finish to the interiors would eliminate this kind of distraction.

Outside of that, all three exhibitions form engaging displays of art well worth visiting, with Artsville as a whole equally engaging in its general presentation.

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Space Sunday: SLS, satellites and a rover

The Artemis 1 Orion MPCV and its European Space Agency service module sit atop the first NASA Space Launch System (SLS) on Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Centre, a full Moon framed between the vehicle and one of the pad’s lightning towers. Credit: NASA

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) has finally cleared the last significant hurdle in the preparations to launch the first of the vehicles on its much anticipated lunar flight.

On Friday, June 24th, agency officials declared the test campaign for the maiden vehicle to be almost complete after it finally cleared the critical wet dress rehearsal (WDR) test on a fourth attempt – the first three in May each ending with issues that forced NASA to roll the vehicle and its mobile launch platform back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, so both could receive modifications.

The final dress rehearsal started on June 20th, and concluded 20 seconds early due to a leak in a hydrogen bleed line. While this did not compromise the test itself, it did prevent 13 of the planned 128 command functions from being performed as a result. Most of these had been previously tested, so the curtailing any testing of them during the WDR was not seen as cause for concern.

However, mission managers opted to perform one additional test prior to rolling the vehicle back to the VAB for final inspections and launch preparations. This will be a test of hydraulic power units used to gimble the nozzles of the vehicle’s solid rocket boosters to provide directional guidance while the boosters are firing. One it has been completed, the roll-back to the VAB will be carried out on July 1st.

The Artemis 1 SLS vehicle sitting on its mobile launcher at Pad 39B, Kennedy Space Centre, imaged from orbit on June 18th, 2022 by a Maxar Earth observation satellite. Credit: Maxar Technologies

At the VAB, the vehicle and its launch platform will undergo a final post-WDR inspection, which will include replacing the seal responsible for the hydrogen leak. It’s expected that overall, the final check-out plus any required work will run through until early August. Providing nothing serious is found, the vehicle will be rolled back to the pad to commence 10-14 days final launch preparations. This will be in time to meet two immediate launch windows: August 23rd through September 6th (excluding the period August 31st-September 1st) and September 19th through October 4th, 2022.

The Artemis 1 mission is designed to fly an uncrewed Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) on 20+ day mission to cislunar space including 6 days in lunar orbit. It will be a preliminary check-out of Orion’s life support, propulsion, guidance and communications systems during an extended mission, prior to repeating the flight with a crew on board with Artemis 2.


On Monday, June 27th, NASA will be launching another mission to cislunar space.

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE), is a 25 kg cubesat the size of a microwave oven designed to study what is called a lunar near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) – an extended elliptical orbit around the Moon that will bring the satellite to within 1,600 km of the lunar surface before lifting it away to up to 70,000 km. It is a similar orbit to the one that will be used by NASA’s planned Lunar Gateway station.

While extreme, such an orbit allows for continuous communications with Earth and allows for extensive study of the Moon. When placed in a similar orbit, Gateway will allow astronauts to reach almost any point on the lunar surface using suitable landing systems.

The CAPSTONE cubesat sitting on an engineering bench during testing of its solar arrays. Credit: NASA / Dominic Hart

CAPSTONE is due to be launched from New Zealand aboard a Rocket Labs Electron rocket at 10:00 UTC om Monday, June 27th, 2022. As the Electron is not capable of delivering CAPSTONE directly to the Moon, it will use the company’s Photon kick stage to push the cubesat into an extended 4-month flight to the Moon, where it will enter orbit on October 15th. The extended, slow flight will allow CAPSTONE to carry out a range of tests prior to reaching the Moon and is not reflective of the kind of transit time crewed flights will require to reach lunar NRHO (5-10 days).

Once in orbit around the Moon, CAPSTONE will spend a further 6-months studying the NRHO environment around the Moon and in communication tests both with Earth and with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the moon since 2009.

SpaceX Triple Header with a Touch of Mystery

SpaceX carried out three near “back-to-back” launches over the weekend of June 17th-19th, albeit from different launch complexes:

  • On Friday, June 17th, a Falcon 9 lifted-off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Centre, carrying aloft the company’s latest batch of Starlink satellites for deployment.
  • On Saturday, June 18th, a Falcon 9 lifted the SARah-1 radar imaging satellite to orbit on behalf of the German military, after lifting-off from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
  • On Sunday, 19th, the third launch lifted-off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, ostensibly to place the commercial Globalstar FM15 into a “parking” orbit as a back-up for the company.
A Falcon 9 lifts off June 17 carrying a batch of Starlink satellites, the first of three launches SpaceX performed over a little more than 36 hours. Credit: SpaceX

While all three saw the successful return and landing of the Falcon 9 first stage of each booster, the June 19th mission has raised eyebrows due to the apparent secrecy around it. The Globalstar FM15 is a relatively small satellite – just 700 kg – which should have allowed the Falcon first stage to return to the SpaceX landing zone at Canaveral; instead it landed on a drone ship at sea, suggesting it was flying a heavier payload that required greater thrust to push it to orbit.

SpaceX also did not cover the launch with anything like the kind of live streaming they generally put out for their launches; what footage that was put out suggested the vehicle was carrying an additional payload adaptor, hinting at a further payload – although nothing has been said to confirm or deny this.

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