For example, the STEREO solar panel deployment is fascinating to watch, even as a simulation. It uses a highly accurate 3D model of the actual spacecraft, and attempts to balance physical realism with artistic license. Noteworthy is the robotic nature of the deployment and the oscillation of the solar panels as they deploy.
I will keep this proud tradition going with Project Calliope, the 'Music from Space' ionospheric satellite launching in 2011. A befits a 'shoestring satellite', this launch, deployment and first light animation was created freehand on a Nintendo DSi[TM]. Enjoy
You may wonder why I so proudly post this animation here. First, it's cute, and I like cute. Second, while my graphic quality may be lacking, it is nice that we live in a day and age where I can launch an entire satellite, for less than the cost of producing a series of 30-second IMAX-quality pre-launch animations*.
Until next week,
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p.s. animation costs based on $70K/yr salary at 2.5x overhead for 1 animation working 2.5 weeks...