NASA creates dramatic artistic renderings of upcoming launches, in full color animation, often scaled for the IMAX screen.  They're great eye candy, but they are also informative, and have genuine science at their core.

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.

STEREO solar panel anim frame

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

Calliope launch video

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...