Voyager for POVray

Voyager 1 flyby of Ganymede

Back in 1998, I released my first ever 3D model – a POVRay raytracer model of the NASA/JPL Voyager spacecraft, and constructed entirely out of primitive objects (spheres, cylinders, boxes etc). The image above was rendered using this model, and shows Voyager 1 flying past Ganymede at 01:28 GMT on March 6th 1979 (you can see the photo that Voyager 1 took of Ganymede at that moment here).

I laboriously created the Voyager for POVRay model by hand, using the photographs and schematics of Voyager and its instruments found on the NASA/JPL Voyager website and on various other sites. No actual design blueprints were available (that would have made life too easy!) – everything was planned and designed ‘by eye’ and with lots of graph paper! No modellers (Moray, POVlab, SPatch etc.) were used in the creation of this model.

The Voyager for POVRay POVcode is © 1998 Constantine Thomas. All rights reserved. This model is available for personal/non-profit use only – you may not use this code for commercial projects. The Voyager for POVRay Source Code was written by Constantine Thomas and is available from http://www.evildrganymede.net/wp/artwork/voyagerpov/ . This POV code may not be mirrored on other sites – links should point back to this site instead. I would like to be informed of any images or animations (especially the latter!) that this model is used in, and would greatly appreciate a look at the results (and obviously, please credit me somewhere!).

DOWNLOAD THE VOYAGER FOR POVRAY CODE HERE – this includes the include file defining the model, and two POVray scene files used to render the images in the gallery below. To use it, unzip the file contents into a single folder and render from there. You should be able to use this straight away in more modern versions of POVRay – I’ve already added #version 3.01 at the start of the POVcode. Much more information can be found in the comment text in the voyager.inc file and in the POV files.

More notes on the aims and shortcomings of the Voyager for POVray model can be found after the image gallery below.

Voyager for POVRray Gallery

Aim of the Voyager POV model

  1. To make as accurate a model as possible for use in POVRay Space Art renderings.
  2. To make as ‘animation-friendly’ a POV model as possible. The ultimate aim is to make it possible to reproduce using POVray something similar to the classic Voyager fly-by animations originally made by Jim Blinn for JPL/NASA back in the 1980’s. I think I’ve optimised the code for such a purpose – the scan platform on which the cameras are mounted is fully ‘rotateable’ in the x- and y-axes, allowing you to show Voyager’s cameras tracking their targets as Voyager flies past them. In addition, Voyager itself can be rotated around the y-axis (that being the dish/body axis), just like in the NASA animations!

Features of the Voyager for POVRay model

    Attention to detail – in some cases (particularly on individual instruments) the model is accurate to the scale of inches! A few inaccuracies remain however – these are described below. Despite this, I think it’s just about completely accurate at a distance, and at least 80% accurate when viewed at close range.

    Fully ‘rotateable’ Scan Platform (x and y axes) and Voyager body – from Version 1.1, these can now be varied using the clock parameter from within the POV scene file that uses the Voyager object. This means that the Scan Platform with the cameras and other instruments can potentially track the planets and satellites that Voyager is flying past in animations!

    Simple primitive object model – no complex triangle meshes here, just spheres, cylinders, boxes, prisms, and a couple of quadrics! That means each object can be textured appropriately (and it also parses faster than a triangle mesh). Voyager is made from 955 objects in total.

Shortcomings of the Voyager for POVRay model

Of course, I’d be lying if I said this model was perfect, but it’s pretty close – there are a few minor flaws that I am aware of though (in order of magnitude):

    RTG Boom Struts – The Radioisotope Thermolelectric Generator (RTG) Boom support struts that connect the cylindrical RTG block to the body are not strictly accurate. None of the photos or schematics that I found viewed these from a good angle, and the best ones showed it to be a rather complex, asymmetrical affair. As such, I’ve done a best estimate but it does look pretty close to the real thing.

    Wide Angle Camera: The Wide Angle Camera (the shiny chrome thing on top of the Scan Platform) may not be truly accurate. I only found a side view of this on one of the Voyager websites, and I know it involves a cylindrical filter wheel somewhere. However, I couldn’t really reconcile the side view schematic with the view of it in the photograph of Voyager that this model is largely based on, so I erred in favour of the photo. I may try and correct this if I find a decent view of it.

    No Thermal Blanketing: Voyager was covered with a layer of black thermal blanketing – this is not shown in the model here, since (a) it covers almost everything up, and (b) I couldn’t find any decent photos with it included anyway.

    No detail on the Gold Disc: I didn’t want to lumber this model with a separate imagemap of the cover of the gold disc on the front of Voyager, and I certainly didn’t fancy etching out the individual carvings on it using cylindrical differences – so it’s just a plain gold disc.