Space exploration virtual reality experience set to launch
11 January 2023
A VR space exploration experience created by students from Falmouth University and Truro & Penwith College will soon be available to download for free from Meta’s Quest store for individuals and schools, colleges and universities all over the UK.
Over the last 18 months, students from Falmouth University’s immersive technology courses and Truro & Penwith College’s computing, software development and IT courses have been collaborating on a VR experience project, supported by Spaceport Cornwall, Goonhilly, UK Space Agency and The South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Communications.
Following a presentation of the first iteration of the experience at Goohilly’s 60th anniversary celebrations in July 2022, the team unveiled the final product to media, VIPs and dignitaries at Spaceport Cornwall’s VIP exhibition on Monday evening.
My biggest hope for the VR experience once it is released is that it inspires young people in Cornwall to join the Space, XR and tech sectors and build the future of the UK directly from the county.
With painstaking levels of detail in the animation, artistry and technology, the students crafted a plethora of true-to-life scenes, allowing users to see Goonhilly Earth Station’s Arthur 6 satellite up close, see behind the scenes at Spaceport and its mission control room and even find themselves beamed up into space and planted on the floor of the ocean to see a host of satellite locations. In one hair-raising moment, users can stand on a suspended platform in space looking down at the launch site location – and even press the launch button to launch Virgin Orbit’s rocket.
Throughout the VR journey, users are also presented with holograms of some well-known faces – including British astronaut Tim Peake, Spaceport’s CEO Melissa Thorpe, Virgin Orbit’s Chief Pilot Matthew Stannard and scientists from Exeter and Portsmouth universities.
It is hoped that the experience will entice keen creative and tech talent in the UK to find out more about creative tech and STEM careers as well as the wider role they can play in the burgeoning space industry.
Bogo Petrov, a graduate student from Falmouth’s Creative Virtual Reality was a design lead on the project and has now secured his first graduate role with Immersive Business as an Immersive Tech specialist. Asked about his experience on the project and what he hopes the final product will achieve, he said: “SpaceLaunch VR has been one of the most rewarding and fun experiences I have worked on. I had an amazing time helping to realise this virtual mission to make a truly educational and inspirational peace of content.
“My biggest hope for the VR experience once it is released is that it inspires young people in Cornwall to join the Space, XR and tech sectors and build the future of the UK directly from the county.”
I’ve been working in immersive technology for many years, and this rates as one of the best projects I’ve worked on. Not only did the students deliver an outstanding piece of work, but the experience itself also provided so many layers of excitement, adventure, education and wonder and it’s a real credit to the students' dedication and talents.
The project has also been an opportunity for FE and HE institutions in the region to pool resources and work together on a professional space industry brief. Students worked together under the guidance of Falmouth's Immersive Business lab and Truro & Penwith's Digital and Computing team. The partnership heralds a new era of collaboration in the drive to attract more home-grown students into the UK’s developing space cluster and enhance student employability in a range of creative and tech sectors.
The students involved in the project have so far been a part of Goonhilly’s 60th anniversary celebrations, worked with Tim Peake for a special schools broadcast and exhibited their work at UK Space Agency’s public event at London’s Science Museum alongside a 72ft life-size replica of the Launcher One rocket. Students involved in the development of the experience have been empowered to develop their own ideas, use professional, industry-standard technology and speak to high-profile representatives from the space industry.
Brian Waterfield, Head of Immersive Production at Falmouth's Immersive Business lab, has supported students throughout the entire project. He said:
"I’ve been working in immersive technology for many years, and this rates as one of the best projects I’ve worked on. Not only did the students deliver an outstanding piece of work, but the experience itself also provided so many layers of excitement, adventure, education and wonder and it’s a real credit to the students' dedication and talents.
“What has also grown from this project is the strengthening of links between Truro & Penwith College and Falmouth University, the working relationship we now have with the outstanding team at Spaceport Cornwall. It’s a shining example of the inspiring and innovative spirit present in Cornwall."
Naomi Johns-Dyer, Deputy Team Leader for Digital at Truro and Penwith College, mirrored Brian’s words, saying: “Truro and Penwith College are proud to collaborate with Immersive Business and students from Falmouth University on this project. It is very exciting that space tech has come to Cornwall, and it's incredible that students have been able to work on such an innovative project.”