Virtual Reality Experience in 10 Minutes

Scroll down to the “Try it Yourself” section for the web demonstration link and the download link for the Windows standalone version which will work in flat screen mode or in VR if you have an Oculus Rift attached.

2015-12-14-Tim-Peake-Press-Conference 2015-12-15-ISS-Mission-46-Team
While preparing to watch astronaut Tim Peake’s launch to the International Space Station on 15th December 2015, I thought I would try to create a quick VR experience in Unity3D for the Oculus Rift using NASA 3D models…. a VR experience created in 10 minutes… and you can try this yourself via the online version and downloads listed later… but first here are images from the real thing… the launch of Soyuz TMA-19M

2015-12-15-Soyuz-Launch 2015-12-15-Soyuz-Launch-from-ISS
2015-12-15-Soyuz-Mission-Control 2015-12-15-Mission-Control-Houston

… and a wonderful shot of Tim Peake on his way up with a big grin on his face and thumbs up inside Soyuz during the launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on 15th December 2015… with the curvature of the Earth visible through the right hand porthole…


A Virtual Reality Experience in 10 Minutes – EVA at the ISS

Meanwhile.. in virtual reality… I had been meaning to update to Unity 5.3 and test the (soon to be required) WebGL Player delivery method, and I thought a VR demo to do a spacewalk around the International Space Station (ISS) would be a fine test. So here are my notes and resource links for the creation of a quick VR Space Experience in Unity3D for the Oculus Rift and in the WebGL player using NASA 3D models… all created while watching the NASA TV coverage of the launch… a Space VR experience in 10 minutes…


  1. Create a new Unity Project (or use a suitable base project ***)… which usually adds a main camera and directional light. I add in a solid plane at 0,0,0 to act as a physics base so avatars do not drop through to infinity, and make that not show by unticking the “Mesh Renderer”. Add Standard Assets for Characters and add in a Third Person Controller such as the standard Ethan model.
  2. NASA 3D Models –
  3. International Space Station FBX – placed, say, 50m above the solid plane.
  4. 2015-12-15-Unity-Editor-Soyuz-and-ProgressExtravehicular Mobility Unit 3DS – – Add EMU as visual model for 3rd Person Avatar Controller (e.g. Ethan) and position it appropriately. Turn off the normal avatar visual model. You need to turn off the “Mesh Collison” component for all the 3D parts within the EMU model to avoid rigged mesh issues in Unity 5.
  5. Add-on spacecraft: Soyuz by Byr2008 and Progress by Nickvet419. E.g. using Collada downloads via the 3D Warehouse and scaled to 0.025. [local version as unitypackage]
  6. Add a suitable Skybox to the Main Camera… via Free Earth Skybox – Hugo Peters – [local version as unitypackage] Download of the full package is available at:
  7. To use the Oculus Rift, remember to go into Build Settings -> Player Settings and tick “Virtual Reality Supported”. That’s all that is needed to enable the use of the Rift for a VR Experience.

Footnote ***: e.g., see “Project Base for OAR Converter Projects” section in

2015-12-15-ISS-in-VR-2 2015-12-15-ISS-in-VR-3

Try it Yourself

Please note that the ISS Experience uses complex 3D models and will need a computer with reasonable performance and a good graphics card.

Try a Unity Web Player version of the experience in most web browsers at
Apple-Mac-PageUp-PageDownMac users will need to use Fn+UpArrow and Fn+DownArrow for the keys needed to allow the astronaut avatar to move up and down.

Or, if you have an Oculus Rift, try a Windows (64 bit) standalone executable (.exe) version which should work with or without the Oculus Rift by obtaining this ZIP file, unzip it, and run the .exe file. You can use the arrow keys, page up and page down to move about. If you have a game controller attached, the left stick should move the astronaut, and the right and left bumpers will move you up and down. You can quit the experience using either the “q” or “esc” keys.

Using a suitable browser, such as Firefox, try a WebGL version of the experience at This has been built with the WebGL Player “Publishing Settings” Memory set at 1024MB, rather than the default 256MB… 512MB was also insufficient…. and it may still run out of memory when you try it. Exception reporting is also turned to “None” versus the default “Explicitly Thrown” default. I am still experimenting with WebGL.

16-Dec-2015 – Soyuz and Progress Added

2015-12-16-Soyuz-and-Progress-added-to-ISS-1 2015-12-16-Soyuz-and-Progress-added-to-ISS-2

ISS Configuration with Soyuz TMA-19M Docked


And here is the ISS model with Soyuz TMA-18M, Soyuz TMA-19M, Progress 60 and Progress 61 docked. Missing Cygnus (looking for a suitable open source 3D model)…


ISS Spacewalk in Real Life and VR on 21st December 2015


Jack Kelly’s 6DOF Spacewalk at the ISS

Jack Kelly at the University of Manchester did a nice variant of the ISS experience by introducing a 6 Degrees of Freedom (6DOF) avatar controller so that the spacewalker in an EMU jetpack could also rotate. See this YouTube video –

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2 Responses to Virtual Reality Experience in 10 Minutes

  1. bat says:

    You can follow Major Tim Peake’s mission to the International Space Station and the Principia Mission for science outreach to children via:

    Blog and Photostream:


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