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Vertical Motion Simulator
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The interface between the pilot and the simulator at the VMS is a structure called the Interchangeable Cab (ICAB), which recreates the cockpit of an aerospace vehicle. Sitting in an aircraft seat, the pilot affects the simulation by manipulating the flight controls and the switches and buttons on the instrument panel. Sensory information is delivered to the pilot in many forms: visual cues from the out-the-window scene and the flight instruments, motion cues from the motion base and the vibration generator under the seat, and auditory cues, which reproduce the sounds of flight.

In keeping with the VMS mission of supporting any aerospace vehicle, the ICAB can simulate passenger and cargo transport planes, rotorcraft, fighter aircraft, spacecraft, and more. This uncommon flexibility is made possible by the ability to change many of the components inside the ICAB, including the flight controls, instruments, and seats. The VMS maintains a large selection of components that can be modified, and new components can be designed and fabricated according to researchers' needs.

Fisheye view of the interchangeable cab exterior The ICAB Photo showing lifting up the interchangeable cab onto the motion base Lifting the ICAB Photo of building up the ICAB Building up the ICAB

Not only are many of the components within the ICAB interchangeable, but the ICAB itself is portable and can be moved to different areas of the facility according to the phase of a simulation. During build-up, when the interior of the cab is configured, it rests in one of two fixed-base labs, where all parts of a simulation except motion can be run. In this way, the cab hardware and the simulation software can be tested together to ensure smooth operation prior to an experiment. Some of the research conducted at the VMS does not require motion and occurs in the fixed-base labs. However, the cab is usually next moved to the motion base.

The key to efficiency at the VMS lies in the flexibility afforded by having five ICABs. This allows the simultaneous development of different simulation experiments and optimizes the use of the single motion base. Removing one cab from the motion base, installing the next cab, and testing it with motion requires only a day.

The capabilities of changing components within a cab and operating multiple cabs in different areas of the facility dictate that the cabs have standardized elements. To this end, each ICAB is made of four substructures.
  • The removable canopy can be lifted off for easy access to the interior during cab build-up. When in place, the removable canopy keeps out light and sound for the simulation pilot.
  • The fixed canopy is a permanent structure and forms the rear wall of a cab. Personnel enter and exit through a door in this substructure. The fixed canopy also provides surfaces for mounting equipment and for connecting electrical and electronic lines from the rest of the simulator.
  • The base forms the floor of the cab. It can be fastened to the motion base and serves as the attachment point for the other substructures. It also secures much of the equipment that changes from simulation to simulation: the seats, flight controls, and instrument panel. In addition, hydraulic lines to the cab are attached to the underside of the base.
  • The image presentation system (IPS) delivers the out-the-window graphics, which represent the outside world to the pilot. The IPS is not changed between simulations because exact placement of the optics is important in aligning the imaging components with one another and with the pilot's eye. The IPS configuration is unique to each cab and is used to simulate specific types of aircraft, as shown below.
Cab Image Presentation System

Aircraft Simulated: Helicopters

Seats: 1
Photo of Exterior of NCAB Photo of interior of NCAB

Aircraft Simulated: Helicopters

Seats: 1
Photo of Exterior of RCAB Photo of Interior of RCAB

Aircraft Simulated: Fighter Jets, Helicopters

Seats: 1
Photo of Exterior of FCAB Poto of Interior of FCAB

Aircraft Simulated: Space Shuttle Orbiter, Transport Aircraft

Seats: 2 side by side
Photo of Exterior of SCAB Photo of Interior of SCAB

Aircraft Simulated: Tiltrotor Aircraft, Transport Aircraft

Seats: 2 side by side
Photo of Exterior of TCAB Photo of Interior of TCAB

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Last Updated: April 5, 2017

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