Infobox VG| title = Orbiter (2006 Edition)
developer = Martin Schweiger
version = 2006P1,060929
May 4, 2006(first patch released September 29, 2006)
Single player, Multiplayer (Beta)
platforms = PC (
media = Free download
input = Keyboard, mouse, and
"Orbiter" is a
closed source freewarespace flight simulator for the Windows operating system. The first version was released on November 27, 2000and is an ongoing project with the latest version "060929" released on September 29, 2006. "Orbiter" was created by Martin Schweiger, Ph.D, a Senior Research Fellow at University College London.
About the simulator
"Orbiter" is a function-oriented simulator, with the interface focused on maneuvering the spacecraft, rather than a perspective-oriented simulator such as
Celestia. "Orbiter" allows any user to explore the solar systemon a number of spacecraft: both realistic, such as the Space Shuttle "Atlantis"; and fictional, such as the "Delta-Glider."
"Orbiter" is realistic enough to re-enact historical space flights, while at the same time the ability to fly fictional ships allows the player to make timely travel around the solar system. A spacecraft's engines are defined only by the amount of thrust they put out and amount of fuel they use. This allows anything from
solar sails to conventional rocket engines, to futuristic nuclear fission and fusion drives to be simulated. Orbital, sub-orbital, and interplanetary travel are all supported. Docking and attachment systems allow the player to perform a docking with a space stationor other spacecraft and also rendezvous with and retrieve a satellite. The player can even build a space stationin orbit.
"Orbiter"'s solar system consists of the
sunand the eight planets. Pluto, asteroids, and comets are not included but exist as add-ons. Although "Orbiter" contains a database of over 100,000 stars, these are for display purposes only and interstellar travelis currently not possible in "Orbiter". Also included is a planetarium mode with three main features. Ecliptic and celestial grids can be overlaid onto the star map along with labels of the constellations and other celestial markers. Secondly, labels indicating the location and identity of objects in the solar system, such as planets, moons, or vessels, can be activated to appear within a certain proximity based on their type. Finally, labels can be put on the celestial bodies in the solar system at certain coordinates on their surface for indicating cities, historical markers, geological formations, and other interesting sites.
"Orbiter" aims to be a realistic
simulatorrather than an arcade game. Planetary motion, gravitationeffects, free space and atmospheric flight are accurately modeled. Space physicsand orbital mechanicscan be complicated, and the learning curveis very steep even for those familiar with flight simulations. Because it uses newtonian physics, faster-than-lighttravel is possible without any of the adverse effects that would be experienced in real life. The limits for velocity and distance from the sun are unknown, but experiments show that the program becomes less stable during spacecraft travel at many orders of magnitude of the speed of light.
The traditional simulated control interface in "Orbiter" consists of two
Multi-function displays and a Head-Up Display. Each features several modes of operation. In this mode all commands are given via the keyboard or mouse. It gives an unobstructed view and all relevant information. The simulator also supports customized control panels and instruments, including 3D virtual cockpits and 2D instrument panels. These allow the player to use the mouse to interact with the panels, and allows more complex systems and instruments that are customized for each ship. The addition of a virtual cockpit also allows the player to freely look around from the perspective of the pilot.
The default version of "Orbiter" has no sound. However, a popular add-on called "Orbiter Sound"cite web|url=http://orbiter.dansteph.com/index.php?lang=en&disp=d|title=Orbiter Sound homepage|accessdate=2008-06-28] is available. It provides engine noises,ambient sound in the cabin, radio chatter and other sounds including mp3 playlists. Options enable the user to maintain a realistic silence when the craft is viewed externally during space flight.
The patch "060929" features support for
Use in education, science and industry
Because of its graphical capabilities, its simple API and low costs, "Orbiter" can be used by research institutions for the visualization of space missions. The applications range from rendering short video sequences of missions over mission simulationsPaton, M (2007)] to fixed platform cockpit simulators.
"Orbiter"'s standard distribution includes real and fictional spacecraft and space stations:
;Space Shuttle "Atlantis": The "Orbiter" version of a Space Shuttle. It does not have the guidance systems and autopilots of the real Space Shuttle, which makes it one of the hardest spacecraft to fly in "Orbiter". To make it a bit easier, the flight model has more propellant than the real Space Shuttle and its engines are a bit more effective. ;Space Station "Mir": "Orbiter"'s model of the historic Russian space station. Unlike its real counterpart, it was not deorbited and is placed in an orbit which is closer to the ecliptic plane. This was done initially to make "Mir" a good origin of interplanetary flights in earlier versions of "Orbiter", when "Orbiter" also automatically refueled spacecraft on docking with a space station. Using the scenario editor, it's still possible to refuel in-flight or start the simulation docked and with full tanks. ;
International Space Station: In a similar orbit as the real ISS and in a completed state, it shows many modules which will never get installed on the real ISS.; Hubble Space Telescope: A model of the real HST, it gets used together with "Orbiter"'s Space Shuttle "Atlantis".; Long Duration Exposure FacilitySatellite: Like the Hubble Space Telescope, it's one of the example payloads for "Orbiter"'s Space Shuttle.
;Delta-glider Mk.4: A delta wing
spaceplane, which is rather easy to fly and thus good for the first steps into "Orbiter". A variant of the Delta-glider Mk.4 is also included, the Delta-glider-S, which trades some of the propellant capacity for a scramjetpropulsion system. It's possible to travel from Earth to Mars with the Delta-glider, making it possible to practice interplanetary missions.;Shuttle-A: A small space freighter, which can transport six large cargo containers with a total mass of 120 metric tons. It doesn't have an aerodynamic hull so it is at home on the Moon and Mars. Its cargo containers are equipped with automatic parachutes. Using the parachutes, it's possible to simulate a cargo run from a lunar base to Earth and back, dropping the cargo while still in the upper atmosphere. Its high inertia and inferior aerodynamics make it harder to fly than the Delta-glider.;Shuttle-PB: A small personal spacecraft, with high agility and a futuristic performance. As its main purpose is to serve as simple SDK example for add-on developers, it lacks many complex details of other included ships in "Orbiter" like 2D or 3D cockpits or animations. ;Dragonfly: A complex manned space tug for the construction of space stations. It simulates its various subsystems at a higher complexity than all other standard spacecraft in "Orbiter", being a good example of the technical possibilities of "Orbiter"'s SDK. Its flight model is also within the possibilities of current technology, making it a so-called "nearly realistic" spacecraft. ;Lunar Wheel station: A fictional wheel shaped station in lunar orbit. As a rotating space station, it is a challenge to dock with it.;Carina: A small fictional science satellite, which is used as payload on "Orbiter"'s Space Shuttle. It is a completely inert payload currently. It is based on a proposed European reentry capsule experiment, to be launched on the Ariane 4, which later resulted in the ARDcite web |url=http://www.astronautix.com/craft/esaacrv.htm|title=ESA ACRV on Astronautix.com|accessdate=2008-04-05] .
"Orbiter" has attracted a sizable number of people centered around several forums and repositories, such as [http://www.orbithangar.com/ Orbit Hangar Mods] . While the source is not editable, an extensive
APIenables "Orbiter" users to contribute by creating add-ons. Many spacecraft are available for download as add-ons, ranging from the Soviet Vostok spacecraftto Project Mercuryand the Apollo programcite web |url=http://nassp.sourceforge.net/wiki/Main_Page |title=Project Apollo - NASSP|accessdate=2007-12-21] cite web |url=http://www.acsoft.ch/AMSO/amso.html|title=AMSO - Apollo Mission Simulator for Orbiter|accessdate=2007-12-21] . Another popular category of add-ons are modifications of the standard spacecraft of "Orbiter", ranging from simple visual changes to complex simulations of the internal subsystems of these fictional craftscite web|url=http://orbiter.dansteph.com/index.php?disp=dgIII|title=Deltaglider IV from Dan's Orbiter Page|accessdate=2008-06-28] .
Add-ons are also available for new bases, MFD modes, extensions of the simulation menu, space stations, planets, and even other solar systems. Since "Orbiter" 2006, a scenario editor is included, which can also be extended for supporting the special attributes of add-on vessels.
Project Geminicite web|url=http://sourceforge.net/projects/mscorbaddon/|title=Sourceforge.net:Meadville Space Center (Orbiter Add-ons)|accessdate=2008-06-28]
Ariane 5cite web|url=http://www.orbithangar.com/searchid.php?ID=583|title=Ariane 5/ATV v2.0@Orbithangar.com|accessdate=2008-06-28]
Space Shuttle programcite web|url=http://www.orbithangar.com/searchid.php?ID=3221|title=Shuttle Fleet V4.0.1@Orbithangar.com|accessdate=2008-06-28]
*Space Shuttle Burancite web|url=http://www.orbithangar.com/searchid.php?ID=2181|title=BURAN2@Orbithangar.com|accessdate=2008-06-28]
Space Ship One
Discovery One" and "Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov" [cite web |url=http://www.worldof2001.com|title=World of 2001|accessdate=2008-07-28]
*Orion Nuclear Spacecraft (based on the real world Project Orion) [cite web |url=http://www.orbithangar.com/searchid.php?ID=838|title=Project Orion@Orbithangar.com|accessdate=2008-06-28]
Millennium Falcon[cite web |url=http://www.orbithangar.com/searchid.php?ID=1454|title=Super Millennium Falcon@Orbithangar.com|accessdate=2008-06-28]
*The Rocket Company DH-1
* The and
* Project Rag Tag Fleet- Includes ships from the
Battlestar Galacticare-imaginging, as well as ships from the film Serenityand some original ships. [cite web|url=http://www.yankeeclippersmobile.com/forum|title=Forum of the Ragtag fleet project|accessdate=2008-06-28]
Manuals and Technical Papers
* [http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/download/Orbiter.pdf Orbiter: Manual] - current manual for "Orbiter"
* [http://download.orbit.m6.net/news/orbiter.pdf Orbiter: A Free Spacecraft Simulation Tool (.PDF)] [http://download.orbit.m6.net/news/orbiter.ppt |(.PPT)] - general presentation of "Orbiter" presented by the author at the "2nd
ESAWorkshop on Astrodynamics Tools and Techniques" at the ESTEC
* [http://download.orbit.m6.net/news/orbiter2006.pdf Spacecraft simulation and visualisation with Orbiter 2006 (.PDF)] [http://download.orbit.m6.net/news/orbiter2006.ppt (12 MB PPT)] - Presentation of the recent technical developments in "Orbiter", held by the author at the "3rd International Workshop on Astrodynamics Tools and Techniques" at the
* Paton, M (2007), cite web|url=http://download.orbit.m6.net/news/Virtual_prototyping_of_a_piloted_Mars_Lander.pdf|title=Landing humans on Mars: Virtual prototyping of a piloted Mars Lander|accessdate=2008-06-28|format=PDF, presented at the "International Space Development Conference (ISDC) 2007" in
* [http://www.thespacereview.com/article/494/1 Review: Orbiter space flight simulator] on [http://www.thespacereview.com/index.html The Space Review]
Space flight simulator
Satellite Tool Kit
* [http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/ Orbiter official website]
* [http://www.orbiter-forum.com New Official Orbiter Forum]
* [http://www.orbithangar.com/ Orbit Hangar Mods] - One of the largest "Orbiter" addon repositories
* [http://www.orbiterwiki.org/wiki/Main_Page OrbiterWiki]
* [http://endeavour88.altervista.org "Orbiter Italia" - Italian Orbiter Web Site]
* [http://www.orbiter.dansteph.com/ Dan's Orbiter Page] . Center of the francophone "Orbiter" community.
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