Orbiter (simulator): Wikis


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Orbiter (2006 Edition)
Screenshot of a Space Shuttle lift-off from Cape Canaveral
Developer(s) Martin Schweiger
License Freeware
Version 2006P1,060929
Platform(s) PC (Microsoft Windows)
Release date(s) Latest stable release
September 29, 2006
Latest preview release (0911124)
November 24, 2009
Genre(s) Simulation
Mode(s) Single player
Media Free download
Input methods Keyboard, mouse, and joystick (optional)

Orbiter is a closed source freeware space flight simulator for the Windows operating system. The first version was released on November 27, 2000 and 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 system on 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 station or other spacecraft and also rendezvous with and retrieve a satellite. The player can even build a space station in orbit.[1]

Orbiter's solar system consists of the sun, the eight planets and their major moons. Dwarf planets, 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 travel is 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.

The Delta Glider in low Venusian orbit, showing the 3D Virtual Cockpit, including Multi-functional displays (MFDs) and the Head-up Display (HUD)

Orbiter aims to be a realistic simulator rather than an arcade game. Planetary motion, gravitation effects, free space and atmospheric flight are accurately modeled.[2][3] The position of the planets in the solar system is calculated by the VSOP87 solution, the Earth-Moon system is simulated by the ELP2000 model. Space physics and orbital mechanics can be complicated, and the learning curve is very steep even for those familiar with flight simulations. Because it uses newtonian physics, faster-than-light travel 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 "OrbiterSound"[4] is available. It provides engine noises, ambient sounds 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 TrackIR.

Use in education, science and industry

Because of its graphical capabilities, its simple API and no cost, 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 simulations[5] to fixed platform cockpit simulators.

Included spacecraft

Orbiter's standard distribution includes real and fictional spacecraft and space stations:


Real vessels

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 spacecrafts 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 modules which are no longer planned to be 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 Facility Satellite
Like the Hubble Space Telescope, it's one of the example payloads for Orbiter's Space Shuttle.

Fictional vessels

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 scramjet propulsion system. It's possible to travel from Earth to Mars with the Delta-glider, making it possible to practice interplanetary missions.
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.
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.
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, inspired by Space Station V from the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.. As a rotating space station, it is a challenge to dock with it.
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 ARD[6].

Orbiter add-ons

Orbiter recreation of the launch of the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission.

Orbiter has attracted a sizable number of people centered around several forums and repositories, such as Orbit Hangar Mods.

While the source is not editable, an extensive API enables Orbiter users to contribute by creating add-ons. Many spacecraft are available for download as add-ons, ranging from the Soviet Vostok spacecraft to Project Mercury and the Apollo program[7][8]. 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 crafts. Examples of these more advanced default spacecraft include the DeltaGlider IV[9] and the XR Series of vessels[10].

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.

Further examples



See also


  1. ^ "Orbiter Manual". http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/download/Orbiter.pdf. Retrieved 2009-04-17.  
  2. ^ "Orbiter Technical Notes: Dynamic State Vector Propagation", Martin Schweiger, 2006
  3. ^ P. Bretagnon and G. Francou, "Planetary theories in rectangular and spherical variables. VSOP87 solutions" (PDF 840KB), Astronomy & Astrophysics 202 (1988) 309–315.
  4. ^ "Orbiter Sound homepage". http://orbiter.dansteph.com/index.php?lang=en&disp=d. Retrieved 2008-06-28.  
  5. ^ Paton, M (2007)
  6. ^ "ESA ACRV on Astronautix.com". http://www.astronautix.com/craft/esaacrv.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-05.  
  7. ^ "Project Apollo - NASSP". http://nassp.sourceforge.net/wiki/Main_Page. Retrieved 2007-12-21.  
  8. ^ "AMSO - Apollo Mission Simulator for Orbiter". http://www.acsoft.ch/AMSO/amso.html. Retrieved 2007-12-21.  
  9. ^ "Deltaglider IV from Dan's Orbiter Page". http://orbiter.dansteph.com/index.php?disp=dgIII. Retrieved 2008-06-28.  
  10. ^ Doug's Orbiter Page--XR Series of Vessels
  11. ^ "Sourceforge.net:Meadville Space Center (Orbiter Add-ons)". http://sourceforge.net/projects/mscorbaddon/. Retrieved 2008-06-28.  
  12. ^ "Ariane 5/ATV v2.0@Orbithangar.com". http://www.orbithangar.com/searchid.php?ID=583. Retrieved 2008-06-28.  
  13. ^ "Shuttle Fleet V4.0.1@Orbithangar.com". http://www.orbithangar.com/searchid.php?ID=3221. Retrieved 2008-06-28.  
  14. ^ "BURAN2@Orbithangar.com". http://www.orbithangar.com/searchid.php?ID=2181. Retrieved 2008-06-28.  
  15. ^ "World of 2001". http://www.worldof2001.com. Retrieved 2008-07-28.  
  16. ^ "Project Orion@Orbithangar.com". http://www.orbithangar.com/searchid.php?ID=838. Retrieved 2008-06-28.  
  17. ^ "Super Millennium Falcon@Orbithangar.com". http://www.orbithangar.com/searchid.php?ID=1454. Retrieved 2008-06-28.  
  18. ^ "Forum of the Ragtag fleet project". http://www.yankeeclippersmobile.com/forum. Retrieved 2008-06-28.  


Manuals and Technical Papers


External links


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