Last Updated: 27/10/2006
Orbiter is a spacecraft simulation tool (link to pdf), an in depth simulation based on complex physics. Orbiter models space travel (in a variety of craft), planetary motion and atmospheric effects. It requires a basic knowledge of the principles of space flight and lots of practice.
Since man last set foot on the Moon in 1972,
plans for manned spaceflight to the Moon & beyond have
been 'virtual', in that they have never advanced further than the designers
presentation and artists impression. Virtual Spaceflight
contains links to sites that detail many of these plans, some of which you can
Orbiter. On this site you will find links to other spaceflight simulator
software as well as many
other links that are relevant to the subject.
Orbiter has a large range of add-on spacecraft, ranging from real life to sci-fi. The quality of many of them is quite outstanding and represents the work of many hours of programming and graphic design. There is even an auto-pilot available as a separate add-on called REDSHIFT by Bernd R. Fix, that can fly a spacecraft into orbit and dock with another craft without any user intervention. In fact quite a lot can be learnt by just watching it 'do its thing'.
Initially the learning curve is steep, as not only do you have to learn to fly your chosen spacecraft, but also master the numerous keyboard commands and the physics of spaceflight. After a few hours you can feel your brain aching - well, mine did anyway. But it's well worth the effort when something that seemed at first, impossible to grasp, finally 'clicks'.
For a good introduction to Orbiter, have a read of The Space Review article by Bruce Irving. Also be sure to check-out his blog “Music of the Spheres”, regularly, for discussion of Orbiter and other space related issues. You can also download his eBook 'Go Play in Space' from this site, which is a kind of 'Orbiter for Dummies' (no insult intended).
Another worthwhile site is Nasaspaceflight.Com, run by Chris Bergin a UK journalist based in York. His contacts at NASA and elsewhere, together with some very knowledgeable posters make for interesting and informative reading. If you're fed up with some of the flame wars that break out on other forums you'll like this site, as it has a zero tolerance policy that is strictly enforced. Recently, this site has hosted some Q&A discussions with Dr. 'Doug' Stanley of Georgia Tech who ran the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS) team during the 90-day study, which produced the ESAS Final Report, and Chris Thompson, SpaceX VP of Development Operations - here.
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