Archive for febbraio, 2011

Feb 24

Let’s start saying I’m really not a space enthusiast, although in my opinion the exploration of space and other planets is the future of humanity, so it could be interesting to know something about astronomy, astrophysics and space technologies.

Back in 1994 Microsoft released Space Simulator. I’ve never used it but, as I’ve found on various sites and forums, seems that the space vehicles the user could fly were all fictional, and that atmospheric flight was not simulated.

NASA reported that budget for the last STS mission, STS-135 / Atlantis, has been approved. Anyway, that means 2011 will be the year in which the Space Shuttle fleet will be decommissioned, after the final flights for Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis.

While looking for some Space Shuttle’s videos, I found some videos made with Orbiter, so I started searching some info about this program.

Orbiter ( current version as of writing is Orbiter 2010 ), is a space flight simulator released for the first time in 2000. It simulates both space and atmospheric flight, it’s modular, so a large number of plugins and add-ons already exists, and it’s very realistic.
It’s also free, and you can download it following the link on the official site.
Without AA at low resolutions runs even on tomcat ( a laptop with a Pentium 4 2.4 GHz and 1 GB of RAM ).

Atlantis in orbit with Canadarm ( in Orbiter 2010 )
Coming from more than 15 years of flight simulators doesn’t help very much during the first flights. It’s actually better to forget how to fly aircrafts and start to learn almost everything from scratch. Furthermore, Orbiter use the metrical system while in aviation, apart from Russia and some other former Soviet republics, the most used system is the US customary one, especially for distance ( nm ), speed ( kts ) and altitude ( ft ).

Let’s start saying that using orbiter is all but easy, so for the first flights, the Delta-glider is the best choice. This rocket-spacecraft is able to take off and land like an aircraft and has enough thrust not only to reach Earth orbit without using any booster, but also to change the orbit plane by several degrees ( something the OMS of an Orbiter can’t do ).
After learning how to get into orbit, change the orbit plane and period in order to synchronize it with that of another spacecraft / satellite / space station ( it takes some weeks… ) and last but not least, how to perform a correct re-entry manouver ( to land where you want, when you want, possibly without burning ), it is possible to do simulate other stuffs, like flying with the Space Shuttle to repair Hubble or simulating a transfer to another planet ( using time warp of course ) or to the moon, maybe with the Apollo add-on.

If you like new challenges and you don’t bother about learning a lot of things before even leaving the ground, I strongly recommend you to try Orbiter.

Atlantis departure ( in Orbiter 2010 )