Orbiter (Orbiter Space Flight Simulator) is a freeware space flight simulator created by Martin Schweiger, Ph. D., of the Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering at University College London. The most current stable version is Orbiter 2016.
Orbiter is a physics simulator which uses Newtonian physics to simulate the behaviour of spacecraft & other objects within our solar system. While somewhat vulnerable to crashes caused by add-ons or extreme simulation demands, Orbiter is generally quite stable when used properly. Orbiters file structure consists of configuration files, help files, meshes, textures and modules which are integrated by the main executable Orbiter.exe. This very flexible architecture makes addon development for Orbiter relatively easy.
The standard ORBITER distribution requires the following minimum hardware features:
- 600 MHz PC or better (Pentium, Athlon, etc.)
- 256 MB RAM or more
- Windows 9x/Me/2000/XP
- DirectX 7.0 or higher
- DirectX compatible 3D graphics accelerator card with at least 16MB of video RAM (32MB or more recommended) and DXT texture compression support
- Approximately 100MB of free disk space for the minimum installation (additional high-resolution textures and add-ons will require more space).
- DirectX compatible joystick (optional)
Installing high-resolution texture packs or add-ons may have an impact on performance and could require significantly higher computing specs.
The default solar system
The default solar system includes all known planets (except the dwarf planets) and the major moons. Most planets are equipped with a ephemeris module, which calculates the position of the celestial bodies to very high accuracy, making it possible to simulate historic space missions by using nearly the same manoeuvres as in reality.
Also included in the basic Orbiter distribution are several spaceports, where players can refuel their spacecraft:
- Kennedy Space Center
- Habana located close to Habana, Cuba
- Brighton Beach located on the Moon near side
- Olympus spaceport located on Mars
For a complete list of the bases included with the Orbiter distribution, see the Surface bases article.
- Luna Wheel Station
- Space Shuttle Atlantis
- Shuttle PB
- Hubble Space Telescope
- Long Duration Exposition Facility
- International Space Station
In spite of its destruction in reality, Mir is placed in an alternative orbit making it a possible start for interplanetary missions.
The Orbiter install with two methods: The MSI and the ZIP method. The MSI (Microsoft installer) method installs Orbiter like a normal Windows application. Just run the MSI file to start the interactive installation process. This method will automatically create a desktop shortcut and start menu entry, including an uninstall option. This method is easy to use, but a bit more restrictive. Manual ZIP file extraction is the traditional method for Orbiter installation. Download the ZIP file, create an Orbiter folder, and extract the contents of the ZIP file into the folder. That's all, and you are ready to launch orbiter.exe. This method is non-intrusive (it doesn't change the registry or system resources), allows multiple copies of Orbiter on a single system, and can be uninstalled by simply deleting the Orbiter folder.
Optional Texture Packs
Optional texture packs provide high-resolution surface textures for planets and moons included within Orbiter distribution. This will improve the visual appearance in many situations, but requires more computing power and a lot of hard disk space.
It was announced by Dr. Schweiger on 27 July 2021 that Orbiter has been published under an open source license, (Wikipedia: MIT license). Details can be found at the Orbiter forum , this thread.