Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Space flight simulator
A space flight simulator is a system that tries to replicate, or simulate, the experience of space flight in a spacecraft as closely and realistically as possible. The different types of flight simulator range from video games up to full-size cockpit replicas mounted on hydraulic rams, controlled by state of the art computer technology or elaborate watertanks for simulation of weightlessness.
Space flight simulators at home
Because of their complication and appeal that is limited to arguably narrower group of space enthusiasts, space flight simulators have been less prevalent than the flight simulators and have had only limited presence in the home user market. Nevertheless, over the last 20 years or so there have been a number of products (both commercial and free ware) that have been met with varying degree of interest in the gaming community .
There is a considerable interdependence between space flight and flight simulators kinds of simulators, as some flight simulators feature spacecraft as an extension (e.g. X-Plane and the other hand some space flight simulators may feature a pretty realistic flight simulation engine (e.g. Orbiter). Moreover flight simulation repositoriess and flight simulation fora (e.g. Avsim ) serve usually both flight and space flight simulators' enthusiasts.
Three major kinds of space simulators can be identified:
- Extensions to general-purpose flight simulators - that attempt to accommodate spacecraft physics using the same (or slightly modified) physics engine that is used for general flight simulation. Those extensions are usually limited to sub-orbital or LEO missions.
- Spacecraft add-ons for X-Plane (including Space Shuttle, Ares and Saturn V).
- Specialized simulators - that feature a specialized engine for a limited simulation of particular operations of the spacecraft or particular phases of the space mission . Specialized simulators excel at realism (complexity and operations of spacecraft systems, visual effects and general handling of the simulation) but are usually limited to specific spacecraft or particular bounds of simulation (i.e. you cannot fly Space Shuttle to the moon, even if you have enough fuel).
- Eagle Lander 3D
- Space Shuttle Simulator
- General-purpose space flight simulators - that feature a general-purpose physics engine that may be used for a wide range of spacecraft and missions. Those are usually the most comprehensive and complex but may lack in details and some advanced visual effects.
- Orbiter - a freeware space flight simulator by Martin Schweiger
- Space Combat - a freeware space flight simulator by Austin Meyer
- Microsoft Space Simulator
- Flight simulator
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