Orbiter: The Free Spaceflight Simulator is a diamond-hard realistic Simulation Game involving spacecraft and spaceflight in general. It was created by Cambridge tutor Martin Schweiger for educational and entertainment purposes. The simulator has been in development roughly since 2000, and the latest stable version is Orbiter 2016, released on August 30, 2016. The last version, Orbiter 2010 (Patch 1), was released exactly six years earlier.
The game is freeware, so if you feel interested in it and aren't scared by a steeper learning curve, you can grab it here. In addition to this basic game pack, there are literally tons and tons of (equally freeware) fan-made mods that expand the game in virtually every way: Adding new launchers, spacecraft, spaceports and space bases, scenarios and campaigns, texture and graphic updates, even entire planets and solar systems, and new HUDs for the ship's onboard computer... They can be found here, here and here. And don't forget the XR series here!
Not to be confused with Orbitor 1.
Orbiter provides examples of:
- Absent Aliens: Unless you're counting the mods based on Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5 or other verses, which feature the ships of the various non-human species from those movies and TV shows.
- Alternate History: In some of the mods and add-ons (e.g. the Soviet Union narrowly beats the US to the first succesful Moon landing, an Apollo Programme-derived spacecraft lands on Mars in 1985, etc.). Also, in the default scenarios Mir is still flying, and has been moved into a convenient orbit for lunar ejections.
- Asteroid Miners: The 20 Minutes into the Future JMC Mining Company in scenarios involving the Delta Glider IV add-on.
- Cool Spaceplane: The entire Delta Glider class. And for some, Real Life spaceplanes, like NASA's Space Shuttle, the ill-fated Russian Buran or the never built ESA Hermes space shuttle.
- Cool Starship / Cool Spacecraft: Way too many to list...
- Game Mod: The main draw of the game. There are literally hundreds, and many of the more high-profile ones are considered by the community to be essential parts of any Orbiter install, to the point that it's just assumed as a given that any new user will have downloaded them.
- Nintendo Hard: You are, for all intents and purposes, flying a real spacecraft. It's highly recommended that you have at least a basic grasp of orbital physics and the fundamentals of spaceflight before you even think of playing the game.
- Interplanetary Voyage: The whole point of many (if not most) scenarios.
- Like Reality, Unless Noted
- Present Day / Next Sunday A.D. / 20 Minutes into the Future / The Future
- Really, you can set the date to be whatever you want. Also you can use technology across every era of spaceflight, from early spaceflight technology (the Vostok and Apollo programs) to modern tech (the Space Shuttle and Ariane programs) to speculative tech or tech in research and development (the never-implemented Orion engine, the VASIMR engine, solar sails) to advanced tech from Science Fiction shows and movies (Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica...)
- Space Base: Of the non-villainous, planet surface variety.
- Space Plane: The program comes with a fictional single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane known as the Delta Glider (with unrealistic engine efficiency), and there are mods like the XR2 Ravenstar and XR5 Vanguard.
- Space Station: You can even build one !
- Terraform: In add-ons that replace some of the default planets and moons with terraformed versions.
- Wide-Open Sandbox: And there is some ongoing talk in the sim's community to create a more persistent "sandbox spaceflight" experience by adding actual objectives for flying missions. (Right now, you just fly and land without any particular end goal but your own.)
It is also notable for averting these space-related tropes :
- 2-D Space: Very, very averted.
- Artificial Gravity: Unless it's generated by the good old rotation method...
- Casual Interstellar Travel
- Conveniently Close Planet
- Deflector Shields
- Dramatic Space Drifting
- Easy Logistics
- Explosions in Space
- Explosive Decompression
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: The game uses strictly Newtonian physics, not accounting for relativity, so it is theoretically possible for a ship to exceed the speed of light with standard rocket engines. However, the truly ridiculous amount of fuel you would need makes it a practical impossibilitynote . This doesn't count the more fictional mods that DO feature some FTL.
- Gravity Sucks
- In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face
- Latex Space Suit: At least in the base game. Some mods do replace the EVA model with one more fitting this trope though.
- No Seat Belts
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale
- Space Friction
- Space Is Magic
- Space Is Noisy: Technically, the core game doesn't come with sounds. The sound addon averts this by default, but gives you the option to play it straight.
- The sound mod only plays sounds while in cockpit view, and then only sounds you'd expect to hear from that perspective: engine noise, cabin ventilation, pilot notifications, et cetera. In third-person view, the sound mod used to play Bach's Air on the G String, but now plays an electronic track known as "calm-spaces." There is a built-in MP3 player that allows you to play other music. You can play such songs as Killer Queen, the Imperial March, the theme for Apollo 13 and many others in-flight.
- Space Is an Ocean
- Stealth in Space
- Streaming Stars
- Subspace Ansible