Spaceflight game

Dr. Kevin Hamlen Sets Spaceflight Simulation Game World Record

Computer science professor Dr. Kevin Hamlen was searching for the fastest route to a human colony 22,000 light years away in the game Elite Dangerous when the challenge started to look similar to a theory he teaches his students.

Hamlen, who was playing with his 6-year-old son, Will, would need to take risky shortcuts by scooping fuel from neutron stars to make long “hyperspace jumps” to beat the world record for reaching the farthest human colony (named Colonia) from Earth.

But which stars? And in what order? Traversing the galaxy without these dangerous maneuvers could take weeks, but using them without a careful plan could leave him stranded in deep space with little hope of rescue.

Dr. Kevin Hamlen and his son, Will.

“I realized that the problem of finding the fastest way to get from Earth to Colonia is actually a famous graph theory problem we teach in computer science,” said Hamlen, Eugene McDermott Professor of computer science in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. He said solving the problem involves analyzing a directed graph — often drawn as circles connected by arrows — to identify a least-cost path.

“I thought it would be fun to see how well I could do using science to solve it,” Hamlen said. “I downloaded star map data and wrote some computer code to search for optimal flight paths, and then flew the route it discovered, with Will at my side calling out course corrections.”

The large dataset, with more than 1.3 million known neutron stars, required some coding finesse to analyze without large computers, Hamlen said.

“I used a number of algorithmic and programming tricks, such as pairwise heap data structures, a metric space transform, memory-mapped files for buffering data at high speed, and vector arithmetic operations available in modern Intel processors,” Hamlen said. “In all, it took me about four hours to write the code. After I was done, I could compute optimal routes between arbitrary stars in about one minute per 20,000 light years on my desktop PC.”

Using an A* (pronounced A-star) algorithm, Hamlen and Will reached their destination in 1 hour, 38 minutes and 11 seconds, beating the previous record by more than 12 minutes.

The online publication Sagittarius Eye chronicled Hamlen’s, aka Commander Falken’s, victory. (Online, the team is known as “Steve Falken,” named after the fictional computer scientist in the movie “War Games.”)


Dr. Hamlen has already beaten his own world record in Elite Dangerous. The professor said he used additional computer science theories he teaches students to broaden the space of possibilities that his algorithm could consider.

Hamlen was able to cut his flight time to 1 hour and 29 minutes (from his record-setting time of 1 hour, 38 minutes and 11 seconds).

“This weekend I refined my approach to beat the record by an even greater margin,” Hamlen said. “It’s probably the best I can get it.”

One giant leap for Kerbalkind: Spaceflight sim wins geek gift award – NBC News

One giant leap for Kerbalkind: Spaceflight sim wins geek gift award

by Alan Boyle, Science Editor

The creators of the Kerbal Space Program are over the moon about their spaceflight simulation game’s latest honor: being named the Science Geek Gift of the Year.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” lead developer Felipe Falanghe told NBC News.

The geek gift honors were earned this week as the result of an unscientific vote on More than 3,000 votes were recorded, and more than 2,000 of them came from Kerbal fans. Perhaps not coincidentally, this week was also the week of KerbalKon 2013, a third-anniversary gathering of the Kerbal tribe in Mexico City.

A hit with rocket scientists
That tribe is growing every day: On an average day, 43,000 gamers are using the Kerbal Space Program to work on their own virtual spaceflight projects, said Robert Holtzman, who handles KSP’s marketing and public relations. Some of those gamers are honest-to-goodness rocket scientists. “Half of JPL is playing that game right now,” Doug Ellison, a visualization producer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told The Penny Arcade Report in June.

Kerbal got another boost just this week from Universe Today’s Fraser Cain, who called it “the best way to teach anyone the basic (and advanced) methods of aerodynamics and spaceflight.”

The game gives players the chance to build their own launch infrastructure and space vehicles, just the way they want them, and bring in crazy-looking astronauts known as Kerbals for blastoff. Sometimes things blow up. That’s part of the fun. “So many Kerbals have sacrificed so much under my directorship,” Cain said. But those simulated sacrifices don’t go for naught: Because the game is based on realistic physics and engineering, players learn how to improve their rockets for the next round.

“They come for the explosions, they stay for the rocket science,” Falanghe joked.

Falanghe, 28, said the conceptual seeds of the Kerbal Space Program were planted during his younger days in Brazil, when he and his friends built their own missiles using model rocket engines and fireworks. (Kids, don’t try this at home!) “We started making little men out of tinfoil and strapping them onto the rockets,” he recalled. The spacemen had nicknames like Jebediah Kerman, Bill Kerman and Bob Kerman — and they came to be known collectively as Kerbals.

Fast forward to 2010, when Falanghe was a developer at Squad, an interactive marketing company in Mexico City. He persuaded his employers to let him and a colleague, Alex Mora, work on a space-themed video game. That’s how the Kerbal Space Program was born.

As the months went on, Falanghe kept expecting someone to call him in and tell him that playtime was over. “Thankfully, that call never came,” he said.

Kerbal rising
Now there’s a global squad of game developers working on the Kerbal Space Program. The phenomenon has attracted tens of thousands of Facebook fans and forum participants. There’s a “Kerbalizer” that lets players personalize their Kerbals, a KSP comic strip titled “It’s Hardly Rocket Science,” and a popular YouTube tutorial series by astronomer-gamer Scott Manley.

The game is always a work in progress, and the price goes up every time the program is updated. “If you buy the game now, it’s not going to be as expensive as it will be when the game is complete,” Holtzman said. (Today it’s $27.)

Kerbal is currently a single-player game, but multiplayer modes are under development. Developers are also adding twists that let players switch from classic sandbox mode to “career mode.” For example, players can earn science points by conducting experiments in the game.

More currencies are coming up, Falanghe said. “You’re going to have to manage funds. You’ll have to stay in a budget,” he said. “And you’ll also have to manage your space agency’s ‘reputation’ among Kerbalkind. They may be pleased, or they may be displeased with how you’re managing your space program.”

So watch out, Kerbal fans: Even your Kerbonauts can take only so much punishment.

Facebook fan Kevin Conner suggested the Kerbal Space Program for our Science Geek Gift contest, and in gratitude, we’re sending him a geeky goodie bag that includes a 2014 Year in Space Calendar, a slightly used Black Hole Starter Kit, a SpaceX Falcon 9 baseball cap and a signed copy of “The Case for Pluto.” Check out these other holiday goodies:

The game has changed! SES-10 mission redefines space flight – SpaceFlight Insider

Spaceflight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Up until now, Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has only recovered first stages from missions it has sent aloft. That all changed at 6:27 p.m. EDT (22:27 GMT) March 30, 2017, when the company reused a first stage that had been used to fly a previous mission.

In short, the company did something today that has not been done since the first rockets ventured into the black of space at the start of the Space Age. Before today’s history-making mission, rockets were single-use. Their multi-million dollar engines were left to plummet down into an ocean or the Kazakh Steppe below.

Photo Credit: Michael Deep

“We had an incredible day today,” Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO said moments after the landing. “The first re-flight of an orbital-class booster did this mission perfectly. [It] dropped off the second stage, came back and landed on the drone ship right on the bullseye. It’s an amazing day, I think, for space [and], as a whole, for the space industry. It means you can fly and re-fly an orbit-class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket.”

SpaceX, since its inception in 2002, has been working to change this paradigm by having the first stage of its Falcon 9 rockets either return close to their launch site or out at sea on one of the NewSpace company’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships (ASDS). The latter would be positioned out in either the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans.

“It’s been 15 years to get to this point,” Musk said. “It’s taken us a long time. […] I’m just incredibly proud of the SpaceX team for being able to achieve this incredible milestone in the history of space. […] It’s a great day not just for SpaceX but [also] for the space industry as a whole in proving that something can be done that many people said was impossible.”

When the company originally released an animation in 2011 of what it was planning to do, it was met with derision from aerospace insiders. It is likely those insiders aren’t laughing anymore. With SpaceX able to provide launch services at a much lower cost than either International Launch Services or Arianespace, SpaceX has drawn many potential and current customers away from traditional launch service providers.

While the company’s innovations might be partly responsible for this, the low price tag for launch, listed as being $62 million, is likely the chief determining factor. This alone has been enough to create shock waves among their competitors and, given that SpaceX has publicly stated that a reusable Falcon 9 could potentially cost around $5 million to $7 million range, the company’s impact cannot be overstated.

Even before today’s flight, SpaceX has managed to corner a large portion of the launch service market, including the lucrative payloads flown for the U.S. Department of Defense.

According to a release issued by SpaceX, the company currently has more than 60 missions on its launch manifest representing over $7 billion under contract.

As Mir Juned Hussain noted, while SpaceX has encountered two very public accidents in a 14-month time span, this has not dampened interest in the company that was the first to make the following achievements:

  • the first to launch a privately funded liquid-fueled rocket to orbit (with the flight of a Falcon 1 rocket on Sept. 28, 2008);
  • the first private company to launch a spacecraft to orbit and then recover it (the COTS-1 mission in December 2010);
  • the first private company to launch a spacecraft to the International Space Station (the COTS 2 mission in December 2012);
  • the first landing of a rocket’s first stage (Orbcomm OG2 in December 2015); and
  • the first landing of a rocket’s first stage on an ocean-based platform (the CRS-8 mission for NASA in April 2016).

The March 30, 2017, SES-10 mission adds yet another entry in SpaceX’s list of firsts.

In fact, another “first” was possibly revealed by SpaceX board member Steve Jurvetson when he said that SpaceX plans to attempt a fairing recovery during the SES-10 launch. If that is successful, it would mean that the only part of the Falcon 9 booster that wasn’t recovered from the launch of SES-10 would be the second stage (Elon Musk later announced at a post-launch news conference that the payload fairing had landed).

Tonight’s launch got started at 6:27 p.m. EDT (22:27 GMT) when the nine Merlin 1D rocket engines, arranged in an Octaweb formation at the base of the Falcon 9’s first stage, roared to life, lifting the slender cylinder of the rocket and its SES-10 satellite payload off the historic Launch Complex 39A and on its way into the sky.

At about one minute and 13 seconds into the flight, the Falcon 9 hit Mach 1, with the amount of thrust the rocket was unleashing estimated by SpaceFlight Now at being around 1.7 million pounds (7,500 kilonewtons) of thrust.

Some eight seconds later, the rocket had reached an area of maximum dynamic pressure, known as max-Q. Here, the rocket’s speed conspired with the pressure of the air to place the vehicle under the greatest amount of stress during the flight.

Photo Credit: Michael Deep

Some 2 minutes, 38 seconds after the Falcon 9 had left 39A, main engine cutoff (MECO) occurred and the first and second stages separated about three seconds later, leaving the former to conduct its second landing on the Of Course I Still Love You ASDS positioned out in the Atlantic.

After sending SES-10 toward space, the pre-flown first stage of the Falcon 9 made its second landing on SpaceX’s drone ship. Photo Credit: SpaceX webcast

After stage separation, the second stage ignited its lone Merlin 1D engine at a mission elapsed time of 2 minutes, 49 seconds and continued to burn for approximately six minutes.

One minute after the second stage’s engine had ignited, the payload was free of enough of Earth’s atmosphere that the payload fairing (which acted as SES-10’s shield during ascent). The roughly 17-foot (5-meter) diameter payload fairing was then jettisoned and left to fall back to Earth.

The payload fairing itself is an impressive structure, comprised of carbon fiber and aluminum it stands some 43 feet (13 meters) in height.

Meanwhile, some six minutes after it had left Kennedy Space Center, the Falcon 9’s first stage initiated its entry burn, beginning the journey home. Then, about eight-and-a-half minutes since it had launched, completed staging and reoriented itself, the Falcon 9’s first stage touched down safely on the ASDS.

This particular first stage was first used to launch the CRS-8 Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on April 8, 2016. Just like today, upon successfully delivering the cargo freighter to orbit under the $1.6 billion agreement that SpaceX has with the space agency, it touched down on the ASDS and was readied for its next flight.

High above, the second stage’s engine cut off, as planned, 8 minutes, 34 seconds into the flight. At this point in the mission, the stage and SES-10 payload were in a parking orbit where it coasted for about 18 minutes.

Twenty-six minutes, 29 seconds after leaving the launch site, the second stage restarted its engine for a burn lasting about one minute to place the spacecraft into a geostationary transfer orbit with a low point of 135 miles (218 kilometers) and a high point of 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) with an inclination of 26.2 degrees from the equator.

Spacecraft separation took place at about 32 minutes, 3 seconds after leaving Florida.

Over the next couple weeks, the spacecraft will use onboard thrusters to circularize its trajectory into a geostationary orbit some 22,000 miles (35,000 kilometers) above Earth. Its final orbital location will be at the 67 degrees West longitude.

Space Simulator в Steam

Игра в раннем доступе

Приобретите игру и начните играть — примите участие в ее развитии

Примечание: Данная игра в раннем доступе находится на стадии разработки. Она может измениться в будущем, а может остаться в текущем состоянии, так что, если вам не по вкусу то, что игра может предложить сейчас, рекомендуем дождаться её дальнейшего развития. Узнать больше

Почему ранний доступ?

“Our community has expressed strong interest to play the game in its current form on PC and we would like to make it available as soon as possible. Mobile user have been playing our game since 2015 so we are definitely ready to make it available on Steam. Many of our users have been waiting for the Steam version since 2015.

However, from a development perspective there is still a lot of content we’d like to add before we can consider the game complete. Ultimately we want to have all the Apollo Project missions and other space programs such as the Space Shuttle program, Soviet programs and current space programs as optional downloadable content.

The scope of the game is quite ambitious, so Early Access is the perfect way to start rolling out content, testing it and getting live feedback while we complete the content.”

Сколько примерно эта игра будет в раннем доступе?

Чем планируемая полная версия будет отличаться от версии в раннем доступе?

“The full version will have more content. The Early Access version will feature only the Apollo 8 mission. In the full version we hope to have all the Apollo Program missions from Apollo 8 to Apollo 13. That means the full version will have not just the Apollo Launch Vehicle and capsule, but also the Lunar Lander and Rover simulated down to the switch.

We also hope to formally introduce VR support in the full version.”

Каково текущее состояние версии в раннем доступе?

Изменится ли цена игры после выхода из раннего доступа?

Как вы планируете вовлекать сообщество в разработку игры?

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Об этой игре

Space Simulator is a realistic space flight simulator game featuring high-quality models, hi-res textures, IBL shaders, and a full-scale Solar System running on a proprietary purpose-built (double-float precision) physics library to create a better, faster and more realistic space flight simulator.

Gravitational forces, including moons and distant celestial bodies, orbit instabilities, resonances, etc. are calculated with utmost accuracy. The physics solver computes and predicts real n-body trajectories that vary in real time, allowing -for the first time- the player to design and fine-tune very complicated orbital maneuvers, eg, orbital slingshots, etc.

With the dynamic loading textures and multi-threaded physics running on GPU cores, the game reaches at 50-60 fps on most PCs with modest RAM requirements.

We are also implementing VR support for a fully immersive flight experience as well as support for all major joysticks and flight controllers.

We intend to release the game for an introductory price for a limited time only.

Space Simulator features a mix of high quality Steam specific missions while also having a legacy mode with all the missions, models, etc of the mobile version included for the convenience of our mobile players.

Steam Specific Missions: (Early Access) Chapter 1: The Apollo Days. Featuring a growing number incredibly detailed and realistic Apollo Program missions starting -at launch date- with Apollo 8 lunar orbit missions. In the following months, we will complete all relevant missions in the Apollo Program.

Included also is the mobile version content with:

Space Simulator features the complete Apollo 11 program missions. Players can choose to play particular missions or the entire Apollo 11 program from beginning to end: launch the Saturn V from Cape Kennedy; perform Trans-Lunar Injection, transposition rotation and docking; land on the Moon; power through the lunar ascent and rendezvous; and finally return back to Earth with reentry and splashdown.

• Space Transportation System

Space Shuttle fans can also enjoy a wide selection of Space Shuttle missions: launch from Cape Kennedy; rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station; return to Earth with reentry and play the final landing in day and night scenarios.

Space Simulator also includes a number of contemporary spacecrafts, such as the SLS (Orion) .We also plan to include SpaceX vehicles in the near future.

• Custom Free Roam Missions

Space Simulator is a realistic simulator of the entire Solar System with all its planets and major moons. Players can also choose to play custom free roam scenarios with general purpose spaceships.

All spacecraft cockpits will come with interactive multi-functional displays that provide information on every aspect of your flight data. We have orbit, surface, transfer, docking, flight, HSI and other display panels.

For Apollo enthusiasts, we have fully emulated the Apollo Guidance Computer and DSKY running actual code from the 60’s. You can run and control the Apollo spacecrafts exactly as how the astronauts did during their flight.

Ultimately, our aim is to create a realistic space simulator that is comprehensive yet easy to use and accessible to players at all levels with the most advanced graphics and rendering techniques.

All planets in the game are modeled with hi-res NASA imagery. Selected planets such as the Earth, Moon and Mars have 3D surfaces modeled from NASA altitude data. We try to use original audio as much as possible for Apollo and Space Shuttle missions.

Lift-off from the Kennedy Space Center; land on the Moon; enjoy the magnificent views of Earth from orbit; plan a trip to a faraway planet; practise your favorite orbital maneuvers ­doing gravitational slingshots, Hohmann transfer orbits; rendezvous and dock with the ISS; perfect your Space Shuttle landings or go to the edge of space and back with the hypersonic X-­15 space plane. The possibilities are endless and as unbounded as your wildest astronautic dreams!

Системные требования


    • ОС: Windows 7 64 bit
    • Процессор: Intel Core 2 Duo
    • Оперативная память: 4 GB ОЗУ
    • Видеокарта: SM3 512MB VRAM
    • DirectX: Версии 9.0
    • Место на диске: 4 GB

    • ОС: Windows 10 64 bit
    • Процессор: Intel Core i5 or newer
    • Оперативная память: 4 GB ОЗУ
    • Видеокарта: SM4 1GB VRAM
    • DirectX: Версии 10
    • Сеть: Широкополосное подключение к интернету
    • Место на диске: 4 GB
    • Дополнительно: Microsoft Text-to-Speech required to hear spoken checklists and radio control commands

© 2015 Brixton Dynamics Ltd. All rights reserved. Space Simulator, the Space Simulator logo, Brixton Dynamics, the Brixton Dynamics logo are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Brixton Dynamics Ltd.

What can the KSP game actually teach about spaceflight and orbital mechanics, and what are its limitations? Space Exploration Stack Exchange

What can the KSP game actually teach about spaceflight and orbital mechanics, and what are its limitations?

I have seen at least several different users mention that they’ve found Kerbal Space Program helpful to understand issues of spaceflight and orbital mechanics.

While the game is not a perfect simulation of reality, it has been praised for its accurate orbital mechanics; all objects in the game except the celestial bodies are simulated using Newtonian dynamics. For instance, rocket thrust is applied to a vehicle’s frame based on the placement of force-generating elements, and joints between parts have limited strength, allowing vehicles to be torn apart by excessive or misdirected forces.

The game simulates trajectories and orbits using patched conic approximation instead of a full n-body simulation; thus, it does not support Lagrange points, perturbations, Lissajous orbits, halo orbits or tidal forces. According to the developers, implementing full n-body physics would require the entire physics engine to be rewritten.

But that last bit is only because it was written with simplifying mathematical approximations in the first place, and just changing to 3-body Newtonian physics instead of patched conics would then allow “Lagrange points, perturbations, Lissajous orbits, (and) halo orbits. “; there would not be any need to invoke the extreme-sounding n-body limit. Within that framework, tidal forces would be straightforward to include as well.

disclaimer: KSP is a commercial product and I don’t meant to advertise it by asking about it; personally I’d recommend starting with what you can get for free here in Stack Exchange, in books, on line, at various NASA, university, and private blog sites. But since it has been mentioned several times in this site I decide to learn more.

I am not sure if KSP teaches you any of the actual mathematics of spaceflight (e.g. equations) or if it just shows you what happens and gives you a false sense of “understanding” because after a while you start to know what’s going to happen on the KSP screen, which is the whole idea behind getting better at a video game.

I’m interested in answers that explain (rather than just listing) how one can learn about spaceflight and orbital mechanics by paying money for and then playing this game. I am biased and highly skeptical that this game teaches you anything more than how to keep playing the game and posting comments here telling people to buy it; can you demonstrate otherwise?

7 Answers 7

In my former job I was writing educational software.

In short, it’s exactly what you described: we offered a paid version of what you could get for free by looking out on the internet, going to class, going to the library, .

And yet, I’m still incredibly proud of it, knowing I made a difference.

What is the difference between well written software and a book?

It’s all about pedagogy. Not only did our apps offer knowledge, they did so in a fun way. This is not about making the knowledge available, it’s about making it desirable. With our apps, the kids not only learned (exactly the same content as they would’ve with books), but they actually wanted to!

That made all the difference.

Sure, maybe knowledge is enough of a motivation for you to learn about something, and thus you don’t actually need this kind of software, but for many kids they need just a little bit more to get interested into learning, doing exercises, .

Let me explain with some real life KSP examples:

KSP can be used as a simulator.

Got an interesting idea about creating an orbital refueling station around the moon? Try it out and see the difference!

Want to try fuel saving by using a gravitational assist? Go ahead.

Will more boosters suffice to double your payload? Not even close.

Sure you could take a sheet of paper and do the computations, but seeing it live on your screen, with the rocket and station you build and put in orbit yourself is a whole different thing.

It’s a driving force to make you research things you wouldn’t have searched otherwise.

How to calculate if my ship has enough fuel to reach Saturn?
=> Learn about ISPs, rocket equation, .

What is the optimal trajectory to go to orbit?
=> Learn about gravity drag, atmospheric drag, .

This game builds up your interest in space. This is why they got a partnership with NASA and built a part of the game around it.

It allows you to experience things

Some of the concepts of orbital mechanics are hard.

Sure you can read 10 times about why you need to decelerate in orbit to overtake another spaceship.

Sure you can learn that rendezvous is not aiming for where the other spaceship is, but where it will be.

It makes you ponder engineering challenges

Are 3 landing legs better than 4?

Is my CG (center of gravity) too high? Is it aligned with my vector of thrust?

Should my aerodynamic surfaces go on the top or bottom?

Should I put this booster further apart to facilitate separation, or will the induced stability issues, pilot induced oscillation destroy/slow down my rocket?

KSP lets you experience all this, making it much easier to understand and internalise rather than just reading about it.

Let me conclude with a quote from a NASA engineer, about the failed rendezvous of Gemini 4:

There is a good explanation for what went wrong with rendezvous. The crew, like everyone else at MSC, “just didn’t understand or reason out the orbital mechanics involved[. ].

Yes that’s right. Kids playing KSP now have a better understanding of orbital mechanics than NASA engineers and astronauts from 1965.

In several press conferences, employees of NASA or private space firms have been asked if they played KSP, and some answered with “Yes”.

NASA used patched conics to find candidate orbits for Apollo back in the days.

With that being said, KSP strikes the balance between accuracy and simplicity. Patched conics give a good idea how space works, without being so overly complicated that it’s no longer fun to deal with. And that means it makes people learn stuff they otherwise wouldn’t. The mantra “Space isn’t high up, it’s about going sideways fast” can be repeated thousands of times, and people won’t get it. But when they actually try it out and see for themselves why it is how it is, they suddenly understand. When they fall back onto the planet after launching straight up, and then finally learn to pitch over and do a gravity turn to achieve orbit.

The fact that orbits are always influenced at the opposite side of the burn. That deceleration (retrograde burns) lowers the orbit and so forth. What radial burns do, what normal burns do, what inclination is and why it is important, how ascending and descending nodes work and why they are important, why rendezvous takes so long and what you need to do to actually make it. All those things are taught by KSP and make spaceflight accessible to people that otherwise wouldn’t “get” it.

The Mun (the equivalent to the Moon in KSP) is in an equatorial orbit to make it easier for new players to get there (no launch window, no inclination change), but those things can be used to get to the second, much smaller moon, Minmus.

The concept of Hohmann transfers, bi-elliptical transfers and other transfers is explained. The difference between fuel-efficiency and time efficiency can be learned by KSP. Ejection angles and launch windows for interplanetary missions can be learned with KSP. Gravity assists work, and can be very useful. That’s a concept a lot of people struggle with, but in KSP you can try it out and see how that works.

Re-entry heating exists and matters somewhat, depending on the settings. You learn that you should neither plow too fast too deep into the atmosphere neither too low so that you skip it. The concept of re-entry is hard to grasp for some people, but with KSP, you can easily see why it works how it works and what’s important about it.

The rocket equation, and especially the tyranny of the rocket equation, is important in KSP. You learn good engineering techniques. You learn that you can’t bring what you want, that rockets grow exponentially. The concept of staging and why it is important comes naturally with KSP. Some basic aerodynamics — how CoM and CoL work, how drag affects the path of your rocket — are explained.

What Isp is and does is explained. That Isp at sea level and Isp in vacuum are different things and are important is explained. That you can steer a rocket with gimbaling engines, reaction wheels or RCS is explained, and that some of those are better in some situations then others (RCS for ascent? Not the best idea!).

In short: KSP teaches a lot, while using physics and orbital mechanics that are not so overly complicated that it gets too frustrating. It stays in the area that most people can still grasp.

And for those who want the extra challenge, the game can be modded. N-Body physics are provided by a mod called “Principia”, and the star system can be transformed to the Real Solar System by the mod of the same name (RSS). Historic engines and other parts are provided by the mod called “Realism Overhaul” (RO). Signal delay is provided by RemoteTech, life support by one of the various LS mods (Kerbalism, USI-LS etc).

So apart from the base experience that already teaches lots of the concepts of spaceflight (I forgot about heating and radiators in my list above) while maintaining accessible and approachable (if you don’t want to learn too much, trial and error will get you somewhat far), the modding community has created a lot of mods that bring even more important concepts to the player (FAR has a more realistic aerodynamic simulation, for example).

And the game lets you deal with it how you want. Don’t want to learn about launch azimuth? Fine, don’t. The parts have enough delta-v so that you can be sloppy sometimes. Want to learn? Good! You can learn about it, and then apply what you have learned and see it actually work. See your orbit end up exactly what you wanted (or not). The community has created lots of maths tools and helpers for that as well.

Finally, Squad (the developer) already has/had a deal with NASA. NASA helped them make some parts, the so called “NASA parts” that are still in the game today (I believe they were originally for the “Asteroid day” official mod, but are now in the base game).

So yeah, it’s not a 100% accurate simulator. But its close enough to teach the concepts, and simple enough so that its accessible for a very wide audience. In that regard, I think it offers a great example for how educational games should work in the future. Because it’s actually fun to play and makes stuff easy to understand.

Some random things I haven’t mentioned: Aerodynamics (Rudder, Elevons, Trim, placement of wings, CoM, CoL and concept of lift for planes), how an FDAI (called Navball in KSP) works, reference frames (the FDAI has “surface” mode [rotating reference frame of the body] and “orbital” reference frame [non-rotating frame of the body], as well as “target” frame [frame centered around the own vessel]), connectivity of antennas and signal strength (inverse square law), solar power output (again, inverse square law, you learn why solar panels don’t work well for outer planets), you learn about the pendulum rocket fallacy and a lot more things.

On accuracy and computing power:

Being a game, the simulation has a hard realtime requirement. Patched conics are not only far easier to understand for a wide audience, but they are also much faster. Patched conics have an analytical solution. That means it’s cheap to calculate positions. Furthermore, finding closest approach / intercepts is cheap, which is needed for maneuver planning. The added benefit is that it makes finding a rendezvous something accessible for a wide audience. It’s not fun to try to find a close approach for two vessels when you need a simulator to make that decision. The base concepts apply whether you use patched conics or not. A more realistic model does not add much educational value, but a lot of frustrations for players — who mostly have no background whatsoever in orbital mechanics. Furthermore, the game needs to be able to simulate literally hundreds of vessels at the same time — something that is only possible with patched conics in real time. The aforementioned mod for n-body physics quickly breaks down after collisions of vessels that generate lots of debris. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter whether a vessel is in atmosphere or not from a physics point of view. The physics engine still needs to simulate all parts and all joints between all parts to figure out how the vessel behaves, especially under thrust. Those hard realtime requirements put a hard cap on what you can realistically achieve on the average home computer. Again, it’s a game, it needs quick results, it’s not an academic simulation. It’s close enough to teach the concepts. It doesn’t claim to have 100% scientific accuracy.

To the point raised in other comments, that it uses “17th century maths”. Sure it does. But so do a lot of people. You don’t start teaching people physics by jumping into quantum mechanics. You don’t even start with GR/SR. You start with classical, Newtonian physics. Those are still around, and still valid as ever, and still have their applications. Just because we nowadays know that they aren’t accurate on certain scales doesn’t mean those physics are useless. Again, KSP has to strike a balance between accuracy and simplicity. Be accurate enough to actually use the real concepts of spaceflight, while being simple enough to appeal to a wide audience.

Have you ever been at a planetarium? When they show the orbits of planets in the solar system, they use patched conics. Because that’s enough to give people an idea how that stuff works, without being too over-the-top. Have you ever looked at orbits plotted in a Jacobian frame? Those look extremely confusing, while arguably being more “accurate”.

Spaceflight Industries says sale of rideshare business a “win-win” for all parties

Spaceflight Industries says sale of rideshare business a “win-win” for all parties

WASHINGTON — Spaceflight Industries’ decision to sell its rideshare launch services company, Spaceflight, to two Japanese firms will benefit both Spaceflight and its parent company, executives of the two companies say.

Spaceflight Industries announced Feb. 11 that it had an agreement to sell Spaceflight to Japanese companies Mitsui & Co., Ltd. and Yamasa Co., Ltd., who will own it in a 50/50 joint venture. Spaceflight will continue to operate as a U.S.-based company, while Spaceflight Industries will focus its attention on BlackSky, its geospatial intelligence business.

The companies did not disclose the value of the deal, and Brian O’Toole, president of Spaceflight Industries and chief executive of BlackSky, declined to discuss terms of the sale in a Feb. 14 interview. However, he said the proceeds of the deal will go towards accelerating the deployment of the BlackSky’s satellite constellation.

“This is going to provide us an opportunity to potentially get those satellites up on orbit faster and accelerate a lot of our platform investment,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of demand right now and our customers are interested in us going faster.”

BlackSky has four satellites in orbit now and plans to launch eight more later this year. Those are part of a group of 20 satellites under production at LeoStella, Spaceflight Industries’ joint venture with Thales Alenia Space to manufacture smallsats. O’Toole said the rest of that set of 20 satellites should be in orbit by early 2021.

Imagery from those satellites, as well as other data sources, feed into a platform that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide specific information for both government and commercial customers. “It’s really about moving away from delivering just pixels to delivering insights,” he said. “This capital will allow us to accelerate that for our customers.”

One reason Spaceflight Industries decided to sell Spaceflight, he said, was that the company had already been working with Mitsui, who invested in Spaceflight Industries. “Mitsui has been a partner for us for a while and they had a long-term interest of getting more into space,” he said. “We’re seeing pretty large market opportunities for both businesses and I need to get each business resourced and focused on their opportunities.”

Spaceflight Industries decided to sell Spaceflight rather than raise more capital and keep the company along with BlackSky. “We are continuing to raise capital. Fundamentally, it’s about where do you deploy that capital,” he said. “These are very different businesses, so this path just made sense for both.”

In a separate interview Feb. 13, Curt Blake, president and chief executive of Spaceflight, agreed that the sale would help his business. “From our standpoint, it definitely gives us a lot more financial strength,” he said. “There’s a lot that we can get out and do that we had on our radar that we’ve been unable to tackle.”

He said the company isn’t ready yet to disclose many of those plans, but one area of growth will be to expand Spaceflight’s portfolio of services. “You can extend the services that you provide beyond launch as the end game, to other pieces,” he said. “That can include all kinds of different alliances or potentially even acquisitions.”

Spaceflight’s Japanese owners, he added, should help it win additional business in Japan and elsewhere in Asia, and offer closer ties with Japanese launch providers. “Both of those are interesting, and ways we can solidify our position in Asia,” he said.

While owned by Japanese companies, Spaceflight will remain based in the U.S. and will structure itself to allow it to do business as it has, including putting protections in place on export sensitive information.

“We’re really excited. Strong financial backing really opens up a whole multitude of possibilities for us,” he said. “We have to do the foreign national protections, but that’s a small price to pay for having this kind of opportunity available to us.”

O’Toole said he saw the sale as a “win-win” for both Spaceflight and BlackSky, and added that the two companies will work together even after the sale closes. “We will continue to have a very close working relationship with the Spaceflight launch services group,” he said. “They are going to remain our primary launch provider, and we are actively working with them to explore options with the entire launch market to accelerate our constellation.”

China Joins Private Space Race with Landmark OneSpace Rocket Launch, Space

China Joins Private Space Race with Landmark OneSpace Rocket Launch

China just took a big leap into the private-spaceflight game.

A rocket built by Beijing-based company OneSpace debuted Thursday (May 17), launching from a site in northwest China and reaching a maximum altitude of about 24 miles (39 kilometers), according to media reports.

The 30-foot-tall (9 meters) and 15,900-lb. (7,200 kilograms) vehicle, known as the OS-X, is designed to help customers test technologies and perform research experiments during missions to suborbital space, according to CNN. (The customer for Thursday’s flight was the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China.)

But OneSpace is also working on an orbital rocket known as the OS-M, which will launch satellites when it’s up and running, China’s state-run Xinhua news service reported.

“Our focus is on the small-satellite market,” said OneSpace founder and CEO Shu Chang, according to Xinhua.

“Commercial rockets are relatively more efficient and cheaper,” Shu added. “We see great potential.”

The OS-X rocket built by the Chinese company OneSpace reached a maximum altitude of 24 miles (39 kilometers) during its maiden flight on May 17, 2018. The company is building a larger vehicle, the OS-M, to launch satellites. (Image credit: OneSpace)

China’s government has long dominated the country’s spaceflight program, notching a number of impressive successes over the past decade and a half. For example, the nation sent its first astronaut to space in 2003; put robotic probes into orbit around the moon in 2007 and 2010, and a rover on the lunar surface in 2013; and launched people to two different prototype space stations in Earth orbit a total of three times from 2012 to 2016.

But Chinese officials have recently expressed a desire to expand the nation’s spaceflight activities to the private sector, and in 2014, the government issued guidelines laying out how companies could get involved. A year later, Shu founded OneSpace.

The startup is far from alone in targeting the small-sat launch market. A number of other companies — such as California-based Rocket Lab, Arizona’s Vector Space Systems and Virgin Orbit, part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group — are also developing relatively small and cost-effective boosters.

OneSpace’s plans and rapid progress have led some commenters to link the organization with the most famous private spaceflight company in the world, SpaceX. But Elon Musk’s business already routinely launches big, high-value spacecraft — and lands and reuses the first stages of its large and powerful rockets.

“Many compare us to SpaceX, but to be honest, the gap is more than a little,” Shu told CNN.

Orbiter 2016 Space Flight Simulator

Orbiter Space Flight Simulator 2016 Edition

Explore the solar system on your PC!

Fed up with space games that insult your intelligence and violate every law of physics? Orbiter is a simulator that gives you an idea what space flight really feels like – today and in the not so distant future. And best of all: you can download it for free!

Orbiter Space Flight Simulator 2016 Edition

Explore the solar system on your PC!

Fed up with space games that insult your intelligence and violate every law of physics? Orbiter is a simulator that gives you an idea what space flight really feels like – today and in the not so distant future. And best of all: you can download it for free!

Launch the Space Shuttle from Kennedy Space Center and rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Recreate historic flights with addon spacecraft packages: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Vostok and more.

Plan interplanetary slingshots and tour the solar system with futuristic spacecraft.

Find and explore new worlds. Orbiter contains high-resolution models of many celestial bodies.

Design your own rockets, or download addons created by other users.

Learn about the concepts of space flight and orbital mechanics by playing and experimenting.

You are the commander of your spacecraft. Welcome to the flight deck!

Planetary bodies now support terrain elevation maps for modelling mountain ranges.

Write your own Orbiter plugin modules, and learn the basics of C++ programming along the way.