Spaceflight Simulator App Guide: How to Build Your Own SpaceX Rocket
Krzysztof is a lifelong future tech junkie investigating the latest stories from companies like Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon.
The Spaceflight Simulator App
Spaceflight simulator is a free rocket simulator app available to download in the Google Play Store.
You can build your own rocket, simulate the moon landing, and use orbital mechanics to explore outer space. Every moon and planet shown is scaled to size, and they operate under the laws of physics.
This space sim is all about being creative and exploring the universe on your own terms. You don’t have to be a genius to play, and there are plenty of visual tutorials you can use to make that first planetary descent.
This app may not seem much at first, but it’s oddly addicting due to the rocket building mechanics. In fact, there are numerous parts you can use to customize your creation, and it’s a blast testing your rocket.
So if you love space and simulator games, then I highly recommend trying Spaceflight Simulator.
Your Rocket Components
How to Build a Rocket
The best part about this game is definitely the rocket building aspect, and luckily there are multiple parts you can use to construct your very own rocket.
- Command Module: Small capsule that carries one astronaut
- Probe: An unmanned probe used for one way missions
- Parachute: Used to aide in landing
- Fuel Tank: Carries liquid oxygen and fuel
- RB-48 Liquid Fuel Engine: High thrust, lower efficiency engine commonly used in the first stage of a rocket
- Broadsword L.F. Engine: High efficiency, low thrust engine used in space when high thrust isn’t needed
- Grasshopper L.F. Engine: Small engine used for small stages or landers
- Separator (including side separators): Vertical separator detaches empty stages and side separators detach side boosters
- Landing Leg: Retractable and extendable leg used for landing on the moon and other planets
- Aerodynamic Nose Cone (vertical, left, and right): Used to improve the aerodynamics of side boosters
- Fairing (cone, trapezoid, rectangular): Light and aerodynamic fairing used to encase payloads during launch
- Structural Parts: Light and strong structural pieces
- RCS Thruster: Set of small directional thrusters often used for docking
- Rover Wheel: Used to build ground vehicles
- Solar Panel: Generates power when extended
- Battery: Used to store electric power
How to Use the Rocket Parts for Your First Launch
Having so many parts may seem daunting, but many of them don’t serve a huge purpose beyond aesthetics.
What you really need to focus on when building your first projectile is the fuel tanks (each with a varying amount of liquid fuel), engines/boosters, separators, the aerodynamic nose cone, the parachute, and your command capsule.
When in your creation space, the first thing you should do is attach 2+ fuel tanks to your command capsule. From there attach a few side boosters using your side separators, and make sure they are even on both sides. Then, add your RB-48 engines on the bottom of your fuel tanks, and finally, add a parachute to the top of your capsule.
After you’ve done this, hit the launch button to be taken to the launch pad. You will then tap on your engines before turning up your power meter to start the launch.
You should be able to reach the Karman Line on your first attempt if you’ve built your spaceship correctly. Eventually you’ll run out of fuel and start plummeting towards Earth.
Once you’re below 2500 meters, tap your parachute to release it from the capsule. This will cause the ship to quickly slow down. At 500 meters tap the parachute again to fully deploy it and land safely on the surface.
How to Build More Advanced Spaceships
After your first rocket, try building more and more advanced projectiles that utilize things like landing legs, solar panels, and second stage engines. You’ll need those components to be able to securely land on the moon and other planets.
Remember that the second stage engines should only be used once you’re in space (less thrust needed in space). To add in your second stage engines, you’ll have to place vertical separators above the first stages of your rocket. Your separators should be placed right under the 2nd stage engines because everything below the separators (vertical and side) will detach when you tap on them.
If you plan on making a moon landing, then make sure you place two landing legs on both sides of your second stage rocket (above the separators) for even support. The landing legs will expand outward once you click on them.
How you choose to construct your rocket is up to you, but keep in mind that each rocket is grounded in real physics. For example, if you create a massive rocket with multiple fuel tanks, then your rocket will be weighed down heavily. It will also expend a lot of fuel/energy as it accelerates upward.
Try to erect your spaceships as evenly as possible. Even slight weight shift differentials could spell doom for your prized rocket, but do feel free to experiment.
This may be a realistic space flight simulator, but it’s also a game designed to test your creativity so don’t worry too much about messing up.
How to Reach Low Earth Orbit
One thing that’s great about the app is that the developer provides users with text and visual tutorials to help do things like reach low earth orbit and land on the moon.
Those tutorials are incredibly helpful if you want to accomplish each objective perfectly, however; I prefer a trial and error approach to these challenges and maybe you do too.
Still, you’re going to need a few things to complete this task.
What You’ll Need to Reach Low Earth Orbit
To reach low earth orbit, your rocket will need to be compromised of two stages. Having two stages will provide you with more than enough liquid fuel to form a complete circle or oval around Earth.
You should also pack enough fuel tanks and engine power in the first stage to quickly reach space.
After that the rest is pretty simple. When you liftoff, start turning your rocket gradually at around 3000 meters so that your orbital trajectory begins to shift horizontally. By the time you hit 15 km your rocket ship should be tilted between 45-65°.
You can see your current and future trajectory by clicking the “Map” button on the top left of your screen. That setting gives you a nice birds-eye view of your rocket as well as the Earth and other nearby celestial bodies.
How to Complete Your Orbit
As you begin to turn and shift your orbit, you’ll need be aware of the two possible burns that must be executed to complete the low earth orbit.
Prograde Burn: An acceleration in the direction you’re heading (increases velocity). This burn will increase the opposite side of the orbit and increase your orbital trajectory.
Retrograde Burn: An acceleration in the opposite direction you’re heading (decreases velocity). This will decrease the opposite side of your orbit and lessen your orbital trajectory.
If you perform each of those burns correctly, then you should eventually reach low earth orbit. Remember to always look at your map to see where your upcoming trajectory will go and adjust it accordingly.
Low earth orbit is the easiest task to perform, and you don’t have to do it perfectly. Just make sure there’s a ring around the Earth and that your path is not on a collision course with the planet.
How to Land on the Moon
Your first moon landing attempt may be pretty rough, but the video tutorial above will help tremendously.
Again, you can experiment and do it your way as long as you perform these steps.
How to Prepare Your Rocket for the Moon
You’ll never land on the moon properly if you don’t have an adequate rocket to get there. Luckily the moon is not that far so you won’t need a massive spaceship, however; you’ll still need plenty of fuel and a few side boosters to assist you.
You should make good use of your side separators and attach a few large fuel tanks to each side (evenly) with aerodynamic cones on top. You’ll also need to build a well-loaded second stage rocket that uses anywhere from 10-15 tons of liquid fuel, and as always, attach vertical separators below the second stage engine/s.
Finally, be sure to place a couple of landing legs to the sides of your 2nd stage rocket (above the engine) because how else are you going to land softly. You can use the arrows on the build screen to rotate the parts. Rotating the parts will give you a left and right side landing leg.
For an added bonus, you can attach one or two RCS thrusters to the side of your ship. These can provide additional handicaps because of their ability to add low thrust in any direction. You should only use them as you get close to your landing target or if you’re docking with another ship.
How to Perform a Moon Landing
Once you have your rocket ready, then the next thing you’ll want to do is get into low earth orbit.
Getting into low earth orbit will make it easy to set up your destination without risking a collision with Earth.
These next steps are taken from the app’s text tutorial, and I’ll explain more afterwards:
- Set the Moon as a target by clicking on it in map view
- A transfer window marker will appear on your orbit, indicating the optimal time to perform a trans lunar injection burn
- Burn prograde inside the transfer window until you achieve a Moon encounter, a dotted line will indicate the closest approach to your target
- Burn retrograde at your closest approach to enter Moon orbit
- Perform another retrograde burn to deorbit
- Decelerate as you get closer to the lunar surface
- Reduce your horizontal velocity as much as possible for an easier landing, then try to softly land on the lunar surface (use RCS thrusters to assist you)
- Tap the landing legs so that they extend to make the landing even softer
If those steps are too confusing to follow, then watch the video tutorial above or via the app to get a better idea of how to perform a lunar landing.
The tutorials included are a lot of help, and I wish I had used them when I first started playing. The hardest part of the moon landing is definitely the final encounter because you’ll often descend too fast and crash into the Moon. Also make sure you have enough liquid fuel available so that you don’t run out while decelerating.
This may appear tricky at first, but if your rocket is erected fittingly and you’ve followed these tutorials closely, then you should have no problem landing on the Moon.
How to Land on Other Planets (And More)
Once you know how to land on the moon, then landing on other planets should be pretty simple.
All you’ll need to do now is apply those lunar landing steps on a much larger scale. Just don’t forget to get into a low earth or moon orbit first before targeting other planets in the inner solar system. Currently you can target Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and several moons (Phobos).
Also keep in mind that each planet is scaled to size, which will have an impact on your orbit and velocity/acceleration. Every planet has a different atmosphere as well, which could make landing on them a bit tricky.
The easiest planet to land on is Venus because of its very thick atmosphere. Its atmosphere will slow your rocket down substantially, limiting your risk of a collision. Like on Earth, you can also use your parachute (tap once to release, tap twice to fully deploy) to slow down even more when you reach low altitude.
Other planets like Mercury will be a lot harder to land on due to little or no atmosphere though it shouldn’t be any harder than landing on Earth’s moon.
The only thing you really have to worry about is whether or not you’ve got enough fuel to make the trip. If you feel your rocket isn’t well stocked, then you can always click the “back to build” option in your settings. Unfortunately doing this will reset the launch so be careful.
Other Tricks You Can Perform
There are a few other things you can experiment with while playing. One thing you can attempt to do is dock your ship with another one in space.
You might be asking yourself, “What other ship?”.
Well the cool thing about this simulator is that every time you test a new rocket, stages of the old rocket will continue to orbit other bodies in space.
In fact your entire previous rocket may be orbiting other planets, which can then be targeted as a destination for your new rocket. You can then attempt to dock your current ship with an older one. This is a very complex procedure, and a full docking video is included on the app in the main menu.
I won’t explain how to dock as I feel that seeing a video of the process will be a lot more helpful.
Another thing you can try to do is land on a moon or planet and then return to Earth. This is essentially a repeat of the lunar landing steps except done twice in one mission. Out of all the tasks you can do, this is one that you’ll have to perform perfectly due to your limited liquid fuel supply.
Getting into low orbit around multiple planets is key to completing this mission, and which destination you choose matters greatly.
Those are the main challenges you can try to do, but there’s a lot more that this game has to offer. So if you’re interested in even more parts, modes, and cool features, then keep reading.
How to Purchase Extra Parts (Plus Sandbox Mode)
You may have noticed that some parts can’t be accessed right away. Well that’s because additional parts can only be obtained through an expansion pack.
The expansion pack is available under the “Full Version” tab for $4.
Expansion Pack Features
- Rocket Skin Customization
- Large Rovers and Fairings
- Large Engines and Fuel Tanks
- Jupiter & Jupiter’s Moons
- Planet Editor & Customization
- All Future Parts and More
That’s right, along with premium components you’ll also have access to any future parts with the expansion pack. For more information about some of the extra rocket parts, I’ve included a table at the bottom of the article.
You’ll also get a new game mode.
Sandbox mode allows you to experiment however you would like without worrying about the laws of physics holding you back.
Additional Tools & Settings
There’s a lot that this game has to offer including a few practical settings that I didn’t even mention.
One thing that’s very helpful is that you can save and go back to your missions at any point in your journey or even upload/download rockets from previous missions. Additionally you can clear all rocket debris on the ground, in space, and during build mode if you prefer less clutter.
Furthermore, you can view additional tips or discuss upcoming features with other users online. Information about Spaceflight Simulator can be found on platforms like Discord, Reddit, YouTube, and the game’s own forum where you can participate and gain more insight about the app.
Spaceflight Simulator has a growing community of players, and they’ve been able to propel this game to over 1 million downloads in the Google Play Store. With space exploration being such a hot topic due to the recent launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy, it’s no wonder why people are so interested in building their own rockets.
This app allows anyone to develop the spaceship of their dreams with ease, and it’s one of my favorite and most addicting apps to play.
So if you really want to build your own SpaceX rocket and shoot for the moon, then you have to try out Spaceflight Simulator for yourself.
Expansion Pack Add-ons
Would you try Spaceflight Simulator?
Questions & Answers
Do you believe getting the Spaceflight Simulator expansion is worth it?
I think it’s worth it if you’re interested in experimenting with new items and features. I like that you’ll have access to future features with the expansion pack, which is a huge plus. So it’s really up to you, but I think it’s worth it.
Good question. I haven’t been able to change the skins either. On the build section it says “hold a part to change its skin,” but I haven’t been able to do so successfully. Unless I’m missing something, this sounds like an app error that will hopefully get fixed soon.
How I can land on the Sun in the Spaceflight Simulator App?
You’ll have to do a retrograde burn once you’ve escaped Earth’s gravity. You’ll also need to build your rocket so that you have sufficient fuel to make it. The best way to land is to purchase the extra pack ($4) so that you’ll have infinite fuel otherwise it’ll be really difficult to get close without running out of fuel.
How do I download another rocket in Spaceflight Simulator?
You have to buy the expansion pack for extra rockets and rocket parts. Click “get expansion” on the bottom of the menu page, keep scrolling right until you reach the end, and hit “get expansion” again to buy.
Can you land on the Sun in the Spaceflight Simulator App?
I’ve tried and technically you can make it to the sun, but you’ll never really land on it and you won’t be able to get off. It’s easier to get to the sun if you’ve purchased the premium pack ($4) and received the infinite fuel.
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As I take off my fuel seams to move from tank to tank. How do I control this or stop it?
21 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey
I think that’s why I gravitated towards it more. It can teach you some things without losing the fun and creativity of similar apps.
21 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey
Thank you, I wanted users to have a good idea what the app was about.
This is very promising entertainment and a learning opportunity for any space nerd. I was impressed at the sheer range of options and the detail of your article.
This app appears to have much more of a dual purpose than other apps so that the educational element is stronger than I’ve seen in other apps.
22 months ago from Parlin, New Jersey
Thank you so much, I think he may enjoy it especially if he’s into space or exploration. I like how grounded this app felt compared to other space simulators, and how you actually understood how things like gravity and orbit worked.
This is a really detailed and helpful article. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from this. I would be happy for my grandson to spend time using an app like this, as I can see that it has a lot of educational potentials.
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