HobbySpace – Space Simulators

Space flight simulator games

Space Simulators
Like being there.

Screen shot from the Mars Colony Simulator from Hyperkat.

A space simulator can be as simple as a spacecraft simulation program running on your PC or as elaborate as a detailed, full scale hardware simulation of a shuttle cockpit.

Or perhaps it’s a large scale group simulation carried out over the internet in which the participants play different roles, e.g. mission controllers or astronauts, in carrying out a mission scenario such as launching a satellite from the shuttle.

This section provides links and descriptions of all sorts of web resources related to both software and hardware space simulations.

Simulation News Sources

  • Avsim.com – mostly aviation simulation but some space-sim related info
  • Fly Away Simulation – a flight simulation web portal
  • Half-Life Radio – Gaming News & Info
  • Meadville Space Center – Orbiter sim forum
  • Weblogs:
    • SpaceSimCentral | Your space and scifi gaming resource
    • Fly me to the Moon – Darthvader
    • International Spaceflight Museum Blog – Second Life
    • Music of the Spheres – weblog with space sim emphasis
    • Space Shuttle Mission 2007 Ground Crew Corner blog
    • Spindrift, in SciLands, Second Life

MacMission Control
space shuttle simulation software for the Apple 68k Macintosh and Power Pc machines.

Detailed simulation of shuttle main engine and solid rocket booster performance gives realistic shuttle launch and ascent simulations. Detailed cockpit display and function provided.

MacSPOC (SPOC = Spacecraft Personal Orbit Computations)
Orbit computation engine and teacher that can also be used for simulated space missions.

Documentation and demo software available for downloading.

Microsoft Space Simulator
This program is not longer available from MS. In fact, it was apparently the last DOS game published by MS. You might find it at a garage sale or used software exchanges.

There are often discussions on the news groups about it.See also the FAQ at GameFaqs for help on the program.

  • MS Flight Simulator 95, 98, etc. d
    Doesn’t come with any spacecraft simulations but some third party sources provide space related add-ons.
    • Models: the Simviation misc page offers a free Discovery Shuttle FS model. (The flight characteristics are not realistic, i.e. it can do a fly around if the landing is going wrong which the real shuttles can’t do.) There are also an X-15 multi-player and a simulator of the Spacecraft Orion as seen in 2001 Space Odyssey
    • Xtreme Prototypes – X-15 simulation addons.
    • FlightSim.Com! – another FS site that might have some space / rocket related resources.
    • Fly Away Simulation, Flight Sim #1
    • LunarPilot – A things-to-come Flight Simulation – Due Fall 2004
  • OpenUniverse: A Free Space Simulator
    Raъl Alonso’s program to simulate “the Solar System’s bodies in 3D on your Windows or Linux PC ” and “it does so in realtime.”

    Still available but Alonso has shifted his efforts to working on Celestia (see above.)

    Space Games
    Some space adventure games of note:

    • Homeworld at MigMan’s
      • Real Time Strategy game set in space, with full 3D combat modelled. Originally published by Sierra and released in 1999.
    • FrontierAstro – astronomy and Frontier Elite 2/Frontier First Encounters – space adventure game now in its third generation and a fourth due out soon.
      • Frontier Astro – “dedicated to astronomy and Frontier Elite 2/Frontier First Encounters”

      Oolite – “Oolite is a space sim game, inspired by Elite, powered by Objective-C and OpenGL, and designed as a small game that is easy for users to pick up, modify and expand upon. Almost every aspect of the game can be changed by using simple, free graphics packages and text editors.”

      Classic space games:

        Elite (video game) – Wikipedia – “a seminal space trading computer game, originally published by Acornsoft in 1984 for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron computers. [. ] Elite’s open-ended game model, advanced game engine and revolutionary 3D graphics ensured that it was ported to virtually every contemporary home computer system, and earned it a place as a classic and a genre maker in gaming history.”

    • Wing Commander (video game) – Wikipedia – “Released by Origin Systems in 1990, the game was a marked departure from the standard formula, bringing space combat to a level approaching the Star Wars films. Set in the year 2654 and characterized by Chris Roberts as ‘World War II in space,’ it featured a multi-national cast of pilots from the ‘Terran Confederation’ flying missions against the predatory, aggressive Kilrathi, a feline warrior race. Most impressively, cockpit performance affected gameplay: going above and beyond the call of duty resulted in medals, promotions in rank were awarded at regular intervals, and success or failure on certain critical missions would even decide the player’s plot progress, ‘winning’ or ‘losing’.”

    Flight Simulators with Space Options
    These programs are intended primarily to simulate airplanes but some include suborbital vehicles (X-15 and SS1) and/or have a shuttle landing sim:

  • PRE-Flight – This simulator is apparently aimed towards RC hobbyists who can configure their system to operate the simulator with RC transmitters to test the flying of their models. However, it wll also work with a joystick or keyboard.
    • Fly the Scaled Composites White Knight with SpaceShipOne – Download freeware PRE-Flight 2.00 from Simtel and SS1 Model from PreflightSim.com. After installing the simulator, open the SS1 zip file into the Model subdirectory. Run the simulator and click on the Model menu and then choose Load and select the ss1.3dm file. The SS1 can be dropped and its engine fired.
    • New Model For Free Download – SpaceShipTwo – FlightSim.Com – NOTAMS – Oct.20.10 – WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo flights with the WK2/SS2 model

  • The Observatory – Rick Robinson
    • Aircraft Specification Simulator – “This Excel workbook allows you to specify the dimensions, power plant, and maximum takeoff weight of an aircraft; the workbook then computes its weights and allows you to explore its flight performance envelope. (It’s not a flight simulator, but tests what speed and altitude the aircraft could attain. Provisions include simming orbital spaceplanes and airships, as well as conventional airplanes.”
    • Starship Specification Spreadsheet – “An Excel workbook for spacecraft mass, propulsion, fuel, etc. The filename says “space warships,” but it can be used for civil cargo/passenger ships as well.”
  • X-Plane.org – add-ons for the X-Plane simulator
    • Searcg add-ons for rocket and space related simulations
  • X-Plane.com – where you buy the X-Plane simulator created by Austin Meyer.
    • Space Combat -“free spaceship simulator by Austin Meyer, author of X-Plane” . “space simulator where all of the laws of physics are accurately applied to your vehicle.”
    • Global Mars Scenary CDs
    • How To Fly The Space Shuttle
    • Special: Mars Flight – The Martian Chronicles
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator – see above
  • Space City One
    Developed by Jerome L. Wright aims to create a

    “. virtual 3-D environment of a realistic space city, allowing visitors to experience life in an orbital city. As parts of the city are completed and tested, they will be added to the virtual city. Likewise, data bases available to visitors will be added as they are compiled. The pace of development will be determined by the level of success in raising the necessary development capital. Space City is being developed by a group of astronautical engineers with many years of industry experience. They are determined to make Space City One as accurate and detailed as practical to provide a high-fidelity environment for visitors. “

    MMO Space Games
    Massively multiplayer on line (MMO) games with near future space scenarios are under development.

    The game is described as follows:

    “Moonbase Alpha is a game scenario with both single-player and multiplayer options set on a hypothetical lunar outpost in a 3-D immersive setting. Players step into the role of an exploration crewmember and deal with realistic mission challenges and choices. Timelines in the much anticipated Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond MMO will be set even farther in the exciting future (2035+), but you can already explore our own near-future moon missions thanks to the NASA Learning Technologies and Innovative Partnerships Programs.”

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    Space Simulation Projects
    A selection of collaborative simulation projects intended primarily for educational and entertainment purposes. Several simulators involve both software and hardware aspects to them.

    Flight Deck of the Audrey full-scale space flight simulator.
    Courtesy Jason Reskin

    Columbia Aeronautics and Space Association (CASA)
    Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri has been carrying out space mission simulations since 1988. These include underwater scuba activites to simulate EVAs. Organized under the ” target=”_d”>Columbia Aeronautics and Space Association (CASA) the program is described as follows:

    CASA, Columbia Aeronautics and Space Association, is a truly unique program housed on the campus of Hickman High School, Columbia, Missouri, USA. The largest student run space simulation in the nation, it uses an aerospace theme to provide a multidisciplinary learning experience which incorporates not only aerospace concepts, but also a knowledge of English, mathematics and science. The program utilizes themes in context curriculum which allows students to experience aerospace principles first hand, and develop life skills such as teamwork, responsibility, and leadership.

    The Traveling Space Museum “We Bring The Adventure Of Space To You!”
    This program brings ” full-scale and fully functional simulators into schools and using them as teaching tools.” The simulators include:

    • Odyssey Space Lab – “a 12 foot-long, full-scale replica of a space laboratory module that would be found as a part of the International Space Station.”
    • Orion Shuttle – “12 foot-long motion-controlled flight simulator that resembles the Space Shuttle and gives students the sensation of piloting a spacecraft in low Earth orbit. ”
    • Mission Control – “has a complete set of teleconferencing and Internet links that correspond with workstations aboard the Odyssey SpaceLab. Mission Control is also equipped to teleconference with cadets piloting the Orion flight simulator at a third school.”

    Red Rover, Red Rover
    The Planetary Society sponsors this ambitious educational project that allows students to simulate the experience of controlling robotic rovers on Mars.

    The students build small robots (from LEGO DACTA parts) with video cameras and a simulated Marscape for it to explore. Software is provided so that the students can control the robot and recieve the video from the robot.

    The robots can also be controlled over the internet so students can control the rovers at other student sites on the web.

    Equipment/software packages are available.

    Dean Shuttle Simulators
    Most of the following information was sent to me by Mr. Dean:

    James Dean worked at the Johnson Space Center from 1990 to 2001 first in the astronaut support office for five years and then the lead for the ISSP Outreach and Education group. One of the things he did on the side was to develop a high fidelity, hands-on Space Shuttle launch and on-orbit simulation program.

    The full environment includes;

    • Full size Shuttle flight deck
    • All NASA Shuttle training manuals
    • All Flight Data File manuals KSC launch procedure (all volumes)
    • JSC crew training CDs
    • Use of Mac MECO STK Precision Approach Launch videos
    • On-orbit full rev “out the window” Earth view videos.

    He has built functional flight decks for various museums and schools around the country. For example, he provided a Shuttle simulation program for the National Space Science & Technology Institute in Colorado Springs Colorado. He also completed a launch simulation course at his local middle school.

    He offers a package of materials that a school can use for Shuttle training and operations course. All they need is a PC, a Mac, a TV, a video cassete player and a stereo.

    All the NASA material was acquired through work at NASA and is all in the public domain.

    He does not take payment for his services but builds the simulators in his spare time. He gives them to organizations that cannot afford the museum quality versions that companies like Space1.com produce and doesn’t want don’t want to compete with them.

    He offers plans for construction of the shell, framework, and interior panels. The power system, caution and warning system, lighting system, and AC power distribution system are patterned from Shuttle schematics.

    All this is available to anyone that would like to undertake a project like this.

    Here is an article on one of Dean’s projects:

    • West Middle School students train to be astronauts – KXRM FOX 21 [Colorado Springs, CO] – May.27.09
    • Psst! It really is rocket science: Space shuttle simulator so fun, kids don’t know they’re learning – Recordnet.com – July.11.08
    • Students get lift with donated space simulator – Stockton (CA) Record – Apr.17.06
    More Simulation Projects

    • Discovery Shuttle Simulator – full sized simulator of the shuttle crew cabin
      • Have Shuttle, Will Travel: Endeavour Takes Shape at Discovery Science Center – ad Astra/Space.com – June.2.05
      • Discovery Science Center – Orange County, California
      • Orange County Space Society

        Mars Academy was a a wondeful and elaborate site that supported

        “. an educational collaborative project to design and simulate a manned mission to the Red Planet. Browse through our extensive collection of Mars related resources at the Academy and participate with our members from all over the world in the design of the mission at the Mars Mission Design Center.”

        “. engaged students on four continents in an extended space simulation covering many months. This project sought to overcome some of the limitations inherent in short-term educational space simulations by increasing the duration of the simulation.”

      MoonCity – LunarSat * MoonCity at University of Innsbruck
      LunarSat was a European project to send a small spacecraft to orbit the moon to carry out several scientific tasks, especially to confirm the presence of water ice at the polar regions.

      Educational activities are intended to be a major part of the project. The MoonCity program involves students in to design and simulate bases on the moon.

      At the University of Innsbruck about “340 students worked for an entire semester to create a far future city on the Moon to host roughly 2000 people.”

      A follow-on to this activity was the MoonCivilization program that involved “. students from all over Europe are planning -in groups, so-called “MoonTeams” or alone – to virtually colonize the Moon.”

  • Space Explorers, Inc. – commercial education firm that offers classroom mission simulation programs with lesson plans
    • Mission: Solar System – includes separate simulation missuons for Mars rover , Mars orbiter, Lunar Prospector, and Near Earth Asteroid rendesvous.
    • Orbital Laboratory

      Virtual Shuttle was a spectacular site created by students in the Space Club at St.Peter’s School in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The interactive real time simulation of a shuttle mission allowed one to

      “. participate in a simulation of a complete Space Shuttle mission together with other virtual astronauts and mission controllers from all over the world. “

  • NASA’s Shuttle Simulator (moved to Texas A&M after Shuttle program ended:
    • Retired space shuttle simulator to ‘fly’ again at Texas A&M – collectSPACE – Dec.29.11
    • Flying the Space Shuttle simulator – Matthew Stibbe/Aviator/Forbes – July.26.11
    • Armchair astronaut: flying the Space Shuttle simulator – Flight Global – Nov.21.10
    • One More Ride On The Space Shuttle (Simulator) – NPR – July.24.10
  • Amusment Park Space Simulation Rides
    + Space Theme Parks
    • Rides
      • Shuttle Launch Experience at at the KSC Visitors Complex :
        • Review: Shuttle Launch Experience – The Space Review – Apr.28.08
        • Into space – on a shuttle simulator: Our man has an exclusive first ride on Nasa’s ВЈ30m shuttle launch simulator near Orlando, Florida – TimesOnline – May.27.07
      • Mission: SPACE at DisneyWorld
        • Is space travel a reality? It is at Disney World – Travel Examiner – Jan.28.09
        • Thrills, chills on Mission: Space – Orlando Sentinel – June.25.06
        • Disney attraction simulates blastoff – The Washington Times – June.3.04
        • Astronauts Help Launch Disney’s ‘Mission Space’ – wnbc.com – Oct.10.03
        • “Mission: SPACE – Choose to go!” – collectSPACE – Aug.25.03
        • “Disney launches Mission: SPACE” – collectSPACE – Aug.15.03
        • Disney’s new rocket ride `very realistic,’ real astronaut confirms – HoustonChronicle.com – Aug.12.03
        • Mission: SPACE Ready to Take Guests on Flights to Mars – Space.com – Aug.4.03
      • Kennedy Space Center
        • Space Shuttle Launch Experience
        • Always wanted to know what flying in the space shuttle feels like? Now you can – Orlando Sentinel – Apr.18.07
        • Simulated Space-Launch Ride Coming To KSC – Local6.com [FLA] – Feb.12.07
        • “‘Shuttle Experience’ to launch tourists” – collectSPACE – July.6.05
      • Cosmodфme in Quebec offers a range of viirtual space mission experiences.
    • Parks
      • ‘Disney-style’ space park to open in Ashdod: Israelis will soon get to feel what it’s like to be an astronaut at a new hands-on learning center in the south – The Times of Israel – Feb.11.15
      • 4Frontiers Corporation – plans to open a Mars settlement theme-park in Florida.
        • Local company planning space-based theme park – AbcActionNews.com – May.11.10
      • Red Planet Expeditions, Inc. (RPE) – “setting out to build, market, and license the world’s first Mars-themed adventure resort that will authentically simulate what it will be like to be on an expedition on Mars in the year 2035.” John Spencer of the Space Tourism Society is a co-founder.
      • Spaceport – space theme attraction near Liverpool, England
        • Multi-million pound visitor attraction opens with a focus on the future British space programme – StarChaser/Space Race News! – July.27.05
      • Spaceport Leisure – plans space theme parks for Japan and South Africa
        • Spaceport Experience – attractions planned for SpacePortShenyang
      • Space World – Kyushu Japan – space theme park + space camp
        • John Spencer Discusses Mars On Earth, Yachts In Space And Space Tourism’s Future – Neon Tommy – Sept.8.10

          The following section lists various space related simulation programs. These can be in game or exploration formats. The simulators include commercial programs and others are freeware or shareware.

          A number of the following simulators are no longer sold commercially by the original companies. This has become quite common as technology moves on. However, many of these old programs are still quite playable and remain in demand.

          So a number of abandonware sites have arisen on the net that provide free downloads of copies of such orphaned programs. The legality of such services, though, is highly in dispute but some sites make an effort to state the legal status of a each program (e.g. Underdogs ).

          Check also these sections for online and offline space related programs:

          • fly complete missions (from lift-off to splash-down)
          • walk on the moon like a real astronaut!
          • 3D cockpits, like real, with working 3D switches!
          • discover the whole moon in 3D! (no flat surfaces!)
          • original landing sites as highly detailed 3D terrain!
          • EVA with 3D astronauts 1st + 3rd person point of view
          • more missions and features in future

          Apollo 18
          Detailed CDROM simulation of the Apollo modules from AIM Software. The AIM site has long disappeared but the game can still be obtained from some software retailers.

          Includes realistic command and lunar module controls, multiple landing sites, mission control radio transmissions, 200 page technical manual, etc. Now available in the US.

          • GameSpot: PC Home: Apollo 18

          Buzz Aldrin’s Race to Space

            This is a DOS game from Interplay, although no longer listed in their catalog. It became available on CDROM in 1994 and

          “..features over 20 historic and proposed plans to reach the moon”. ” The players’ mission is to be the first to put their nation’s flag on the moon”. ” resources include that of over 140 astronauts or cosmonauts from which the player will plan, manipulate and direct every possible mission: sub-orbital; orbital manned and unmanned; planetary and lunar fly-bys; lunar orbits; space-walks; LEM tests; lunar passes; and lunar landings”. “over 60 minutes of full-motion video.”

          Virtual AGC – Apollo Guidance Computer Emulation
          Detailed, faithful emulation of the Apollo guidance computer. Open source project with source code available. Executables available for Linux and Windows.

          Could be used as a module in a general Apollo/LM simulation. For example, Mark Grant is working to incorporate it into the Orbiter simulator. Developer Info

    Mercury Rocket Sims

      A-OK! The Wings Of Mercury
      “A-OK! The Wings of Mercury is a realistic simulation of the Mercury spacecraft. It features 3D graphics, fully functional control panels, networked simulations, and a complete manual.

      Version 3.5 is now available on Windows XP and Mac OS X. A-OK! WoM is so realistic, you will use the actual checklists used by the astronauts. Orbital and Sub-Orbital missions can be simulated. Orbital missions and a Mission Control Center simulator are available to registered users.”

  • MrKlingon’s Mercury Redstone Simulator – Joel Anderson, aka Mr.Klingon, offers a basic simulator of the Mercury rocket for Windows.
  • Binary Star LTD
    This company, founded by 2 former flight dynamics officers at NASA, offers several space simulation programs. Unfortunately, the programs are intended for museums and arcades settings and so are extremely expensive.

    • MS3 – Mission Simulation Software intended for large installations such as at museum or space camp situation.
    • Lunar Contact- Apollo 17 lander simulator
    • Discovery: Final Approach – Land the shuttle Columbia
    • Mission Satellite Rendezvous – rendezvous your shuttle with the Hubble Telescope for a repair mission.
    Celestia: A 3D Space Simulator
    “Celestia is real-time 3D space simulation which lets you travel through our solar system and to over 100,000 stars in our neighborhood.”

    It was developed as an open source collaborative project led by Chris Laurel – SourceForge.net: Project Info – Celestia.

    It runs on Windows, Mac & Linux. The architecture allows for on going expansion and add-ons

    See, for example, the spectacular planetary surfaces in the Celestia Gallery. More about Celestia in the Celestia Forum at shatters.net

    Claim Stake – The Official Site :: Do You Feel Adventurous?
    Become a Beltminer. Built around the concept of asteroid mining, this simulator employs 3-D graphics to display vehicles traveling and landing on asteroids”

    “. 3D dexterity game about asteroid mining in deep space. You are a Beltminer. You have been issued a Prospector mining craft in order to land on asteroids and stake a cliam on valuable minerals. These minerals will be used for the good of the space station Terra. Your ultimate goal is to find water. and construct an Ice-water extractor on an asteroid.

    At the end of each mission, you will will have to spend a percentage of you credits on repairing the Prospector, buying Mineral Beacons, and re-fueling your craft. Once you collect enough resources. you will be able to build an Ice Water Extractor.”

    • 3 vehicle models: Space Shuttle, Saturn V/CSM/LM stack (with escape tower!), Gemini/Titan stack.
    • 3D graphics of vehicles, planets, moons, etc.
    • Realistic Orbital Mechanics
    • Modular Spacecraft – can develop ones own custom vehicles.
    Kerbal Space Program
    This is a

    multi-genre game where the players create their own space program. In KSP, you must build a space-worthy craft, capable of flying its crew out into space, without killing them. At your disposal is a collection of parts, which must be assembled to create a functional ship. Each part has its own function and will affect the way a ship flies (or doesn’t). So strap yourself in, and get ready to try some Rocket Science!

    The program can be purchased in the KSP Store and Kerbal SpacePort sells add-ons.

    Several videos about the software can be found in the Kerbal Space Program YouTube Channel. For example,

    ” LIFTOFF is the first in a series of space simulations. There is almost no limit to what you can do with this long awaited – very cool – software!

    Take a virtual tour of the space shuttle, take it apart and reassemble it, manipulate it and experiment with weightlessness. You’ll even find detailed virtual reality animations.

    Discover the history of Space Exploration including the history of rocketry and the space race, a much-needed glossary of acronyms and a timeline extending from the 17th century.

    Plus you’ll find teacher material and resources included! And, last but not least and our favorite. astronaut training! Feel the power as you launch into space and take command of the Space Shuttle from launch through orbit, solve problems, deal with emergencies, talk to Mission Control and roam in weightlessness through the Shuttle cockpit and crew area.”

    Lunar Landers / Lunar Explorers
    Lunar landers were among the first of computer games and are still popular. Controlling the thrust and orientation of the vehicle for a smooth landing can be quite a challenge. Landing simulators are available at varying levels of realism.

  • Lunar Explorer – a “fully immersive, interactive, Virtual Reality simulation of the Moon. It is a vivid and stunningly realistic visual experience of being on the Moon”
    • Lunar Explorer at VirtuePlay
    • Lunar Explorer MMOG – Moon Society – Information on how the software is being expanded to allow it to become the basis for a massive multi-player online gaming environment:
    • Moon with a view – Cosmic Log – Oct.15.06

      Apollo Archive – Lunar Lander Simulator in menu

    • Eagle Lander – 3D
      • Hi-res 3-D simulation of ” final minutes of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon at the point that the automatic landing sequence was stopped and manual flight control began.”
      • Eagle Lander – 2-D version by Ron Monsen

    iRover 2010 is a Lunar Rover Simulator that “is a fun way to tour the Lunar surface and see some of the elements that make up NASA’s Lunar architecture”. It is “compatible with iPhone and iPod touch “.

    ILM : Icarus, the Lunar Module: Ivan Scheers is creating this MS Windows based simulator of an Apollo Lunar Module with realistic flying behavior and mission types.

    The project is still in development but beta versions are available on request. He also will consider volunteer assistance in finishing it.

    Lunar Contact- Apollo 17 lander simulator – Apollo 17 lander simulator (priced for museums and exhibitions.)

  • MoonBaseOne
    • Federation of Galaxy Explorers (FOGE) organization has sponsored development of this educational game in which adventures are based around the building of a lunar base.
    • MoonBaseOne blog where you can get news on the game development and download the latest version.

    Ron Noteborn’s Lunar Landing Guidance & Control – see the Flight Dynamics section for several Java demos on LM orbital mechanics.

    John Donohue’s Lunar Lander – includes the Java source code. Also available at ExploreSpace.com – nice little Java applet lander

  • Game style:
    • Lunar Lander Landit – Nebula Aerospace – on line game
    • Play LunarLander Game by Seb Lee-Delisle
    • Games at the X PRIZE Lunar Lander Challenge 2007
    • StereoLander – a Java applet that does a very simple lander simulation (on Mars actually) but with a stereogram display.
  • Mars Simulations

    • Maestro Headquaters – download special viewer for Mars rover data. Home version of program used at JPL

      Drive on Mars – rover simulations, on line and offline

      GeoPlayer Mars Demo – “Navigate the whole planet of Mars, fly from location to location, explore the terrain, view the landing sites. Experience GeoFusion’s amazing visualization technology yourself!”

      Take On Mars – “Take On Mars places you in the seat of a Rover Operator, allowing you to control the various, fully simulated mobile Rovers and stationary Landers. With this scientific arsenal at your disposal, you will work your way through the numerous Science Missions in each location, unlocking the secrets of Mars’ distant past. ”

        Youtube video

    TerraExplorer 3D Tour of over Mars – NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) Education Project (Univ. of Montana) and Skyline Software Systems use the free TerraExplorer software with Mars Rover data to allow you to “take a flyby trip around Mars and the Spirit landing site without leaving home.” Universal exploration – Missoulian.com – Jan.28.04

    Mars Simulation Project
    Open source Java project to create a simulation of future human settlement on the planet Mars.

      Another World Is Here: Mars Simulation Project – WorldChanging – Nov.12.05

  • Hyperkat Game
    • Mars Colony ETS simulation program “challenges the player with surviving and exploring an unknown planetary environment, in an immersive first person 3D graphics experience.” Provides simulation of habitat management, EVA, planet weather, and more, See screenshots.
      • HyperKat Games offers free Mars Colony simulation demo – Space-for-All – Mar.13.09
      • Mars Colony Simulator from HyperKat Games – Space-for-All – Jan.5.09

  • Planetary Rover – under development at HyperKat Games by Howard Dortch. Currently moves over a general planetary landscape but could be configured for Mars.
    • Screen captures here and here.
    • Rover Radiation Blues – Music of the Spheres – Jan.18.09
  • Orbiter – A free space flight simulator
    This simulator is quite sophisticated and realistic and has very high quality 3-D imagaery:

    “ORBITER is a realistic space simulation using proper physics for the modelling of planetary motion, gravitational fields, free space and atmospheric flight etc. As such, it is more challenging to master than an arcade game – you should at least have some basic idea about mechanics and planetary motion to get the most from it.”

    An example animation created by Orbiter.
    See more videos of Orbiter in action.

    • “Realistic physics. Planetary motion, gravitation effects, free space and atmospheric flight are accurately modelled.
    • You can land your ship at a space port on a planet surface, or dock to an orbital station.
    • High resolution planetary maps provide some nice visual effects.
    • Configurable environment. Users can add planets, space ships and space stations to the existing universe, or design a completely new solar system from scratch.”

    Resources for learning to use Orbiter and its many add-on features. See the Tutorials such as this one on simulating SpaceShipOne.

  • Virtual Spaceflight – Andy McSorley
    • Go Play in Space by Bruce Irving
      “‘Orbiter Manual for the rest of us’ – meaning that it’s an easy to read introduction to Orbiter, primarily aimed at readers who come from a non-technical background be they adults or children.”
    • Free presentation by Bruce Irving about Orbiter: Go Learn in Space v2 – (pdf, 2.8MB).
    • Orbiter Tutorials
    • Orbiter Links
  • Space Shuttle Simulations

    • Space Shuttle Mission 2007 – Highly detailed, realistic simulation of the Shuttle from launch to orbital operations to reentry and landing.
      • Space Shuttle Mission 2007 Ground Crew Corner blog
      • Space Shuttle Mission 2007 – FlightSim.Com Review – Feb.14.08 – positive review of the program.
      • Several SSM07 videos at YouTube, e.g.:
        • YouTube – Space Shuttle Mission 2007 movie contest STS-26
        • YouTube – Space Shuttle Mission 2007 STS-26 Part One

    Orbiter: Space Flight Simulator – see entry above.

    Space Shuttle Simulator – currently “10%” complete, it nevertheless displays impressive detail and strong graphics.

    Based on the actual software currently used for training at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Control Center, this software enables a launch countdown simulation with a networked system of computers. Materials are created by teachers for teachers and aligned with national education standards. There are five console stations for your student engineers: Main Engines, External Tank, BioMed, Weather and Environmental Control. While this is targeted for middle school students, it is easily scaled up to the high school level.

    This software is an interactive, inquiry-based method for your students to practice the materials they learn in the classroom. It also answers the age old question, “When will I ever use this stuff I’m learning in the classroom?”

    • NASA KLASS Program and Curriculum
    • NASA Enables Students To Launch Virtual Space Shuttle – NASA – May.10.10
    Space Sail Simulators
    Solar and laser driven space sails may provide a practical method of transport around our solar system and even outside of it. There are a number of simulators available and under development:

    • Interworld Transport SailAway Open Source Project – collaborative project that you can join.
    • Interworld Commercial Solar Sailing – Check out this site for more info on this fascinating method of space travel.
    • JPL Clipper Solar Sail – applet simulator
    • JPL Heliogyro Solar Sail – applet simulator
    • Olivier Boisard’s Solar Sails site includes a Java sail race game, a PC simulator and a 3D model of sails in VRML
    • More Solar Sail Links

    Space Station Simulators
    These programs deal large space habitats. The stations could be generic or specifically the International Space Station. Some are games dealing with the construction and operation of space stations.

    Others employ sophisticated 3D modelling to allow the user to move through the inside and/or outside of a station. Some also allow one to see the orbit and orientation of the station.

      Space Station Manager – Mistaril – From Mistaril Games this program provides “strategy game set in an immersive near future. Apply your creativity and imagination to solve problems as a manager for a newly founded space station orbiting earth. Face logical challenges as you balance your resources and your goals for the station.

    Or just sit back and watch the earth flow slowly underneath. The modules and technology are a mix of modern trends and futuristic vision. Feel the heartbeat of the station with vital statistics simulated in real time. Listen for the small signs in power, thermal control or life support to determine how healthy you creation is. ”

      Space Station Manager Demo – Download.com

    you’ll experience the thrill of conducting NASA repair work on the International Space Station. After negotiating your way through the airlock, you, the astronaut, will be tasked with four jobs critical to help power up the space station so it can continue to operate at full capacity. But you have to move quickly and carefully, with a limited quantity of oxygen you must complete your EVAs and get back into the airlock before your air supply runs out.

    This game features simulations of actual extravehicular activities (EVAs) conducted by NASA astronauts on missions to provide power to the space station. The graphics used in this game are based on real NASA missions and incorporate 3D graphics used by the Agency.

    Skybase: Space Station Simulator – design, build and explore a detailed simulation of the International Space Station. Make variations from the official design.

    The Piranha Interactive company is apparently no longer in business but this program can still be found. See, for example, Skybase at the Software Outlet. They include an image of the back of the box.

    Space Station Simulator – Focus Multimedia – Revised and updated version of the Space Station Simulator first released in 1996. The user interactively builds the ISS (or a custom version), can explore outside and inside the station, dock a shuttle or Russian Soyuz and Progress to the station, carry out EVA’s and more.

    SoftLab-Nsk is “one of main developers of visual simulation software for Russian spacecraft and aircraft training systems.” They have expanded into general software that includes simulations, games, graphics and other products. For example, they have a virtual model of the interior of the Mir module “Priroda”. This VR system is used by theYuri Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center to familiarize cosmonauts that will be working on Mir.

    Demos of their space simulators are available for PC. These include:
    Interior of MIR Space Station Module * Space Station Mir

    Virtual Astronaut – an educational web-based 3-D simulation of the ISS. Aimed at elementary grade levels, activities involve many aspects of space life. Quizzes and puzzles are included with particular tasks.

      Virtual Astronaut – Cool! – Music of the Spheres – Aug.10.08

    Windows on Earth : The Association of Space Explorers and TERC sponsor this cool on line program, which provides

    a rich, realistic digital simulation that lets you explore Earth from the window of the International Space Station—as if you were an astronaut. You can fly over the dramatic Himalayas, the vast Sahara, lush rain forests, or the impressive Grand Canyon. Explore and learn more.

    Space Academy GX-1
    Edmark program for young people (ages 8-12) is an interactive teaching program about space and astronomy but includes some flight simulations. See Review at SuperKids.

    Space Pinball
    Download this space simulator developed by as an outreach project:

    “Space Pinball is an educational package /software game (in development), that is [. ]downloadable from internet. It should offer users, aged between 12 and 21, knowledge on gravity and orbital mechanics. Each level of difficulty includes a 3D game in which the presented knowledge can be practised. You can actually take control of a satellite in space!”

    Version 1.0 now available. V2.0 in beta.

    This program is described as follows:

    is a free space simulation software that lets you explore the universe in three dimensions, starting from planet Earth to the most distant galaxies. Areas of the known universe are represented using actual astronomical data, while regions uncharted by human astronomy are generated procedurally. Millions of galaxies, trillions of stars, countless planets!

    GrandTour: Voyager and Giotto Space Mission Simulator
    “simulate space as seen from the Voyager and Giotto spacecraft. In addition, . generate scenes from arbitrary points in space or the Earth, with the spacecraft visible to the observer. The planet, moons, and rings of interest (or comet, nucleus, and tail), stars, the sun, and the spacecraft are all accurately drawn with wireframe representations. “

    “developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory by John D. Callahan to assist in the analysis of science and optical navigation data..program was filmed by the BBC as part of a NOVA documentary on the Voyager Uranus encounter. ”

    Earth Impacts

      Earth impact effects simulator – on line program gives the damage on earth for a hit by asteroid or comet of a chosen size, density, etc.

  • John Lewis’s Asteroid Impact Modelling The 1999 book: Comet and Asteroid Impact Hazards on a Populated Earth : Computer Modeling by John S. Lewis comes with a program on a diskette that allows you to bombard the earth with objects of various sizes and types to estimate the resulting death and destruction. Read the Space.com review.
  • More Simulators, Space Games & Related Resources

    • iPhone, iPod touch, iPad apps
      • iRover 2010 is a Lunar Rover Simulator that “is a fun way to tour the Lunar surface and see some of the elements that make up NASA’s Lunar architecture”. It is “compatible with iPhone and iPod touch “.
      • NASA Lunar Electric Rover Simulator
    • Space Camp for Nintendo Wii and DS
      • 3.. 2.. 1.. Blast Off to Space Camp! – GeekDad/Wired.com – July.20.09

        “a game for your iPad, Android tablet or computer. It lets you fly in space, learning hands-on the lessons of orbital mechanics that confounded the early astronauts. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, but you are going to need perseverance! You’ll cover simple lessons, like how and when to fire your engine to make your elliptical orbit circular. How do you transfer from one circular orbit to another? How do you get back to Earth? That’s kind of important, to your family at least, and all space odysseys start with training!

    • L.V. Sim (Launch Vehicle Simulator) – English Trans – by Stйphane Querry – simulates launch of single or multi-stage rockets to orbit.
    • Outer Planet Mission by Pete Huges – a fun Flash simulator to control the orbit of a spacecraft.
    • The Genesis Project – Terraform simulatior – Astrobiology Magazine – numerical program to test various parameters that affect the temperature and air pressure on Mars.
    • Tether simulations:
      • TetSim at Jaqar Space Engineering
    • Shareware for Space Simulations – The Educational Space Simulations Project provides this software that is useful for collaborative space simulations.
    • EMRR’s Rocket Games
    • Space Game Design Tips – Developer Quest Magazine
    • The Abandonware Ring – Your ring to find Abandonware related material.
    • EdGCM – ” software that allows teachers and students to run a 4-D climate model on desktop computers. The GCM at the core of EdGCM was developed at NASA and is currently in use by researchers to study climates of the past, present and future.
    • MPL3D – Multimedia Program Library 3D (MPL3D) Solar System simulation:

      MPL3D Solar System is a 3D interactive simulation of the close universe in real time. Explore more than 10,000 mapped objects, including Solar System, +120 known extrasolar worlds, +250 multiple star systems, nebulae, star clusters, galaxies and more!

      Space Tourism Market Simulation (STMS) is an interactive simulation covering various disciplines such as rocket engineering, economics, design, laws, ethics, art, etc. around space tourism to understand and practice coherences about this topic. Participants can choose one out of eight specific groups such as passenger, manufacturer, organization, space travel agency, investor, government, opposition or own created group. They can either cooperate or compete with other groups. The idea of STMS is to improve participant’s knowledge and skills of space tourism in the fields of strategic decision-making, engineering, teamwork, marketing and entrepreneurial activities.

  • RockSim – Apogee Rockets – allows the amateur rocket maker to design rockets “by pointing and clicking at the parts”. Then the rocket can be run through a flight simulation which will describe how fast it will travel, how high it will go, when and where during the flight the parachute is deployed, and most importantly, it determines if the model will be stable and therefore safe to fly.”
    • More rocketry software
  • Balance – the game
  • Models and simulations related to the Kepler Telescope project

  • NASA:
    • Eyes on the Solar System – online 3D space exploration.
    • Spacecraft 3D – device app that allows you to simulate various space missions with 3D visualization.
      • NASA 3-D App Gives Public Ability to Experience Robotic Space Travel – NASA – July.11.12
    • NASA Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) – interactive demonstration program shows how the ground and space based facilities of the agency’s SCaN system interacts with the agency’s spacecraft.
      • Available for free download for both Windows and Mac platforms.
      • NASA Launches Interactive Simulation of Satellite Communications – NASA – Mar.9.10

        Instead of controlling a spacecraft or running a game, these simulations try to immerse you in a 3D environment and let you move around and interact within it. The environment might be a space station, a lunar colony or the surface of Mars.

        Some of the Space Station Simulations listed above use 3D modeling. See also the Multimedia – Interactive section for more space programs including VR both online & off.

        Massively multiplayer on line (MMO) games with near future space scenarios are in development, some sponsored by space agencies.

        ActiveWorld’s Mars Sites
        ActiveWorld is an online virtual reality universe that has grown to involve hundreds of thousands of users with over 1000 unique worlds.
        Included in this VR universe is a whole Mars world with spaceports and colonies.

        “Originally designed in 1997 as a demo project for NASA, the virtual world Mars has been open for colonization by Active Worlds’ residents since 1998; and is one of the more popular hang outs for adventurous humans and extra-terrestrials alike.” – Mars tour homepage.

        The independent site Elysium Mars [Last update: No Date] gives overview of the Mars world, including a map, description of the spaceports, and recommended sites.

        Second Life
        This on line virtual world includes Spaceport Alpha, which has sites like the International Spaceflight Museum shown below

        • International Spaceflight Museum
          • ISM Blog
        • Spindrift, in SciLands, Second Life
        • Astro21C
        • Moon World: One small step for an avatar – Short Sharp Science/New Scientist – Mar.10.09
        • NSS Chapters News: NSS in Second Life – NSS – Feb.14.09
        • Virtual Worlds: Virtual Space Travel, Part 2: Surfing to Mars – Linux News – June.14.08
        • Virtual Worlds: Virtual Space Travel, Part 1: One Small Step – Linux News – June.7.08
        • Virtual reality and participatory exploration – The Space Review – June.25.07
        • Be a virtual rocket scientist – Cosmic Log – May.1.07
        • Virtual-space gurus build final frontier: NASA collaborates with rocket enthusiasts on real-world applications – MSNBC.com – Mar.30.07
        • A guide to Second Life’s space frontier – MSNBC.com – Mar.30.07 – images from the space exhbits in Second Life
        • See also
          • Extropia: “Extropia is an online community in the world of Second Life, built around a positive, near-future science fiction theme.”
  • Lunar Explorer
    A “fully immersive, interactive, Virtual Reality simulation of the Moon. It is a vivid and stunningly realistic visual experience of being on the Moon”

    • Lunar Explorer at VirtuePlay
    • Moon with a view – Cosmic Log – Oct.15.06

    Colony ET
    This program from HyperKat Games, which offers the Virtual Rover Simulator (VIROS), began alpha tests in the summer of 2008 of its Colony ET simulation. It is described as follows:

    Colony – ET puts you on an alien planet in full survival mode. The game / simulation is a mini online 3D first person style role playing game where you are a character in a persistent world. The current state of the simulator allows one person to set up a server and invite their friends to join in the colony. We can have as many as 32 players but most people would be comfortable with 4 to 8 close friends.

    The minark company creates 3-D virtual environments that includes the Entropia Universe on line virtual world. These include space related features. The company has also carried out a study for ESA that investigated the use of such virtual world/game systems as space simulations for education. See articles and video below:

    Moon Tycoon Simulator
    Experience virtual lunar reality at this new 3D Sim/Strategy Game for the PC/CDROM. Download demo.

    “. Players can build and manage their own 3-D lunar colony, controlling all aspects of colony life – from building colonies and creating industries, to trading with Earth and alien races.”.

    “..includes a game tutorial, an open-ended “sandbox” mode and 3 exciting campaigns with 30 challenging missions. The game features more than 60 3-D buildings including Spaceports, Lunar Golf, Military Bases, Nuclear Power Reactors and much more – there’s something for everyone! Players can manage 4 customizable industries (mining, manufacturing, research and tourism) to create their own unique playing experience. 16 devastating disasters keep players on their toes, including Asteroids, Moonquakes, Meteor Showers, and much more!”.

    The MOON Project – Benjamin J. Britton
    Unfortunately, this site disappeared from the net. The ambitious project used VRML to provide a simulated experience of lunar exploration:

    “The MOON Project is a full-screen, immersive mutual reality Internet DVD made on the event of the 30th Anniversary of Humankind’s First Manned Moon Landing. The purpose of the MOON project is to bring viewers into personal contact with humanity’s cultural tradition through participation in the exploration of the Moon. As an historical source document and as an artistic interpretation of cultural context, the MOON project is made to connect viewers in our collective global culture.” – MOON project homepage.

    “Vision Videogames’s initial efforts have landed it a Space Act Agreement contract with none other than The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) in a cooperative effort to develop its first PS2 based video game. This game will create in millions of young people a sense of ownership in the worldwide effort to explore space and improve life on Earth. ” – About Vision Videogames

    A description of the ISS simulation is at SpaceStationSIM. In the fall of 2004 they announced that they would like volunteers to beta test the program: SpaceStationSIM Game Tester Application.

    DigitalSpace Commons
    This company develops sophisticated 3D modelling and simulation tools and applications. Many of their projects are space related.

    • Games Join Space Race – Wired – Feb.3.05
    • SimEVA, Extravehicular Activity Training Simulator for International Space Station Astronauts
    • Concepts for Lunar Exploration Staging Rack
      • A Multi-Function “Service Station” for Lunar Telerobotic Base Preparation
    • 3D Visualization Environments showing Lunar Bases and Habitats
    • “Service Station” for Lunar Telerobotic Base Preparation
    • Drive On Mars: with 3D environments from Digital Space
      View Movies of the Drive On Mars 3D Real-Time Simulations
    Star Peace
    Multi-user, continuous online game and virtual world, somewhat similar to ActiveWorld. Relies on an exotic “portal” transportation system, but otherwise is a near-future mileu.