In my not-so-copious spare time, I am working on the 2010 update to Go Play In Space, the tutorial and exploration guide e-book that I wrote for the free Orbiter space flight simulator (with help from Andy McSorley on the second edition in 2006, and now from Mark Paton on the 2010 edition). Orbiter has a 2010 edition described here, with enough new and changed features to justify a new edition of Go Play.
The new edition will add a chapter on re-entry (written by Mark), and the rendezvous and docking chapter will use the supplied shuttle Atlantis spacecraft rather than the more powerful (but fictional) Deltaglider spacecraft used in the second edition. It’s more realistic in that it’s based on a launch (using a launch autopilot written in Orbiter’s new scripting language), rendezvous, and docking scenario that happens in real life, although sadly not for much longer. I’m glad to finally be adding some shuttle operations to Go Play In Space.
Speaking of flying the shuttle in Orbiter, there’s a brand-new edition out of the amazing Shuttle Fleet add-on for Orbiter 2010-P1 (Shuttle Fleet 4.7 by David413). I’ve only just downloaded and installed it, but it looks great. It includes support for local light sources which should improve the already impressive visuals. I will be discussing the Shuttle Fleet in the add-on chapter of the new Go Play In Space. The picture above is a nostalgic Shuttle Fleet screen shot of STS-1, the very first flight of the first operational shuttle, Columbia, April 12, 1981. Notice the white-painted external tank that was used on the early shuttle missions (they stopped painting the tanks on later flights to save weight, leaving the now familiar rusty orange color of the insulating foam).