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Orbiter Space Flight Simulator

Orbiter is a spaceflight simulator based on Newtonian mechanics. Its playground
is our solar system with many of its major bodies – the sun, planets and moons.
You take control of a spacecraft – either historic, hypothetical, or purely
science fiction. Orbiter is unlike most commercial computer games with a space
theme – there are no predefined missions to complete (except the ones you set
yourself), no aliens to destroy and no goods to trade. Instead, you will get a
pretty good idea about what is involved in real space flight – how to plan an
ascent into orbit, how to rendezvous with a space station, or how to fly to
another planet. It is more difficult, but also more of a challenge. Some people
get hooked, others get bored. Finding out for yourself is easy – simply give it
a try. Orbiter is free, so you don’t need to invest more than a bit of your
spare time.


Orbiter is now published as an Open Source project under the MIT License (see
LICENSE file for details).


Get the Orbiter source repository from github

git clone [email protected]:orbitersim/orbiter.git


git clone https://github.com/orbitersim/orbiter.git

To configure and generate the makefiles, you need a recent

To compile Orbiter from its sources, you need
Microsoft Visual Studio.
Orbiter has been successfully built with VS Community 2019, but other versions should
also work. Note that VS2019 comes with built-in CMake support, so you don’t
need a separate CMake installation.

Some configuration caveats:

  • If you are using the Ninja
    generator (default for the VS built-in CMake), you may also need
    vspkg to configure the VS toolset.
  • If you are using the VS2019 generator, you may need to set up Visual Studio to use
    only a single thread for the build. This is because some of the build tools (especially
    those for generating the Orbiter documentation) are not threadsafe, and the VS2019
    generator doesn’t understand the CMake JOB_POOL directive.

Orbiter is a 32-bit application. Be sure to configure vspkg and CMake accordingly.

If you want to build the documentation, you need a few additional tools:

  • a filter to convert ODT and DOC sources to PDF, such as
  • a LaTeX compiler suite such as MiKTeX.
  • Doxygen for building the source-level
    documentation for developers.

By default, the build is configured to create both graphics flavours of the
Orbiter executable (although this can be configured with the ORBITER_GRAPHICS CMake flag):

  • orbiter.exe is the standalone Orbiter application with built-in DX7 graphics.
  • orbiter_ng.exe is a launcher for ./Modules/Server/orbiter.exe which is the
    graphics server version of Orbiter. It requires an external graphics client
    plugin to be loaded via the Modules tab of the Orbiter Launchpad dialog.
    The reference D3D7Client is included with the build with essentially the same
    functionality as the built-in graphics version. Use 3rd party client
    implementations to make use of more modern graphics engines.

See README.compile for details on building Orbiter.

Planet textures

The Orbiter git repository does not include most of the planetary texture files
required for running Orbiter.
You need to install those separately. The easiest way to do so is by installing
Orbiter 2016. Optionally you can
also install high-resolution versions of the textures from the Orbiter website.
You should keep the Orbiter 2016 installation separate from your Orbiter git

To configure Orbiter to use the 2016 texture installation, set the
ORBITER_PLANET_TEXTURE_INSTALL_DIR entry in CMake. For example, if Orbiter 2016
was installed in C:\Orbiter2016, the CMake option should be set to
Alternatively, you can configure the texture directory after building Orbiter
by setting the PlanetTexDir entry in Orbiter.cfg.


Help files are located in the Doc subfolder (if you built them). Orbiter.pdf is the
main Orbiter user manual.

The in-game help system can be opened via the “Help” button on
the Orbiter Launchpad dialog, or with Alt-F1 while running

Remaining questions can be posted on the Orbiter user forum at


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