Saturday, December 03, 2005

SpaceShip Zero: X-15 for Orbiter

X-15 Seeing Stars at 113 km
Greg Burch has created some amazing Orbiter add-ons, most of which focus on late-21st century possibilities for space planes and space stations. His 3D modeling is really superb. But in September he released a historical add-on (working with Scott Conklin), the X-15 Project. It's a real beauty.

This is an example of a single add-on for Orbiter that could practically be a separate flight-sim product (if it didn't happen to be a free add-on for a free space flight simulator). Greg and Scott implemented four variations of the X-15, and obviously devoted a lot of time to flight modeling in addition to graphics modeling. The package includes the B-52 that launched the X-15 and a PDF "flight manual" that graphically simulates the 1950's era manual for the real thing. Talk about attention to detail.

Yes, 1950's is right - the Orbiter add-on was released very close to the 50th anniversary of North American Aviation receiving the contract to develop the X-15 (September 1955). With the later XLR-99 rocket engine, the X-15 set an altitude record of 107.96 km (354,200 feet) on August 22, 1963, well above the 100 km "edge of space." Playing with the add-on tonight, I made it to 113.2 km, but I neglected to save 5% of my fuel for the RCS controls on re-entry. The real X-15 had a separate fuel supply for the RCS thrusters, but the Orbiter one doesn't. Oops.

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