A recent discovery of mine has taken me into the realms of space travel and all the wonders associated with it. Released in 2000 by Dr Martin Schweiger, a computer scientist at University College London, Orbiter is a closed source freeware space flight simulator for Windows. Designed for space enthusiasts and general sim enthusiasts alike, it is function-orientated focusing mainly on maneuvering both realistic & fictional spacecraft. It is an ongoing project with numerous updates & add-ons, the most recent being September 2006. With the focus on being more a realistic sim than an arcade one, the functions included are impressive, for example; solar sailing, orbital, sub-orbital & interplanetary travel, docking & docking attachment systems, satellite retrievals, planetary motion, gravitational effect, atmospheric flight, and the option of being able to construct your very own space station. There is even a planetarium mode whereby the user can overlay ecliptic & celestial grids over a starmap, introduce coordinates, plot positioning & relay comm information. Visually the sim is superb given that it's a free programme. 3D virtual cockpits, MFD's (Multifunctional displays) & HUD's (Heads-up display) make up the screen visuals while commands are made via the keyboard, mouse and even joystick. Customising these views & commands to include more complex system instruments makes for a more realistic sim.
There is a rather steep 'learning curve' before you get the hang of piloting the many number of crafts & missions available, but like all sims, for those interested it is challenging and fun at the same time. I'm hoping my attempts at summarising this highly complex sim has been successful. However, you really should take a look at the official introduction of Orbiter for a more in-depth review, and of course the official website for the download, gallery's, requirements, reviews, etc.
For a general review of this sim, without spending too much of your work-time on non-work-time things, head over to that site we all know and love, wikipedia for the 'lowdown' on Orbiter as I believe you Americans call it. Oh, and here's one more tempting screenshot to finish off with... Till next time my friends.