Microsoft Flight Simulator update could lead to a virtual Space Shuttle

A behind-the scenes video shows the head of Microsoft Flight SimulatorJorg Neumann made a field visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington D.C. The stated goal was to promote the game’s 40th anniversary update, which will add iconic aircraft like the Spirit of St. Louis and the Wright Flyer to the game come November. Speaking with Polygon just a few days before, Neumann also revealed that he and his team are contemplating an even bigger addition — Space Shuttle Discovery.

“I flew to Washington and had that exact conversation with people who actually have a Space Shuttle,” Neumann told Polygon in an interview. “I have to sign a deal and that’s going to take a while. However, the fundamental question is: Can we do it? Do we need to? I think we should.”

Microsoft Flight Simulator’s 40th Anniversary Edition will be a free upgrade for the base game. This edition will add a lot of new aircraft to the already solid physics system. It’s called the “Fluid Dynamics Simulation” module, and it’s incredibly important for the implementation of two new types of aircraft: helicopters and gliders.

Fixed-wing aircraft — the majority of which can be piloted in Microsoft Flight Simulator currently — generate lift by flying into the wind, using the powerful thrust generated by an engine to create forward velocity that pulls an airplane off the ground and into the air. The operation of helicopters, as well as rotary-wing aircraft, is very different. While the vehicle itself remains still, the helicopter’s engine spins its wings — called rotors — around the airframe to generate lift. You can adjust the tilt of the rotors to give the vehicle velocity. This style of flight calls for a more sophisticated physics simulation. Therefore, the November update.

Virtually simulating gliders requires more precision. That’s because these aircraft don’t actually have an engine at all. Pilots can rely instead on the velocity and airflow around them for their flight. AndLift their aircraftframes. Neumann has a profound understanding of gliders. He actually started flying gliders as an adult.

“That’s actually how I grew up,” Neumann said. “They teach you to look for certain sorts of strings of clouds that rotate a certain way. It’s hard to tell, but when you fly over there that’s where the air spirals up, and you can fly your glider into that and basically spiral out. Because the glider has no motor, this is how it gains altitude. […] You have to read the air, which is a bit different from what we’ve done so far.”

Things get a bit more complicated when you’re trying to land a glider. Since there’s no engine to boost you up and out of a bad landing, you basically get just one shot to hit the runway. Make a miscalculation and you’ll need to drop weight — in the form of ballast, usually water — in order to get enough lift to try and land somewhere else.

“I remember coming in on a field,” Neumann said. “I missed the airport, like I oftentimes did. All you see is trees and fields and you’re like, OK. And sometimes I had to drop some water to get over the trees just to land.”

Once Microsoft Flight Simulator Can accommodate gliders. It is capable of accommodating the Space Shuttle which can carry the Space Shuttle’s most complex glider, the Space Shuttle.

While NASA’s reusable launch vehicle rode into orbit atop massive liquid-fueled rockets, it returned to Earth without any power at all, punching through the upper atmosphere at 16,000 miles per hour before slowing to a measly 215 miles per hour at touchdown. And — unlike baby Jorg Neumann sailing over the Rhine River — Shuttle pilots didn’t have any ballast to drop or a nearby field big enough for a crash landing.

At this moment, there are no plans to launch the Space Shuttle Discovery. Microsoft Flight Simulator. But, after November’s update, the platform will have everything it needs — including, hopefully, an agreement with the Air and Space Museum — to make it happen.

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