Anyone looking for a "fun" challenge? "Space, the Final Frontier"

Bored being at home Challenge

So, if you are bored sitting at home, and have time to burn between going for walks, helping the kids with school work, and trying to work, here is a bit of a Thought Provoking Challenge. Be aware that this challenge runs in real time, so you need to be prepared to spend the time.

SpaceX has developed an online Dragon to International Space Station docking simulator. Go to

Going through the docking scenario is interesting and to some of us, fun, but after a few goes at it, becomes pretty tame. But, the orbit mechanics of the simulation seems to be pretty good, so I came up with a couple of what I call challenges that may educate many of us, and possibly dispel some concepts that watching too much Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica have led us to believe.

The challenges are to take a tour of the outside of the ISS. First, take a short tour going under the ISS, and then back over the top, and back to where you started from, keeping the ISS in your view all the time.

The second challenge is to do the same tour, but this time along the full length of the ISS.

These can literally take hours to do. And, if you are not real careful, it is easy to lose control and become Lost in Space (LIS). The simulator is kind, in that when you get too far from the ISS, it ends the scenario (not really kind if you want the challenge of recovering from LIS). As there is no way to save your position if you want a break, I did find that if I stopped all rates, I could just leave the simulation running, and come back many hours later to continue. That in itself can prove to be a challenge.

Now, if you simply want a tour of the ISS without the challenge, you could always turn off gravity, and use the flat earth model. I haven’t tried those yet, as I am still trying to recover from LIS in the “real world”. In a past life, I used such simulations and scenarios to try to understand the complexities of satellite control,

I am a bit unconvinced of the full reality of the simulation. There is no cross coupling of thrust in any axes, nor in the line of thrust for translation. There also appear to be no outside forces at play, like solar pressure, or gravity effect on attitude. This certainly makes life much simpler when doing the docking simulation. But life gets much more exciting as you try to control the vehicle as you go around the ISS.


It is relatively similar to the UI in the capsule but not exactly the same. Here’s a screenshot from the livestream taken by Scott Manley.

1 Like

Great challenge idea Bgeeoz. I docked on my second try: going slow and getting your head around the controls are the key! But after you’ve done this, you’d be happy to have an automated docking system! Now I just need a few hours for the tour. Watching the whole approach/docking sequence has given me a bit of ISS burn-out. :wink:

When I saw the launch and then docking I was surprised to see the familiar UI on the panels. The sim is pretty darn good.

If you complete the tour, and want more challenge, try this. Select the high level for both sets of thrusters. Start random rates in each of the attitude control axes (Roll, Pitch , and Yaw). Then fire pulses in random transitional axes. Don’t overdue it, just a few in each axes.
Now, see if you can recover and dock.
Be aware that once the distance to ISS approaches 0.5km the scenario ends.
And, to help a little, if you change focus on your computer from the browser tab you are running the sim on, you can take a break and come back later.

1 Like