The Physics Of Flying ‘Space Fighters’

The notion of the ‘space fighter’ is a staple of science fiction, they play key roles in some of the most enduring sci-fi universes, and as it happens frequently the people behind these universes haven’t really given much of a though to how the design of a space fighter affects the way it flies and performs.

There are plenty of great space fighter games and within the genre of ‘spaceship’ games there are different flight models that are used – non-newtonian, semi-newtonian and full newtonian. With Cloud Imperium Games releasing a detailed dev blog on their spacecraft flight mechanics I wanted to demonstrate some of the physics within Kerbal space program. We start out in the atmosphere to demonstrate how real world fighter planes fly since this behaviour is aped in Star Wars. Then we go to the Mun and demonstrate various control systems seen in universes that support newtonian flight models.