Jul 28

Introduction to Orbits


 Exercise ID:  BFM1-1 Introduction to Orbits

Exercise Type:  Flight Training

Exercise Map Type:  Free Flight, Broken Moon

Exercise Player Requirement:  Solo

Maneuver Featured:  Orbit (planar) (other names: circle-strafe)

Maneuver Difficulty:  Beginner

Maneuver Stability/Predictability Rating:  Medium



To practice the fundamental concept of using pitch and yaw to keep nose on target while using strafing and roll to manipulate direction of flight. Secondary: check both coupled and decoupled mode keybindings; gain familiarity with control scheme and ship handling.




Nose-centered, lateral-strafing circular flightpath around terraformer, with necessary adjustments to circle width and circle tilt for practice.




Common Errors:

  • In heavier ships, insufficient use of forward strafe result in overly-wide orbit or even arcing outward zoom.
  • Too much use of forward strafe, resulting in collision with terraformer solar panels.
  • Not having forward and backward strafe bound and easily accessible.
  • Not having roll or strafing controls bound for decoupled mode, which has separate bindings for everything.


Video Transcript:

Step one. At the center of the terraformer, there is a section that is shaped like a ball. Point your nose at the ball and keep it there for the remainder of the exercise. Note: be sure to zero your throttle. The default input to do so is holding or double-tapping “s”.

Step two. Use left or right strafe to fly sideways in an orbit around the terraformer.”E” is the default for right strafe, and “Q” is the default for left strafe.

Step three. Continue to use pitch and yaw to keep your nose pointed at the “ball” in the certain of the terraformer.

Step four. Use forward strafe to tighten your orbit around the terraformer. Control – “W” is the default for this, but we recommend you rebind it to just “w”.

Step five. Use backward strafe to widen your orbit around the terraformer. Control – “S” is the default for this, but we recommend you rebind it to just “s”.

Step six. Use left or right roll to “tilt” the orbit in a new direction. Note that despite your lateral strafe input, mostly vertical acceleration will accomplish this adjustment. ”A” is the default for left rolle, and “D” is the default for right roll.

Step seven. Decouple. “Caps lock” is the default input. This will change your strafe inputs from velocity to acceleration-based.

Step eight. Note that the IFCS is less responsive to strafe inputs. Depending on your ship, some forward strafe may be necessary to overcome this and maintain your previous range from the terraformer.

Step nine. Repeat forward, backward and tilt steps to test your keybindings, which are different in decoupled mode, and note difference in IFCS responsiveness.

Step ten. Repeat exercise as desired.


Background Information:

The reason it is more difficult to maintain a circular orbit in decoupled mode (as opposed to coupled mode) is because the pilot ends up depending less upon avionics (the IFCS).

To see this, one must understand that in order to maintain a circular orbit, a centripetal (center seeking) thrust (acceleration) must be applied in the direction of the center of the orbit.

Image from California State University Physics Department


If one can accept that, we can skip a crash course in classical mechanics and focus upon the effect of a coupled or decoupled circular orbit (CCO or DCO) has upon the way we fly.

— CCOs: In coupled mode, when laterally strafing around the terraformer (with the nose fixed on the terraformer), the IFCS automatically applies a substantial component of thrust in the forward direction.

      This behavior of the IFCS frees up the pilot from having to constantly apply the exact amount of centripetal thrust to maintain a circular orbit.

— DCOs: In decoupled mode, when laterally strafing around a terraformer (with nose fixed on terraformer), the IFCS will not automatically thrust in the direction of the nose and so the pilot must manually apply the centripetal thrust needed to maintain the circular orbit.

Take Away:  

A DCO is more challenging to maintain than a CCO because the pilot must not only strafe around their target, but they must also control the centripetal thrust towards the target.

In CCOs, the bulk of the centripetal thrust is automatically maintained by the avionics and so the pilot is mostly freed up to focus upon strafing the target. In situations where task loading is a serious concern (ie. combat), reducing the workload of the pilot is a key concern.



Producer, Pilot: Vin

Narrator, Pilot: Obscurehero

Technical Art: Livnletdye




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1 comment

  1. Space Moogle

    PSA: If you’re using a gamepad this maneuver will be very difficult to execute unless you re-map the roll from LT (Left Trigger) and the analog stick to LS (Left Shoulder) and the analog stick. The reason for this is that the left trigger is mapped both for roll as well as strafe so when you attempt to keep the nose pointed at the target your ship will just roll. Also, whatever group of weapons is mapped to X will not work while performing this maneuver unless you re-map it to something else, or place it in the same group as the ones that fire with the right trigger.

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