This guide will be covering the details about the terminologies that are commonly used in Space Engineers. When you speak to other engineers or watch their videos, it is extremely likely that they will use complex Space terms.
What do you mean by progression and retrograde? What’s the difference between the dorsal and the ventral sides of the ship? In this guide, I will help you familiarize with the common terms that are used in the game.
Space Engineers Terminology Guide
There’s no “up” or “down” in space. Such terms are meaningless because there is no gravity at all. On Earth, “down” is the direction in which gravity pulls us. However, there is no gravity in space. Not everyone’s “down” is in the same direction, which could have disastrous consequences in battle. “How in the do I keep my crew oriented, then?” you may ask. Well, real-life space engineers have already solved this for us. Tell your mates to look at these instructions instead of talking.
Prow – The forward section of the vessel, which is normally built in such a way that the least surface area is exposed to enemy weapons. Many spaceships in the future are likely to be shaped by a pencil and hold their pointed end facing the enemy.
Stern – The rear portion of a vessel, usually where most engines are mounted. Enemies would have a much harder time hitting the engines if there are a hundred meters of steel in the way.
Note: The IRL vessel is likely to behave just like the craft in “The Expanse” and has to decelerate with its stern facing towards the prograde vector. This means that the battle would basically be an orbital match, with either side too scared to slow down or reveal their engines before they leave the effective range of combat. See the show’s various space wars as an example of perfect realism.
Port – On the right side of the vessel, 90 degrees clockwise from the prow.
Starboard – The left side of the ship, 270 degrees clockwise from the prow.
Dorsal – The top of the vessel, 90 degrees from both the port and the starboard.
Ventral – The bottom of the vessel, 180 degrees from the side of the dorsal. Landing gears are also coming here.
Note: The Port/Starboard and Dorsal/Ventral sides are typically symmetrical so that the vehicle’s thrust vector points directly through its center of mass. If this is not the case, the engines must gimbal (rotate their nozzles) to compensate for and keep the movement of the craft stopped. The game does this for us automatically, so it’s not that much of a problem compared to real-life rockets.
Prograde – The direction in which the vessel is currently travelling.
Retrograde – The opposite of the prograde.
Note: Prograde and Retrograde on every vessel will remain the same, regardless of the ship’s current heading, until the engines accelerate in a different direction. In terms of turning around and facing backwards or sideways, Newton’s Laws will still be traveling along the same vector.
Radial In / Out – Toward or away from the planet you’re circling.
Note: It’s literally possible to reach space in the game by going straight up and sticking a radial out, which is totally unrealistic since that’s not how orbits function. IRL, you will have to travel with the rotation of the planet at a speed of 7800 m/s, assuming an altitude of 200 km.
Normal / Anti-Normal – Vectors used to lift or lower the inclination of the orbit.
Note: Normal and Anti-Normal have almost no effect on the game, as orbital mechanics and Kepler’s orbital motion laws are absolutely violated at all times. It’s too hard to do something like the KSP.