Space Engineers

Space Engineers

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Planet analysis: Atmospheres, gravity and environment.
By Trebal
This guide is made to explain and understand the environment of planets and moons and how the gravity and the atmospheres affect the thrusters. Knowing about this will help you in building your ships and to move around planets and moons.
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General: Planets and moons
First, we will make a basic analysis of each planet:

Earth:



Based on our planet. It has a dense and thick atmosphere, with enough oxygen to breathe without oxygen supports.
  • Bluish atmosphere, thin fog.
  • Varied terrain.
  • Multiple biomes: Ice poles, lakes, mountains, canyons, forests, deserts, etc.

Pros
  • There are only a few lakes, but they suppose a great resource of ice.
  • Breathable atmosphere.
  • Atmosphere dense and thick, enough to make efficient the atmospheric vehicles.

Cons
  • Strong gravity (1 G).
  • Hard to leave the orbit due to the gravity and it's range.

Moon:



Based on our moon. It doesn't have atmosphere and considering the fact that the terrain is quite flat, it's a good place for mining operations and for ships propelled by ion thrusters.
  • No atmosphere, no fog.
  • Flat terrain except for the poles, which are very rugged, and some crater areas.
  • We could consider 2 biomes: The 2 poles and the rest, which is a flat surface with some small hills and craters.

Pros
  • Weak gravity (0.25 G).
  • Very easy to leave the orbit.
  • No atmosphere, which means that ion thrusters work at 100% (See how thrusters works at Thrusters section).
  • The ice poles are a great resource of ice.

Cons
  • No atmosphere, which means that atmospheric thrusters don't work.

Mars:



Based on Mars (Wow, really?). It has the thinnest and less dense atmosphere of all the planets. It's also smaller than Earth and Alien. The terrain is similar as the moon. It has a big pole, very flat and composed by a very thin layer of snow.
  • Reddish atmosphere, no fog.
  • Quite flat terrain, except some crater areas and small hills.
  • We could consider 2 biomes: A big snow pole and the rest, which is a flat surface with some small hills and craters.

Pros
  • The gravity is weaker compared with the other planets (0.90 G).
  • Although the atmosphere is not very dense nor thick, the atmospheric vehicles will work (but worse than in other planets or moons).
  • A bit easier to leave the orbit compared with the other planets.
  • Flat terrain.

Cons
  • The atmosphere is not very dense nor thick: The atmospheric vehicles don't work so efficient.
  • The snow layer of the pole is not thick enough to be considered an efficient resource of ice.

Europa:



Based on the the sixth-closest moon of Jupiter, and the smallest of its four Galilean satellites. In Space engineers, Europa is the satelite of Mars. It's composed purely by snow and ice, except some stone traces and mineral deposits.
  • Bluish atmosphere, very thin fog.
  • Very flat terrain, except for a few fissures.
  • We could consider that there is only one biome: Ice and ice and more ice...

Pros
  • Weak gravity (0.25 G).
  • The atmosphere is not very dense so the atmospheric vehicles will work very efficient (only close to the ground).
  • Very easy to leave the orbit.
  • Very flat terrain.
  • Made entirely by ice, making this moon an almost infinite resource of ice.

Cons
  • Although the atmosphere is very dense, it's also very thin: The atmospheric vehicles can't fly very high and may get lost in the void if they leave the atmosphere.

Alien:



The only fictional planet. It has the densest and thickest atmosphere and also the strongest gravity. It's also slightly bigger than the others. The atmosphere contains a small amount of oxygen, but not enough to breathe without oxygen support systems. It has flora and fauna (Both are fictional). There is presence of sabiroids. It could be considered the most hostile and adverse planet of all.
  • Greenish atmosphere, thin fog.
  • Very varied terrain.
  • Multiple biomes: Ice poles and plains, desert, forest, high mountains, plains, lakes, etc.

Pros
  • Dense and thick atmosphere, which makes atmospheric vehicles will work very efficient (best planet for atmospheric vehicles).
  • Presence of lakes which makes a valuable resource of ice.
  • Presence of oxygen in the atmosphere. This oxygen is not enough to be breathed directly, but using air vents with depressurize mode and oxygen tanks it's possible to refine the air.

Cons
  • Presence of sabiroids.
  • Strong gravity (1.10 G).
  • Presence of sabiroids.

Titan:



Based on the largest moon of Saturn. Visually very similar to Mars, but with a dense and thin atmosphere, similar to Europa. There are also sabiroids like in Alien planet. Compared with other moons and planets, Titan has a very foggy atmosphere.
  • Reddish atmosphere, relative dense fog.
  • Flat terrain with some ice lakes.
  • We could consider 2 biomes: Ice lakes and the rest.

Pros
  • Weak gravity (0.25 G).
  • The atmosphere is very dense so the atmospheric vehicles will work very efficient (only close to the ground).
  • Very easy to leave the orbit.
  • Flat terrain.
  • Presence of thin ice lakes.

Cons
  • Presence of sabiroids.
  • Although the atmosphere is very dense, it's also very thin: The atmospheric vehicles can't fly very high and may get lost in the void if they abandon the atmosphere.
Atmospheres
Density and thickness.

First, we must distinguish two concepts: density and thickness.
  • Density: The amount of gas per unit volume. Affects the maximum power of atmospheric thrusters.
  • Thickness: Distance between the ground and the maximum altitude where there is still gas. Affects the maximum altitude (Also know as ceiling) of atmospheric thrusters.

A dense atmosphere does not implies a thick atmosphere. The density affects the thrust power while the thickness affects the maximum altitude.
For example, Europa's atmosphere at 0 meters from the ground is very dense compared with other planets and moons, but at 860 meters there is no atmosphere, while Mars has a less dense atmosphere at 0 meters but the atmosphere lasts to 6900 meters from the ground.

The following table shows thickness of the current atmospheres.

Planet
Thickness (Expressed in meters)
Earth
8900
Moon
No atmosphere
Mars
6900
Europa
860
Alien
8900
Titan
670

Sadly, there are no specific ways to measure the density of an atmosphere, but it can be estimated by the power of Atmospheric Thrusters.

This table shows roughly the characteristics of the atmospheres.

Planet
Characteristics
Earth
Dense and thick
Moon
No atmosphere
Mars
Thin
Europa
Very dense, very thin
Alien
Very dense, thick
Titan
Very dense, very thin

Oxygen presence

Also, note that the presence of atmosphere does not implies oxygen. Like in real life, atmospheres are composed by gases, but not necessarily contain oxygen.

The following table shows the oxygen presence in planets:

Planet
Oxygen amount
Earth
High
Moon
None
Mars
None
Europa
None
Alien
Low
Titan
None

So far the only planet who has breathable atmosphere is the Earth. The Alien planet has a low density of oxygen but is not possible to breathe without oxygen support systems. But an oxygen system can retrieve oxygen from the atmosphere and fill oxygen tanks.



This is a basic oxygen extractor: 3 air vents, 1 oxygen generator, 2 oxygen tanks and a power supply.
The air vents must be set to Depressurize. This will act like if they extract oxygen from a pressurized room with an infinite amount of oxygen. So basically, this system will extract the oxygen in the atmosphere and fill the oxygen tanks.
Gravity
The natural gravity of planets and moons will attract our ships to them. It's good to know about this because understanding this behavior will help us to control our ships, go out of orbit and more.

Maximum gravity strength
First let's see the maximum gravity of each of the planets and moons:

Planet
Gravity (Expressed in G)
Earth
1
Moon
0.25
Mars
0.90
Europa
0.25
Alien
1.10
Titan
0.25

As you can see, all the moons have a weak gravity (0.25).

Maximum gravity range
Now, let's see the maximum range of the gravity. This is basically the distance from the ground where the ships and other objects won't be affected by the gravity.

Planet
Maximum gravity range (Expressed in meters)
Earth
41800
Moon
2900
Mars
38500
Europa
3200
Alien
42700
Titan
3000

This values are very rounded and they are not very precise. May vary 100 meters or more.

Gravity decrease range
Finally, there is the range where the gravity starts decreasing. You should know that once reached the gravity decrease range, the gravity starts decreasing very quickly but then the decreasing rate reduces. There is an inverse exponential decrease.

Planet
Gravity decrease range (Expressed in meters)
Earth
6000
Moon
400
Mars
4100
Europa
670
Alien
5650
Titan
590

This information may be useful for the following:
  • Knowing the maximum gravity range, you can build a static station close to a planet.
  • When taking off from a planet, once reached the gravity decrease range, you can start reducing the thrust of the ship to save fuel and energy.
  • Knowing the gravity strength is important when you are moving heavy objects around a planet.
Thrusters
In this section I will explain how thrusters are affected by the atmosphere. It's important to know this when you build your ships, because the planets and moons are very different from each other and you will need specific configurations.

There are 3 thruster types:

Hydrogen Thruster
The most powerful. Requires a more complex system to work (Hydrogen tanks and conveyors) and uses hydrogen instead of electricity like the other 2. It is the best choice if you are going to build a ship such a shuttle that needs strong thrust to leave the orbit, a heavy planetary transport ship or you just want a fast and maneuverable ship. The thrust power is not affected by anything, which means that the power is the same in any environment.

Values expressed in KN. The values are the highest achievable thrust power.

Environment
Small ship, Small Thruster
Small ship, Large Thruster
Large ship, Small Thruster
Large ship, Large Thruster
Any
82
400
900
6000

Ion Thruster
The classic thruster. Works at 100 % in the void, but the power is reduced by the atmospheres. Note that the power is reduced by the atmospheric density, not by the gravity. The more dense is the atmosphere, more reduced is the power.

Values expressed in KN. The values are taken from the ground (altitude 0), considering the point where the atmosphere is more dense. The values are the highest achievable thrust power.

Environment
Small ship, Small Thruster
Small ship, Large Thruster
Large ship, Small Thruster
Large ship, Large Thruster
Void
12
144
288
3600
Earth
4
52
104
1300
Moon
12
144
288
3600
Mars
5
66
131
1600
Europa
4
43
86
1100
Alien
4
43
86
1100
Titan
4
43
86
1100

Atmospheric Thruster
This thruster only works on atmospheric environments, and the more dense is the atmosphere, more powerful is the thruster. With no atmosphere, the thrust power is 0.

Values expressed in KN. The values are taken from the ground (altitude 0), considering the point where the atmosphere is more dense. The values are the highest achievable thrust power.

Environment
Small ship, Small Thruster
Small ship, Large Thruster
Large ship, Small Thruster
Large ship, Large Thruster
Void
0
0
0
0
Earth
70
357
367
4700
Moon
0
0
0
0
Mars
54
278
286
3700
Europa
80
408
420
5400
Alien
80
408
420
5400
Titan
80
408
420
5400

Final conclusions and recomendations
So, knowing this, we can say the following:

Note that the hydrogen thruster will work better than anything else and always at the same power, but requires a more complex system and the capacity of the fuel is more limited compared with the other thrusters

  • Earth: The best way to move around this planet is by using atmospheric thrusters and ground vehicles. The ion thrusters don't generate enough thrust to keep a ship floating, but they can be used for a little thrust at laterals.
  • Moon: Atmospheric thrusters don't work, but the ion thrusters work at 100 % due to the absence of atmosphere. Still be aware that there's still a small attraction by the gravity. Also, take in mind that due the weak gravity, the ground vehicles will not stick on the ground like in the planets.
  • Mars: The ion thrusters are discarded at least for keeping the vehicles floating, but they work a little better than in the Earth. The ground vehicles work fine and atmospheric vehicles work enough efficient, but worse than in any other planet or moon.
  • Europa: Like in the Moon, keep in mind the that gravity is weak, but unlike the Moon, Europa has atmosphere. The atmosphere is very dense but also very thin. The atmospheric vehicles work very efficient close to the ground but due to weak gravity and the thickness, you could go out of orbit with an atmospheric vehicle, and lose it into the void.
  • Alien: The ground vehicles work fine like in the other 2 planets. The atmospheric vehicles work better than in any other planet or moon because the atmosphere is thick and dense and they will have strong thrust power and high ceiling. The ion thrusters are not recommended at all.
  • Titan: This moon is basically the same as Europa, but the atmosphere is even more thin.
47 Comments
infra-dan-accelerator unit 84725 Dec 18, 2023 @ 6:27pm 
u missed petram and trition. for those who are wondering,trition is another ice-heavy planet based on the biggest moon of neptune. oxygen level is low and temprature is freaze. the weather is snow snow and more snow...biomes:ICEY. i dont remember the gravity or the atmosvere. and has wolves. (i think)
A strange sphere Aug 3, 2021 @ 9:05am 
What are the sabiroids? Are they the spiders?
ryeomau Mar 2, 2021 @ 6:18am 
Alien and Titan has them neat spooders
eater of bees Jan 10, 2021 @ 12:24pm 
pertam and triton?
ryeomau Dec 25, 2020 @ 12:49pm 
Pertam has been added, might be worthwhile
DonCall Nov 3, 2020 @ 6:33am 
Only the informations about Triton is missing. Than it would be the best Guide in Web
TheDevBird Aug 29, 2020 @ 11:35am 
You said that there is an inverse exponential decrease of the gravity. What factor (b)?
y=9.8(1-b)^x
Anubis 1101 Jun 23, 2020 @ 6:33am 
wonderful and thorough guide! i started on the moon and had no idea the rest of it was flat.

ive been launching hundreds of meters in the air with my little moon rover, but i may consider moving to the border between the two biomes..
Onikage-056, God of Animatronics Apr 14, 2020 @ 4:17pm 
Sidenote about Titan: If you're not careful, you can make orbit just bouncing off the terrain at high speed... assuming the impact doesn't plaster you across the landscape.
aaueer Aug 29, 2019 @ 1:11am 
This is really helpful since there is basically no official in-game information on atmosphere