SSM2207 is available as a digital download from the Space Shuttle Mission web site. The price is $49.95, and after you enter your credit card information you download a 118MB installation file. You may elect to pay an additional $12.50 USD and have your installation file delivered on a CD-ROM. However, you can easily burn the download to disk yourself.
After a simple install process, SSM2007 runs for the first time and presents the user with the activation screen. SSM2007’s copy protection system is based on a “Machine ID”, which is a unique key generated by your system’s hardware configuration. You input your Machine ID on the Exciting Simulations web site, and you receive an activation code via email. This works well at first, but comes with some potential pitfalls. As you can see in the above screenshot, there is an alarming option to purchase 3 “Registration Key Backup Activations”. More on copy protection later. As a miscellaneous note, you can only participate on the SSM2007 forums if you have purchased a copy of the game. It is an unfortunate decision to exclude prospective purchasers from interacting with the existing user base.
Once your copy of SSM2007 is activated, you can start the game. It is recommended to patch the game with the latest service pack, which at the time of writing is v2.45. Service packs, manuals, and checklists are all available for free download at the SSM2007 web site, which allows prospective users to get a feel for the game if they are considering a purchase. Game options are limited, with the user being able to change a few graphical settings, the simulation difficulty, and some joystick settings. As far as I can tell, SSM2007 uses your desktop resolution as its gameplay resolution, without any ability to change the sim screen resolution.
The Quick Start Manual (30 pages) walks you through the first half of the first mission, STS-1. In this mission, Columbia launched on April 12, 1981, and returned to Edwards AFB on April 14. STS-1 was the check-out flight for the Shuttle, and carried no cargo other than special flight sensors that were used as diagnostic tools. As such, it is the best mission in which a new user can dive into SSM2007.
The First Mission
All missions give the user the option of starting 1 hour and 50 minutes prior to launch, 1 minute prior to launch, in orbit, just prior to deorbit initiation, or just prior to initiating the landing procedures. The Quick Start Manual recommends starting this mission 1 minute prior to launch. When that option is selected, the mission loads and you see the shuttle on the launch pad, accompanied by a beautiful orchestral score. At certain notable points in each mission, such as launch and reentry, this music accompanies the gameplay. This is somewhat unique for a sim, and usually an unwanted feature, but in this case it complements the gameplay very well, acting as a mood-enhancing soundtrack. Sadly, the talented composer is not listed in the game credits.
Ready to Launch
The Quick Start Manual instructs the new user to sit tight for a while during the launch procedures, and sure enough the SRBs (solid rocket boosters) and main Shuttle engines ignite and the shuttle lifts off. The launch progresses automatically, with the SRBs and external fuel tank separating as planned. Eventually Mission Control radios up the first set of instructions, and checklist items appear at the bottom of the screen (assuming you are using Easy or Medium difficulty settings).
The first thing you see is:
OVERHEAD RIGHT (O8) panel: set all FWD RCS He PRESS A/B, TANK ISOL 1-2/3-4-5 and MAINFOLD ISOL 1/2/3/4/5 to OPEN.
Yikes! To be fair, the Quick Start Manual translates: In plain English that means “go to the O8 panel by using the Main Cockpit View and move the required switches/knobs to the required position.” However, any doubt that this is a button-pusher study sim should be eliminated at this point.
As you progress through the mission, you can use the “time skip” function to speed along OMS burns, doors opening and closing, etc. Or, if you wish, you can let things play out in real time.
Payload Bay Doors Closing