To build Orbiter from its sources you need a C++ compiler able to create Windows binaries. Orbiter has been built successfully with Visual Studio 2019 Community

VS 2019 also has built-in support for CMake. If you use a different version or want to configure the Orbiter build separately, you also need to install CMake.

If you want to build the Orbiter documentation, you need a tool that can compile OpenDocument Text files (ODT) into PDF files. By default, the Orbiter build is configured to use LibreOffice for this, but Microsoft Word or other tools may also work, if you reconfigure the build parameters accordingly.

To also build the Orbiter Technical Notes, you need LaTeX. Multiple LaTeX distros for Windows are available, for example MiKTeX.

To build the code-level documentation, you need doxygen.


After cloning the Orbiter Git repository, you can either

  • Load the Orbiter download directory as a local directory into VS2019 or later.

  • Select Project | CMake Settings for Orbiter to check the build settings and make sure that all required components are found

  • Select Project | Configure Orbiter This will configure the CMake build files.

  • Select Build | Build All to build Orbiter and all its components.

Or, run CMake externally:

  • Create a build directory separate from the Orbiter source directory.

  • Run CMake, and select the correct source and build directories.

  • Select Configure, and pick the Win32 platform

  • Edit options as required.

  • Select Generate, then close CMake

  • This should have generated a solution file (Orbiter.sln) in the build directory. Load this into Visual Studio, and Build All.


The Orbiter git repository does not include the planetary texture files for most celestial bodies. You need to install these separately (e.g. by installing Orbiter 2016 and optionally downloading high-res texture packs from the Orbiter website). During CMake configuration, specify the location of the texture files in the ORBITER_PLANET_TEXTURE_INSTALL_DIR entry. For example, if Orbiter 2016 is installed in c:orbiter2016, the texture directory would be c:orbiter2016Textures.

Alternatively, you can set the planetary texture directory after building Orbiter by setting the PlanetTexDir entry in Orbiter.cfg.


  • If you get errors during build, in particular when building documentation (pdf from

odt or latex sources), try disabling multithreaded build support (limit to a single thread). Some of the document converters/compilers you are using may not be thread-safe.

  • CMake errors during build (cannot find system include files etc.). This may happen

when using the Ninja generator. You may need to install and configure vcpkg to allow Ninja to find the VS2019 toolset (

  • LaTeX build components not found: If using MiKTeX, make sure you install it for all

users instead of locally for a single user. CMake won't automatically find the single-user installation, so you would have to specify the paths to all components manually.

  • Problems launching Orbiter from the build directory: If you use the VS2019

generator, it puts binaries in configuration-dependent subdirectories (Debug/Release). This means that Orbiter may not find plugin DLLs. You need to run Orbiter from the install directory. The Ninja generator separates the Debug and Release builds at the top level and doesn't have that problem.