Towards the end of Transformers 4 Optimus Prime flew towards deep space without a ship, while in Transformers 3, the Autobots needed a big ship to travel to moon.

How is he able to do it? Was he upgraded?

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    Optimus Prime by himself isn't the same as the collective Autobots, so there's no reason to think he'd need to have been upgraded, or wasn't capable of doing whatever it is he does in Transformers 4 (I've only seen it once, and I don't remember much of it) in the previous movie. In Transformers 3 the point was to give the impression that all of the Autobots (who aren't necessarily capable of doing everything Optimus Prime was capable of doing) were permanently leaving Earth. – Anthony Grist Mar 2 '16 at 15:37
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    @AnthonyGrist what about the time when they were on the moon to retrieve the pillars? At that time they weren't showing anything they just need to use the shuttle to go to moon. If Optimus is so capable why didn't he go to the moon by himself. – Rishabh Sharma Mar 2 '16 at 16:26
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    Theres a difference between travelling and travelling in comfort. Prime demonstrates several times that the transformers can travel in space without a ship, but having a ship gives you a lot more capability to do stuff on the journey and when you reach the destination. – Moo Mar 2 '16 at 16:56
  • @Moo great point. There is no physical, biological, or medical reason that a human could not walk all the way across the Sahara Desert, but it is a lot more pleasant in a vehicle, or at least on a camel. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Jul 2 '17 at 2:07

The best guess is that Optimus obtained the rocket boosters when he pulled the sword of the Knights' Temenos from Lockdown's ship in the final act.

After pulling the sword where he said:

Recognize one of your Knights.

He gained armor and most likely other upgrades (such as whatever allowed him to KO Grimlock with a right hook).

After (notice armored forearms):
Transformer with armored forearms in a jungle landscape


Transformer without armored forearms in a rocky landscape

This is the 2nd form we see Optimus in during the movie. The 1st is the junker truck.

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