A Quick Overview of Kerbal Space Program
Kerbal Space Program is a rocket enthusiast dream game where you can build your own space program. It is centered around the idea of little green men who wish to explore their home system of Kerbol, and do so using real rocket science.
For example, you need to ensure the delta velocity of your craft (Or total velocity) is high enough to achieve orbital velocity while maintaining a good thrust to weight ratio. You also need to ensure your center of mass is in a balanced location, even as the fuel drains during launch, or catastrophic unplanned disassembly may occur.
Or, you could just do that for fun, cause why not?
“That’s one small step for a Kerbal, one giant leap for Kerbal kind” – Jeb Kerman, on the Mun. If you are a fan of space and love to read about stuff that NASA, JAXA, SpaceX, or other space programs do, then this game might just be for you. In fact, Kerbal Space Program is one of the most realistic space program simulators out there. Not only is it realistic, but it is also very approachable, even if you aren’t a highly trained rocket engineer in real life.
This is made possible because of the light-hearted spin on the game – you play as the manager of a bunch of little green men, known as Kerbals, who just want to see what’s out there.
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What Can you Do in Kerbal Space Program?
There are a ton of things that you can do in Kerbal Space Program, but here are some of the things I enjoy doing:
- Design and build a Satellite network situated in Geo-stationary orbit (Or any orbit, for that matter)
- Design and assemble, in space, a space station like the ISS
- Create your very own Moon colony
- Visit a Jovian-like system with multiple moons & colonize them
- Capture Asteroids
- Create missiles that crash into and destroy your own space center
- Build an acrobatic atmospheric plane
- Create an SSTO (Single Stage to Orbit) Spaceplane
- And so much more – Your imagination is the limit.
By the way, that is before you add any mods. The best part about this game is that it allows you to get as in-depth as you want or keep things simple. You don’t have to min-max your rockets to succeed – you can go seriously overboard and have enough fuel to visit every single planet in the game in a single trip if you wanted to.
Or you could challenge yourself to make the smallest possible launch vehicle to meet the needs of the one task you set out to do. You make your own fun in this game – and boy oh boy, is it fun.
Getting Started – What You Need to Launch Your First Rocket
I’ve been playing this game since it first came out in alpha – In fact, I got in on the early access promise for free access to all future expansions of the game. During those early days, I had to battle against the bugs, and underpowered components. These days, things are far more balanced and easier to get into.
That said, I still crash a spaceship into the ground more often than I care to admit, creating an opportunity to plan a rescue mission to save any stranded Kerbals who did not meet their demise in the crash.
At the very basic start of the game, you really only need three things to launch your first rocket:
- A Command Pod
- Some fuel
- And an engine
- (Not needed to launch) a Parachute
That is the basics of every single creation in this game. Without these, there is no getting to space without exploiting some space-Kraken physics bugs involving decouplers, and control surfaces typically used to make planes. I recommend that you start with the basic methods at first, before trying these erm…exotic methods as they teach you how to fly a rocket through trial and error.
To launch your vehicle, you’ll want to press left shift, which increases the throttle level of your engine, and then hit Spacebar to engage it via staging. If you have everything balanced, it should take off straight as an arrow, and start to lean as little bit in a direction from drag, and the fact that the planet Kerbin is rotating.
Once your craft runs out of fuel, it will start falling back into the planet via Gravity, unless you managed to exceed its escape velocity. If you survive re-entry, you’ll want to deploy that parachute, when it is safe to do so. The parachute icon will be white if safe, yellow if risky, or Red if unsafe.
How Many Planets Are There in Kerbal Space Program?
|Eve||1 – Gilly||Very Hard|
|Kerbin||2 – Mun, Minmus||Trivial|
|Duna||1 – Ike||Moderate|
|Jool||5 – Laythe, Vall, Tylo, Bop, Pol||Moderate|
There are a total of seven planets that you can visit in Kerbal Space Program, some of which even have moons. When added together, you have a grand total of sixteen total orbital bodies for you to visit. You can even visit Kerbol, the star of the solar system within the game, but you can not land on it – your craft will sooner vaporize from the oppressive heat long before you get close to the surface.
Jool is a similar case to the Kerbol star in that it has no landmass for you to land on. If you attempt to land on Jool, you’ll simply explode at some point due to gravity essentially crushing your craft. That said, unlike the star, you certainly can create crafts that fly through the gas giant’s thick atmosphere with ease.
I tend to stick to Kerbin and the Mun / Minmus for my exploits, as doing missions for further away planets tends to take more time than I have available in a play session. Besides, time-warping past your maneuver node, or worse, getting all the way there, only to have a spontaneous, unplanned disassembly occur, can be frustrating, especially if you forgot to quick save.
How Streamable is Kerbal Space Program?
Due to the literal unending things that you can do and the widespread interest in this game, Kerbal Space Program is easily S Tier in terms of Streamability. There is almost no limit to what you can piece together into a stream. One day, you could be conducting scientific experiments, the next, you could be planning a complex slingshot maneuver like the ones used by the Voyager probes to visit multiple planets in a single trip using minimal fuel.
Take on historically accurate recreations of human space exploration feats in the expansion: Making History. Start on Career mode, with a focus on gathering scientific data that can be used to research new rocket parts. Dive into Sandbox mode and create the most ridiculous rocket you can imagine. Break Ground with robotic actuating parts that let you drill into the surface of planets and moons. All this together provides endless content creation opportunities, along with the potential to roleplay it out like a story.
Plus, there is a huge interest in this game among many people. Some schools have even utilized this game to introduce kids to the science of orbital mechanics using KerbalEDU, which until this game came out was difficult to explain to them in a way they can understand. It has even inspired some of them to take up the mantle of a rocket engineer, working for the likes of NASA, SpaceX, and more around the world.
Do I Recommend Kerbal Space Program?
Yes, I highly recommend this game to anybody who has an interest in space or rocket science.
Well, if you haven’t yet gathered from my earlier praise, then here – yes, I highly recommend this game to anybody who has an interest in space or rocket science. It is a ton of fun to build things and even more enjoyable to send them off on a mission. Meeting mission parameters is rewarding, and the little Kerbals have a charm to them that brings a smile to my face, even when impending doom awaits them in the next few seconds.
Of course, no game is perfect. For example, this game struggles to explain some of the more nuanced situations of orbital mechanics, such as, “At what height should you start to cancel your velocity to land on a planetoid with no atmosphere,” or, “Why are these wing attachments not going where I expect them to go? GAAH! Furiously taps w,s,a,d to try and orient the wing surface correctly”.
Then there are the times where physics decides to take a vacation, and your creation suddenly disintegrates for no reason, as though Thanos snapped his fingers. If there is one piece of advice you take from me, it is to quick save often. F5 is your friend!
Still, these issues are fairly minor; the physics bugs aren’t that common and are easily worked around when you are passionate about the game. If you can deal with these issues, you can have a blast playing Kerbal Space Program. Sometimes literally.
One Last Update – Kerbal Space Program V 1.12
Before Kerbal Space Program 2 comes out though, the original game will be getting one final update, available to all KSP owners. Check out this video by Matt Lowne showcasing everything they are adding.
Notable additions include:
- Create Folders for Craft Files
- Rotating Docking ports
- SpaceX inspired space suits
- Discover new launch sites
- Eloo and Bop Terrain surface revamp
- Detachable struts in EVA
- and more
Kerbal Space Program 2 Is Just Around the Corner
Like The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild 2, which is one of my favorite game series, Kerbal Space Program 2, is slated to be released in 2022. In this version of the game, you can expect to see improved graphics, revamped parts that explore sci-fi exotic propulsion methods like the Orion Engine, along with one of the biggest feature requests that the devs of Kerbal Space Program have received over the years: Multiplayer.
In addition, there is numerous quality of life improvements that make assembling a spacecraft infinitely more intuitive. They are also incorporating an in-depth tutorial process along with these improvements to further bolster the game’s approachability. This is a welcome addition for those of us who struggle to land on the mun intact to build a mun base.
I’m super excited for Kerbal Space Program 2, and can’t wait to get my hands on it – A review will soon follow its release. In the meantime, I really do recommend checking out Kerbal Space Program 1 for yourself, and experience a journey into space like no other game has done (that I know of). Or check out my review on Oxygen Not Included for another take on space colonization.