Guide: Kerbal Space Program
So your finally going to start playing, what's the first thing you should do?
First thing you should do is visit Mission Control (it's the small building beside the Rocket Hangar). Missions are your main source of money in the game. At the beginning you should have simple missions available (Note you can only activate 2 until you upgrade your facility!) like Testing the Flea rocket on the launch pad (Tip: Flip the rocket upside down using the D-pad or Triggers or lower it's thrust and Fuel by clicking B during assembly. This way you save the rocket and not waste money) or escaping the atmosphere etc. These are the missions you need to be accepting early on!
Secondly start collecting Science. To collect science in the beginning you have two methods;
Goo Canisters. Attach 2 of these to your Command Pod and when your in a certain area use the cursor to hover over it and Click B to open up the parts menu. From here you can collect the science and click on "Keep Report" (Big Green button with symbol of clipboard)
Crew Reports. Click B whilst hovering over the Command Pod to bring out the menu and choose "Crew Report" then "Keep Report"
Note: the Science is only retrieved when you Recover the Vessel! It will not count if the vessel has been destroyed. Alternatively you can send the information via comms (The Blue button below the Keep Report button) but you will loose about have the science using this method.
Early Game Science
At the beginning it can seem a bit hard to find new Science to collect. Once you collect a certain piece of Science from a certain are that's it, that experiment will not give you more science in that same area but don't fear! There are a handful of new areas a stones throw away from Launch Pad, in fact the launch pad is one of them!
All different facilities in the Space Centre count as new areas! You can collect Science from the Launch Pad, Runway, Mission Control, Astronaut Complex etc etc. They can get a bit tricky to get to but a single "Flea" Rocket with some fins, command pod, and good canisters should do the trick.
Once you've collected all the Science form around the Space Centre you can concentrate on collecting Science from around Kerbin. There are 9 different Biome you can collect Science form in Kerbin.
Once you've finished collecting Science from Kerbin it's time hit the atmosphere and space!
First things I suggest upgrading when you have the funds are the following:
Astronaut Complex - this will give you access to EVA's (another type of science experiment)
Rocket Hangar - Will let you build rockets with more parts
Launch Pad - Will let you launch heavier rockets
Tracking System - Will allow tracking of certain objects
Mission Control - Will allow you to activate more than 2 missions at a time
In the Research and Development facility you can use your science points to unlock new parts. I would suggest first unlocking the science parts. This unlocks the Science Pod which you can use to gather more science (it's a different experiment to the Goo Canisters). Also you should unlock the basic rocketry parts to start making your way to orbit!
Note - Administration
In career you can impalement strategies for payoff's. For example "Outsource R&D" will take a percentage of funds and convert it to Science etc. I still haven't looked into these extensively so unfortunately I cannot give you much info on this.
So now you should be well on your way and have an understanding on what you need to do in order to progress but what's the next step? where do I go from Kerbin? Well I have't ventured too far out yet but I can tell you this. After gaining all possible Science form Kerbin you need to venture out into space.
Your first goal is the atmosphere. conduct experiments while flying over kerbin
Before continuing you should go back and do some more tutorials, there are 3 tutorials to help you with orbiting!
Secondly Kerbins Orbit. Get into Orbit around Kerbin and again conduct experiments around there
Thirdly deep space around Kerbin. When your in orbit around kerbin make your orbit bigger to get into deeper space and conduct experiences there.
Fourth The Mun. Orbit the Mun first and get the experiments from there. Then plan a different rip to land on it to conduct experiments on the surface
Fifth , get your ass to Minnus! This is where I am currently!
(These last 2 steps can be swapped over as other have suggested)
So there you have it, hope it helps you on your journey into the dark abyss!
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
10 steps to the Mun and back
After four long years in beta, Kerbal Space Program has been officially released as version 1.0. This is an intimidating game full of real science and engineering to learn. Even with endless hours to learn the ropes, it won’t appeal to everyone. However, if you like tinkering and simulation-style games, Kerbal Space Program may come to dominate your free time. So, how do you get started? Check out these ten tips and you’ll be go for launch before you know it.
Play the tutorial and take it slow
You might be tempted to think that getting from one planet to another in a rocket is simply a matter of charting an intercept course and burning fuel. Ah, if only it were that easy. Traversing the emptiness of space is actually all about controlling your orbit.
Playing the tutorial before you start building rockets is a good idea. After all, even the best designs will crash and burn (literally) if you don’t know the basics of piloting. In the tutorial, you’ll learn how to read the nav ball, burn at perigee and apogee, perform a Hohmann transfer, and more.
Your first few rockets ought to be simple and cheap so you can practice without blowing up anything (or anyone) important. Work up to the complicated stuff gradually — reach space, orbit Kerbin, build satellites, and so on. Most people who try Kerbal Space Program never even make it to Kerbin’s closest moon, conveniently called Mun. Keep a cool head and you can be one of them.
Choose the right game mode
In Kerbal Space Program, you manage a space program on the planet Kerbin, which resides in a solar system not unlike our own. There are small rocky planets, moons, and gas giants to explore. There are three ways to play: sandbox, science, and career.
Sandbox has all technologies unlocked and you have unlimited funds to build your rockets and space planes. In science mode you begin only with basic rocketry technology and unlock more parts by exploring, taking readings with instruments, and collecting samples. You still don’t have to worry about money in science mode, though.
Finally, there’s career mode, which is the “real” game. You unlock technology with science points, but those rockets are expensive! You have to earn cash to pay for your launches by completing contracts (randomly generated missions) and implementing administrative policies. This mode is more challenging, but also much more fun.
Failure is part of the fun
Your first rocket will probably blow up. Heck, numbers two and three are probably at risk too. Sometimes figuring out why a design failed is as fun as building and flying a working one. Kerbal Space Program teaches you not to fear failure, and you can always revert a flight to before you blew it up and try things differently.
Even when a mission goes wrong and your brave Kerbalnauts are stranded, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Now you get to design and launch a rescue mission.
Mind your center of gravity and aerodynamics
The building interface in Kerbal Space Program includes a tool that shows you a rocket’s center of gravity. Use this to make sure you aren’t wasting time trying to get a top-heavy design into space. This is one of the primary reasons your early designs will fail. You also need to take into account how that center of gravity will change as your fuel tanks are emptied.
If your center of gravity is off, you’ll have trouble aiming the rocket in the right direction. RCS thrusters and reaction wheels can help you wrestle a somewhat awkward design to its destination, but that’ll only get you so far.
Aerodynamics really matter in the big 1.0 update. Previously, you could get just about anything into orbit if it was balanced well, but now you need to make sure your payload doesn’t have too much drag. Start by making your rockets shaped like a rocket. Simple. Also, make use of the new procedural fairings to cover the payload and make it more efficient for the ascent stage.
When in doubt, add struts
Even if you’ve come up with a well-balanced design for a rocket, you might find it’s a little droopy on the launchpad. Just because two parts are physically connected inKerbal Space Program doesn’t mean they will stay that way under acceleration. Luckily, there are struts.
These parts are in the structural tab when you’re assembling your craft. They are especially useful for strengthening the connection between stages where your docking ports or decouplers act as a weak point. Simply attach them anywhere you need a little more support. They weigh very little and will automatically disconnect to release stages.
You aren’t dumb, docking is hard
You can only get so much mass into orbit at a time, and that means you might occasionally have to assemble larger craft in orbit or refuel at a space station (which you also have to build). Doing all these things requires docking two craft. It involves very precise control of your orbit, speed, and angle of approach.
Your first attempt at docking will be discouraging, as this is one of the first advanced skills you learn in Kerbal Space Program. Just look up some tutorials on YouTube (here’s a good one) and give it a try. Once you sort out the steps and learn how to read your orbital map, it won’t seem so intimidating.
Pay attention to delta-v
The delta-v of a rocket is its ability to change velocity, and it’s the key to knowing how big to make a rocket. If you want to get really sciency, you can do some math to calculate the delta-v of your designs, which is a function of the mass of your rocket and the amount of thrust it can produce. Kerbal Space Program is designed to be extendable, so there are mods you can add that crunch the numbers for you.
The delta-v figures for reaching various destinations in the solar system are posted all over the internet, so it’s a relatively simple matter to design the right rocket for a task. Just make sure you’re efficient. Use multi-stage designs to dump dead weight so it doesn’t drain your fuel.
Level up your Kerbals
There are three different classes of Kerbalnauts: pilots, engineers, and scientists. Every manned mission needs a pilot, but the other Kerbals serve their purpose too. Scientists increase the value of data you send back to Kerbin, and engineers can repair your craft if something breaks. A fully leveled pilot also has more control over vectors in flight. The catch is that they need to have experience first.
The level system was added fairly recently and adds a little incentive to keep your Kerbals alive. They gain a few experience points for orbiting, landing on planets, planting flags, and so on. Make sure you don’t always fly the same Kerbals or you might find yourself in trouble when a rescue mission comes up. Basically, make sure you’ve got a deep bench.
One of the big additions to version 1.0 is resource mining, and it can totally change the way you play this game. Ore is available in various quantities all around the solar system, and with the right equipment, you can mine it and produce fuel. This allows you to plan extended missions because you don’t have to fly all your fuel up from Kerbin.
Mining equipment is heavy and oversized, but that’s probably intentional. There are storage containers, drills, and scanners. It takes a lot of planning to set up a viable mining operation, but it wouldn’t be any fun if it were too easy. Before you can find the best ore deposits, you need to send a scanner to survey each body, but once you do, you can set up refueling depots and expand your reach.
As mentioned above, Kerbal Space Program is very mod-friendly. The stock game has filled in the feature gaps over the years, but there are still plenty of cool mods. Some of them change the gameplay, and others add new parts to augment your vessels.
You should probably check out MechJeb, which can be used to display detailed information about your spacecraft and also includes various autopilot features. MechJeb can automate a lot of tasks if you let it, but I think it’s best used to speed up some of the tedious bits of the game. For example, some low-thrust, high-efficiency engines might require you to execute a burn of several minutes to alter your orbit. Why not let MechJeb do that for you?
Kerbal Alarm Clock is also a valuable mod that reminds you when you need to check in on a mission. As you get deeper into Kerbal Space Program, you’re going to launch missions that take years of game time. Rather than speed up time and wait around, you can do other things and come back. Kerbal Alarm Clock makes sure you don’t forget.
If you really just want to play around with Kerbal Space Program and don’t care about “rules,” there’s Hyperedit. This mod allows you to alter anything about your orbit or location of ships, asteroids, and even planets. It can be a lot of fun to play around with, but also handy for compensating for any bugs you might come across.
One final word of warning, mods that add new parts to the game can cause issues when KSP is updated. If they aren’t compatible, you’ll have to wait for the mod developer to update. Otherwise, the game simply won’t load any craft you’ve built that include those parts.
If you follow the above steps, we don’t guarantee that you’ll become the most decorated Kerbalnaut the world has ever known, but we do guarantee that you’ll get to live longer than most of your Kerbalnaut peers.
Xbox One Controls
Kerbal Space Program - Xbox One Controls
LB: Left Bumper RB: Right Bumper LB/RB: Left Bumper or Right Bumper
LS: Left Stick RS: Right Stick
Flight General Help
Toggle Flight Control Mode
LB/RB + Tap Y Button
Toggle Status Screen
Long Tap Menu Button
Long Tap B Button
Tab B Button
Advanced Stage (Stage Mode)
Tap A Button
Toggle Rotation/Linear Mode (Docking Mode)
Tap A Button
LB/RB + Tap LS
Toggle Nav Ball
LB/RB + Long Tap X Button
Toggle Map View
LB + Tap RB
LB/RB + Long Tap B Button
Focus Next Vessel
LB/RB + D-Pad Left
Focus Previous Vessel
LB/RB + D-Pad Right
LB/RB + D-Pad Down
LB/RB + D-Pad Up
Tap X Button
LB/RB + Tap A Button
Lock Launch Stages
LB/RB + Long Tap A Button
Scroll Icons Up
Scroll Icons Down
Quick Select Menu ( Action Groups located here)
Tap Y Button
Tap Menu Button
Time Warp Increase
LB/RB + Tab B Button
Time Warp Decrease
LB/RB + Tap X Button
Tap View Button
LB/RB + Tap View Button
LB/RB + Tap RS
LB/RB + RS Up
LB/RB + RS Down
LB/RB + Long Tap RS
Tap Y Button
Space Centre Help
Move Speed 0
LB/RB + Tap A Button
Move Speed 1
LB/RB + Tab B Button
Move Speed 2
LB/RB + Tap X Button
Move Speed 3
LB/RB + Tap Y Button
LB/RB + D-Pad Up
LB/RB + D-Pad Down
LB/RB + D-Pad Left
LB/RB + D-Pad Right
LB/RB + LT
LB/RB + RT
LB/RB + Tap RS
Tap B Button
Pitch Part Up
Pitch Part Down
Yaw Part Left
Yaw Part Right
Roll Part Left
Roll Part Right
Reset Part Rotation
LB/RB + Tap B Button
LB/RB + Long Tap A Button
LB/RB + Long Tap X Button
LB/RB + Long Tap B Button
LB/RB + Long Tap Y Button
Symmetry around Vessel/Part
LB/RB + Tap LS
Tap X Button
LB/RB + Tap X Button
LB/RB + Tap Y Button
Camera Translate Mode (SPH Only)
LB/RB + Tap RS
LB/RB + D-Pad Left
LB/RB + D-Pad Right
Scroll View Up
LB/RB + RS Left
Scroll View Down
LB RB + RS Right
Flight Rocket Controls Help
Trim Pitch Down
LB/RB + Hold LS Down
Trim Pitch Up
LB/RB + Hold LS Up
Trim Yaw Left
LB/RB + Hold LS Left
Trim Yaw Right
LB/RB + Hold LS Right
Trim Roll Left
LB/RB + Hold LT
Trim Roll Right
LB/RB + Hold RT
Rover Movement Help
Wheel Throttle Down
Wheel Throttle Up
EVA General Help
Tap A Button
Hold Y Button
Toggle Movement Mode
LB/RB + Tap X Button
Toggle RCS Pack
Tap X Button
Tap B Button
Long Tap B Button
Long Tap A Button
LB/RB + Tap Y Button
EVA Movement Help
Before you start!
Before you embark on your career you should really do the first 2 or 3 in game tutorials. Career mode will not hold your hand! It will chuck you into the deep end assuming you know how to play so playing through the first few tutorials is absolutely vital! It shows you stuff from basic building to flying, stuff you should know before embarking on career.
So you've done some training, done some studying and your ready to start your KSP career. When you start you will get some info text popping up showing you how to navigate the Space Centre and explaining what each building is (if you click on it) etc and that's it, after that you are left to fend for yourself. So what do you do?
Well if you're like me you will go into the hangar and waste all your money launching rockets into the atmosphere with no plan at all but hopefully you aren't. The first thing you need to know about career is that you're free to play however you like (it is a sandbox game after all) so there is no set path. This is amazing for experienced players but for new players like you and I it's a bit overwhelming and can leave you feeling lost.
What's my goal??
In career mode there is no real end goal (that I know of, apart from unlocking all parts and upgrading all facilities). Your aim however is to gain as much money, science and lastly reputation as possible
Money is used for building rockets and upgrading your buildings.
Science is used to unlock parts
Reputation give you better mission as you progress
In essence you want your career mode to end up being like sandbox mode, that in my books is a career win. To have a fully functional and profitable Space Centre.
How-to Series : 1 – For Science!
So I’ve recently been sucked into this game called Kerbal Space Program. It’s basically a rocket science simulator game; the story is that these little green guys called Kerbals want to explore their solar system. You can view it in all its glory by starting a game and going to the Tracking Center building. You can zoom out and in with your mouse wheel, and rotate your view by right-dragging. You may notice some “Unknown objects” near Kerbin’s solar orbit; ignore those for now. You may notice that their solar system resembles ours quite a bit; there is Kerbin: home, the Earth analog, location of the Kerbal Space Center, and where you’ll start all your missions from. It has a tidally-locked grey rock orbiting it called the Mun, which is often visible in the sky at night. The nearest planets are Eve, a planet with a thick atmosphere much like Venus (but is purple), and Duna, a red desert planet much like Mars. Their solar system is somewhat smaller than ours though; and there are notable differences, like Minmus, Kerbin’s second moon; it is smaller and more distant, and hardly visible from the planet itself.
(click to zoom) Fig 1: Ripe for conquest!
Incidentally when you start a game you’re given the choice of Sandbox, Science, or Career. Basically,Sandbox gives you all the rocket parts available in the game, Science will start you off with only basic parts, and require you to accumulate “science” around the solar system to unlock more parts with. Career is much like Science, but also tracks the Funds and Reputation of your space program. Launching rockets will cost you funds, and reputation is lost if any of your Kerbals gets killed in the line of duty. In Career mode you earn funds and reputation (and some science sometimes) by completing missions, given to you from the Mission Controlbuilding. (If you view older material about KSP you may find a “career” mode that only has science; this is because what we know as science mode used to be called career mode, while career mode got new stuff added to it). Science mode is good for a first game; it gives you the freedom to explore and relaunch missions that you’ve already completed to gain more confidence in them. You can also try Sandbox, but you’ll probably be overwhelmed by the sheer number of rocket parts available to you. Incareer mode, due to funds, you have the pressure to do something with every launch, probably completing at least one contract each time, and wringing out every last science point you can get from that launch (at least in the beginning; later on funds become easier to come by). It does, however, have a nice tycoon-game feel to it, and puts you in certain interesting situations that would take some setup if you wanted to recreate them in Science or Sandbox mode. My personal recommendation is to play all three at once; learn how to construct rockets and do things like getting into orbit etc. in Science, apply what you’ve learned in Career, use Sandbox to test things you haven’t unlocked in Science mode, or to try out the “stock” vessels preloaded in the game (they aren’t too useful at teaching you how to design rockets in Science and Career mode, however, as they use parts from all over the tech tree). This series will be written for both Science and Career mode; if something here only applies or works better in one mode or the other, it’ll be noted.
Anyway, back to “wringing out every last science point”, and the title of this chapter. You’ll find that even in the more-relaxed Science mode, you may be at a loss as to what exactly you need to do to start getting some science points. Well, basically, science points are earned by performing experiments during missions, and either transmitting it, or bringing it home safely. Each experiment may be done in various situations for a new entry in your Research and Development lab. The “Science” tutorial included in the game gives you a starting point, but leaves out important details as to exactly what experiments are available to you and how/when to perform them. (Incidentally the included tutorials kinda have this feel throughout; they’re helpful, but there are gaping holes; they teach you how to build a rocket, how to fly it, then suddenly they’re teaching you how to do orbital maneuvers… what’s glaringly missing ishow to construct a spaceworthy vessel and get into orbit in the first place. Later they also teach you how to transfer yourself from a Kerbin orbit to a Mun orbit… but then the next tutorial starts you on the surface of the Mun ready to get back to Kerbin, skipping the entire “landing” thing. This seems to be a conscious design decision to encourage player experimentation, but it can be frustrating. Well, at least it gives me lots of things to write for this series.) You may be able to discover some of them for yourself by mucking about, but the science points required for each tech tree level quickly grow, and you may find yourself in somewhat of a stall, as simply repeating activities in the same situations will give you rapidly diminishing returns, and you may not have enough science points to unlock the parts that may be helpful to get yourself into new situations.
Well… you can actually get quite a number of science points without launching a single rocket! This unlocks more techs to give yourself some freedom when designing your rocket. First off, go to your Vehicle Assembly Building. Then click on a Command Pod Mk1, found under the Pods category. Your screen should look something like this:
(click to zoom) Fig. 2 One little pod
Then click the green launch button near the upper right corner of the screen. Yes… this thing ain’t going anywhere; but there is science to do! First, right click on the pod itself and click “crew report”. Then hover over your little kerbonaut at the bottom right of the screen (get to know Jebediah Kerman; he’s a very enthusiastic kerbonaut, and is typically the first to hop onto any ol’ vessel you build, no matter how dangerous it looks) and click “EVA”. This stands for “extra-vehicular activity”, and will cause him to exit your pod. Then rightclick on him and click “EVA report”. You’ll likely see “EVA report while flying over Kerbin’s Shores”… this is due to an anomaly in the game, where your kerbonaut is considered “flying” because he is just slightly off the ground, hanging onto a ladder. Anyway click on the green“Keep Data” icon with the clipboard on it (there is also a“Transmit” button, but you need an antenna for that), then right click on the pod and click “Store Experiments”. Then hop off the ladder with Space(keys may be rebinded from Settings under main menu; this guide will use the default keys except where noted). Note that you can walk around on the outside using theW, A, S, and D keys. Rightclick on Jeb again, and click EVA report yet again; now that his feet are on the ground, it should say “EVA report on the Launchpad” (note that your kerbonaut can only carry one EVA report with him at a time; if you didn’t “Store Experiments” earlier, you will be asked if you want to overwrite it). Note that you can also “Take Sample”; this takes a dirt sample of the ground when you’re landed. You can also plant a flag if you want, but the launch pad will be cleared every time you use it. Go back to your pod and reenter it with F. Then hover over your altimeter at the top and click “recover vessel”.
Tada; you have earned your first science points! Go back to your Research and Development building. The only tech you can research at the start is Basic Rocketry, so go ahead and research it. Note that three more techs are now available for research. Leave them be for now; it’s time to go back to your Vehicle Assembly Building. Go and add the Mystery Goo Canister to the side of your little pod… then “launch” the thing yet again. Right click on the canister, and click “Observe Goo”, this will give you a “Mystery Goo Observation on the Launch Pad”. You can try a crew report and EVA report, but note that they give no science. Getting another sample of the ground does give you some science though; note that it is much less than the first time round. You see, some experiments (Crew report, EVA report) are only productive the first time you do it, while others (Mystery Goo, Ground Sample) can be repeated but will give rapidly diminishing returns. So go ahead and relaunch this “mission” a second time; you may be able to wring fractions of science points out of the third and fourth time, but you may feel it isn’t worth your time to do so.
We’re still not done yet though. Note that most of these (except the “flying” one) mentions the Launch Pad. This is one of the many “biomes” around Kerbin (“shores” is another); doing an experiment in a new biome is considered a whole new experiment, and earns you more science points! We’re not going to walk around though; Kerbin isn’t quite as big as the real Earth, but it is plenty big nonetheless, and traversing it by foot will take you ages. Instead, go to the Spaceplane Hangar. We’re not going to actually construct a plane for quite a while; they’re harder to design, control, and land safely than rockets, not to mention you don’t have suitable parts unlocked; but you can use the same immobile Command Pod trick. Except that you may note that it is placed in the sideways position!… that’s because it thinks you’re going to build a plane. To fix it, click on the pod and tap W to rotate it. You can now attach the Mystery Goo Canister to it and perform your experiments. Note that the Runway is considered a whole new biome to experiment in. Well, except the “flying over Kerbin’s Shores” bit; the parts of the space center each are considered their own biomes, but they uniquely do not apply to the “flying” sphere. Let us also perform an experiment of our own; it won’t gain us any science points, but it demonstrates something that would be useful later on. If you do a “Crew Report” and keep it, and then try to do a Crew Report again, note that it asks us if we want to overwrite it. Go and do an EVA again, right click on the pod and click “Take Data”. Now reenter the pod. If you try to do a Crew Report again, note that it will let you without overwriting your previous one! There is no benefit to having two identical Crew Reports, but what this means is that on your travels to the atmosphere, space, and beyond, if you encounter a new situation, you can do a Crew Report, then do an EVA, then take an EVA Report (and Sample if you happen to be landed), then Take Data before reentering. This will then allow you to do it all over again if your ship gets into a new situation.
This technique works in both Science and Career mode. You may think that “launching” these missions will waste precious starting money in Career mode better spent fulfilling contracts… but it isn’t so. You see, when you recover a vessel, you get funds back based on the surviving parts, and how far from the Kerbal Space Center you are. Well… all your parts are still right there on the launch pad or runway, so you get back 100% of your cost, so this science is essentially absolutely free! (Well if you’re playing on moderate or hard difficulty, you needed to pay to unlock the Mystery Goo Canister… but that is something you’d eventually have done anyway.)
A good tech to spend your science points on is Survivability. This unlocks the LV-909 Liquid Fuel Engine, a small but efficient engine that would be very useful when we start building orbital rockets, and also leads to the Science Tech node, which unlocks a new science part.
On the next part of the series, we will actually launch some rockets, and do some more science! If you’re on Career mode, we’ll also complete our first contracts and earn some funds.
Halfway to Anywhere (Orbit Kerbin)
In this chapter you will learn:
- To have a vessel orbit Kerbin, then return to the ground safely
- The difference between liquid-fuel engines and solid-fuel boosters
- How to “tweak” parts
“If you can get your ship into orbit, you’re halfway to anywhere.” — Robert Heinlein
In this chapter, you will put your first ship into orbit of Kerbin, do some more science, and return safely.
First off, go to the Research & Development Center. Ensure that General Rocketry, Survivability, and Science Tech are researched. Science Tech unlocks a new experimental tool, the SC-9001 Science Jr. You know the drill; you can “launch” vessels with nothing but a pod and a Science Jr to get more science points from the Launchpad and Runway.
Getting into orbit will require a vessel that is a little more complicated than the ones you built in the previous chapter. You can either try to recreate it from the picture and description below.
This is what the vessel looks like:
The top consists of a Command Pod Mk1 with a Mk16 Parachute on top of it, as usual. Below it is a TR-18A Stack Decoupler, then below that is an FL-T100 Fuel Tank, an FL-T200 Fuel Tank and an LV-909 Liquid Fuel Engine. Place three SC-9001 Science Jrs symmetrically around the fuel tank. Below it are two layers of alternating TR-18A Stack Decouplers and RT-10 Solid Fuel Boosters, similar to the K-2. Below that is another TR-18A Stack Decoupler, then a Rockomax BACC Solid Fuel Booster.
Adjust your staging. Ensure the stages are properly ordered from the bottommost booster to the topmost engine, and that they are paired with the decoupler directly below them.
Stage 0 (topmost) should contain the parachute and topmost decoupler.
If you remember the K-2 launch, you may have noticed reentry effects going upward as well as downward. We don’t want that on this craft, as it’s a sign of extremely high drag. We thus have to control our thrust on the upper stages.
Right click the topmost RT-10 Solid Fuel Booster and set the Thrust Limiter to 60%. (Some parts can be “tweaked” this way; you may note that you can also adjust the amount of fuel it has, for example) Likewise, the second-topmost booster should have the Thrust Limiter set to 90%. Solid boosters, unlike liquid engines, cannot be throttled or turned off, so this is the only way to control their thrust.
Name your vessel (from now on, vessel names in this guide will be descriptive, sometimes followed by a “nickname”. I named this one ‘Kerbin Orbiter “Fastok”’. This helps with remembering what each vessel is for when loading). The cost should be 8,037 funds.
You may want to go to the Space Center view, press Esc, and save your game before launching (I generally save to “prelaunch” before launching a mission, and “mission acc” after completing it. Do not rely on Revert Flight always being available; it becomes unavailable after a certain amount of time, and it is possible that the game might crash or you might have to exit the game in the middle of your mission.)
OK, now we can launch the vessel! Go back to the VAB, ensure the Fastok is loaded, and click the Launch button.
Wait a few seconds for it to load, then Press T to engage SAS.
Press Z to set throttle to full. Note that solid fuel boosters cannot be throttled or turned off. However, we want the LV-909 to be activated at full power as soon as the last booster drops.
Press Spacebar to launch!
The bottom solid fuel booster should be activated and propel you upward. Use your first Science Jr. kit to complete the lower atmosphere experiment. PressSpacebar again as soon as each booster runs out to activate the next one.
By the time the first two boosters run out of fuel, you should be at about 10,000m.
We’ll pause here for a bit to talk about what exactly we need to achieve orbit. Orbiting is often described as “falling and missing the ground”, and that is essentially accurate. You can’t achieve orbit just by continuing to propel upward; you’ll eventually either fall back to the ground, or you may escape Kerbin’s gravity altogether and orbit the Sun instead. Orbiting requires two things:horizontal speed (you need to be going sideways fast enough that when you fall toward Kerbin, the ground would have curved away), and height (you need to be above the atmosphere, so that atmospheric drag doesn’t slow you down and cause you to deorbit. On airless bodies, you still want to stay above any mountains, for obvious reasons).
You could just propel yourself toward the desired height, then fire sideways for horizontal speed, but that is rather inefficient. It is more efficient to perform what is known as a gravity turn, where we gradually transition from moving upward to moving sideways.
As such, unpause the game, then turn toward the right, toward the 90° heading mark (east). Why east? Well, remember that you launched from a rotating planet. It rotates from west to east, so you already have some horizontal velocity. Since this is your first attempt to get into orbit, it is thus easiest to have that working for you rather than against you. Do not turn too much; a 45° pitch (midway between the zenith [white dot in the middle of the blue half] and the artificial horizon [line that separates the blue and orange halves of the navball]) should be sufficient for now. Your navball should look something like this:
Now press M to switch to the orbital map view. You will see a small blue curve indicating the projected trajectory of your vessel. What you need to do is find the Ap flag and click it. This displays the height of your apoapsis; it should be increasing rapidly. There is also a T value, which indicates the projected time to the apoapsis if you turned your engines off (we don’t want to do that yet though).
You can view the navball from within the map view by clicking the arrow at the bottom of the screen. Continue burning until the prograde marker on your navball moves close to the level indicator in the center. Then, slowly turn the vessel eastward, such that you stay slightly east of the prograde marker. Don’t turn too quickly; ensure that the T value of your apoapsis continues increasing.
You’ll likely run out of fuel soon. Once you do, hit M to exit map view, hit Spacebar to activate your LV-909 stage, then hit M to return to the map view.
You should be almost horizontal by the time your apoapsis reaches past 50,000m. You may also see your prograde marker jump; this is because the navball automatically switched from the surface reference frame to the orbital reference frame. You can switch between them by clicking at the small window on top of the navball. Keep in on “Orbit” for now though. Continue burning until your apoapsis is above 80,000m. As soon as that happens, hit X to turn off your engine. Your apoapsis will start decreasing slightly due to drag, however the atmosphere is so thin at this point that it should easily stay above 70,000m.
You’re now on a course out of the atmosphere. Exit map view, use your second Science Jr. kit to complete the upper atmosphere experiment, and return to the map view. You have a good amount of horizontal velocity, but not quite enough for orbit. You will thus need to make a second burn near the apoapsis.
Go back to the map view. Click on your path at the point of the apoapsis, and click Add Maneuver. Start pulling the prograde marker outward. Note that you’ll begin to see an orange Pe flag; that indicates your projected periapsis. Continue pulling until the apsides start to “run” around the path; if you hover over them you should note that they are very close; ensure that both are over 70,000m.
Turn your craft slightly past the artificial horizon, at the maneuver node marker. Note that you get an “Estimated burn time” value. Wait for your time to apoapsis to be roughly half of that. (you can speed this up a bit by using the time warp control at the top left corner of your screen. Be careful not to go too fast though!). Then press Z to activate your engine again.
As your horizontal speed increases, your trajectory should begin to circularize. After some time, you’ll see the blue Pe flag rising out of the opposite side of Kerbin. Click it, and you’ll see the height of your periapsis. To achieve orbit, you must get this above 70,000m before turning off your engine. Then delete the maneuver node by clicking the cross or checkmark on the bar to the right of your navball.
Congratulations, you have achieved orbit! Exit map view, and use your third Science Jr. kit to complete the “space near Kerbin” experiment. To savor your victory, you may use time warp to run several laps around Kerbin. Sunrises and sunsets are common in low orbit.
You may note that the Science Jr. kits are placed below the decoupler. This is not an accident; keeping them will result in more weight on our parachute, which may endanger the Kerbal. However, it means you will need to get the data out of the Science Jr. kits into the pod to actually get any science points. As such, press F5 to quicksave, then do an EVA. Press R to activate your Kerbal’s EVA pack, and carefully maneuver him toward one of the Science Jr. kits. Rightclick on it and click “Collect Data“. You will get a warning message that the kit will be rendered unusable; go ahead and remove the data, since you won’t need them anymore. Repeat with the other two kits, then return to the pod.
Now it’s time to return to Kerbin. Press F5 to quicksave again. Align your vessel to the retrogrademarker, and press Z to activate your engines. This will cancel some of your hard-earned horizontal speed, so your periapsis will now begin to lower. Press X when it reaches below 30,000m. You don’t need to get it under Kerbin, because once you’re deep enough into the atmosphere, the drag will be sufficient to get you toward the ground.
As you achieve reentry, you want to ensure your navball is set to Surface mode (it should switch automatically, but just check to be sure), then align and keep your vessel on the retrograde marker; this minimizes stress on the parachute when you deploy it. Press Spacebar when you’re about 10,000m up to activate the parachute and jettison everything below your pod (it is likely to “stick” to the pod; twist around a bit to push it away).
As usual, the parachute will automatically fully deploy when you’re close to the ground. You’re likely in a new biome, so you can do a crew report for “flying” above it. Adjust your pod so that it touches down flat on the ground. (If you’re unlucky, you may end up landing in a very hilly region and have a hard time touching down without rolling uncontrollably. In which case, you should press F9 to quickload, and do your deorbiting burn at a different part of your orbit.) Then do an EVA, EVA report (again you may be able to get one for “flying” while on the ladder, in which case store it on the pod, get down, and do another EVA report), Surface Sample, Take Data from the pod, and reenter it. Then do another Crew Report for the ground in that biome. Then recover your vessel.
Congratulations on a successful mission! You should now have a bunch of science points to spend. If you’re playing Career Mode, I suggest you research Flight Control. This unlocks your first unmanned pod, the Stayputnik Mk. 1. Try completing some of the suborbital and orbital part test contracts from Mission Control; using an unmanned pod means you don’t have to worry about returning safely. You’ll have to design your own vessels for these; however, modifying the K-2 (suborbital) and Fastok (orbital) vessel designs should be quite sufficient as long as your cargo isn’t too heavy.
Tip 1: you can empty solid rocket boosters you wish to test to lighten the load, or “thrust limit” liquid engines to 0% to avoid accelerating your craft; as long as you activate the part via staging at the correct altitude, the test will still be complete.
Tip 2: The Stayputnik Mk. 1 does have some disadvantages: it does not produce as much torque (turning power), and constantly uses electricity. If you have trouble with controlling your vessel, try adding a Small Inline Reaction Wheel under your Stayputnik to increase your torque. If you have trouble with electricity, stick on a Z-100 Rechargeable Battery Pack to extend your lifetime.
apoapsis /ˌæpoʊˈæpsɪs/, pl. apoapsides /ˌæpoʊˈæpsɪdiːz/ n. The point at which an orbiting object is farthest away from the body it is orbiting. According toKepler’s laws of planetary motion, an object is slowest at the apoapsis. In the map view, the apoapsis is indicated by an arrow marked “Ap”. Antonym: periapsis.
apsis /ˈæpsɪs/, pl. apsides /ˈæpsɪdiːz/ n. Refers to either the apoapsis or the periapsis.
periapsis /ˌpɛɹɪˈæpsɪs/, pl. periapsides /ˌpɛɹɪˈæpsɪdiːz/ n. The point at which an orbiting object is closest to the body it is orbiting. According to Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, an object is fastest at the periapsis. In the map view, the periapsis is indicated by an arrow marked “Pe”. Antonym: apoapsis.
prograde /ˈpɹoʊˌɡɹeɪd/ adj.In the same direction, “forward”. In Kerbal Space Program, the prograde marker on your navball indicates the direction in which your vessel is moving, relative to your chosen reference frame. Antonym: retrograde.
retrograde /ˈɹɛtɹɵˌɡɹeɪd/ adj. In the opposite direction, “backward”. In Kerbal Space Program, the retrograde marker on your navball indicates the opposite direction to that in which your vessel is moving, relative to your chosen reference frame. Antonym: prograde.
zenith /ˈziːnɨθ/ n. The imaginary point vertically above the observer. On the navball, the zenith is indicated by the white dot in the middle of the sky (blue) half. Antonym: nadir.
A Cask of Brandy (Orbital Rescue)
Edit 2015-01-06: Changed the vessel design to be light enough for VAB level 1, and now uses the OKTO for SAS functionality
This chapter is written for Career mode, though it may be useful if you’ve accidentally stranded a ship in orbit in Science and Sandbox and wish to rescue the Kerbal.
In this chapter you will learn:
- To build a rescue vessel
- To change your orbital plane
- To perform an orbital rendezvous
Recommended mods (makes some parts of this task a bit easier, but quite doable without):
- Kerbal Alarm Clock
- Precise Node
- VOID (Vessel Orbital Information Display) (do not be too intimidated by all those numbers; you don’t need to know what they all mean yet, but they will come in handy)
Techs this chapter assumes you have researched: Basic Rocketry, Survivability, Science Tech, Flight Control, Advanced Flight Control.
I also recommend that you have upgraded both your Mission Control and Tracking Station to level 2.
I also recommend that you complete the in-game “Orbiting 101” tutorial from the Training menu. Practicing “EVA in Kerbin Orbit” from the Scenario menu is also helpful.
If you’re playing Career mode, you will soon encounter contracts that look like “Rescue Jedmy Kerman from Kerbin”. Accept one, and go to the Tracking Center to find him. There is a Kerbal with a spacesuit stranded somewhere in orbit, and your goal is to get him in a vessel and return him to Kerbin safely. He will always be in a low, nearly-equatorial, prograde (anti-clockwise when viewed from north) Kerbin orbit.
You will need a vessel with at least one empty seat for this. You could send two command pods up, but a Prodobodyne OKTO is much lighter than the Command Pod Mk1 (check the “mass” statistic when you hover over them in the VAB).
Place a Probodobodyne OKTO on top of a Command Pod Mk1. (The Stayputnik Mk1 is usable but not recommended as you will lack SAS capability.) Put three Z-100 Rechargeable Battery Packs around it, then place an Mk16 Parachute on top of it. The parachute shares a stage with a TR-18A Stack Decoupler under it.
Stage 1 is an FL-T400 Fuel Tank powering an LV-909 Liquid Fuel Engine. It shares a stage with a decoupler under it.
Below it are three layers of RT-10 Solid Fuel Boostersand TR-18A Stack Decouplers, staged appropriately. The top is thrust-limited to 53%, and the middle is thrust-limited to 77%.
Your craft should look like this:
Or you can download the vessel file. The cost is 5,887 funds.
Save the vessel (I call it the Kerbin Orbit Rescue “St. Bernard”). Instead of launching, click new, put a pod on the pad, then “launch” that. Hit M to go to your map view.
Right-drag the view from the Tracking Center until you’re viewing downward from the North Pole, and your pod is at the 12-o’-clock position. Wait (using Time Warp if necessary) for the rescuee to reach the 1:00~1:30 position (30~45° clockwise). This ensures that after you launch, you’re slightly in front of the target. Also, take note of the target’s approximate altitude (check his apoapsis and periapsis). Once he’s in position, recover your pod.
Before you launch, save your game, and importantly, go to the VAB, switch to the Crew tab and make sure toremove any crew (looking at you Jebediah) from the command pod. (Alternatively, you can launch from the Launch Pad, which also allows you to check/edit your crew roster before launching). We need to keep that seat free for our rescuee. Then hit the launch button.
Wait a few seconds for loading, then hit T for SAS, then hit Z for full throttle, then Spacebar for launch.
Launch eastward into an equatorial orbit, just like you did in “Halfway to Anywhere”. Try to reach the same orbital altitude as the target. (If you have VOID, you may note that you can see your apoapsis height and time in your HUD, thus enabling you to launch into orbit without using the Map View.)
Locate the stranded Kerbal, click on him, and click “Set as Target”.
Now you’ll have to perform what is known as an “orbital rendezvous”. This means you will have to match orbits and positions as closely as possible to your target. Sounds difficult? Not as long as you know what to do.
Well, first, space is three-dimensional. As such, if you go to the map view and rotate around a bit, you may notice that your orbits have a small angle between them. This will not do; in space, even this slight difference could translate to dozens of kilometers; so you’d need to correct that. How?
Well, note that when you set your target, new flags appear on your orbits, “AN” and “DN”. These stand for “ascending node” and “descending node“. These are the points on your orbit that lie on the imaginary line, the “line of nodes”, where the planes of your orbits intersect. The degree measure shown when you hover over them is the angular difference between the planes. You want this to be as close to zero as possible.
To do this, you will have to perform what is known as a “plane shift”. Click on the point of your orbit with one of the nodes (pick the one that’s next in your orbit), then click Add Maneuver. Now pull or push the normal and antinormal axis to adjust your plane. When you get close, the AN/DN flags will tend to “run”. At this point, check them, and continue making fine adjustments to the node (you can use Precise Node, or use the scroll wheel while pointing at the axis symbol). Get this to as close to 0.0° as possible. You may sometimes get “NaN°”; that’s also acceptable.
Point your craft to the maneuver vector (if it’s not visible, there will be a blue arrow pointing to it). Then wait till you’re almost at the maneuver node. If you have the Kerbal Alarm Clock mod, click the little alarm clock button on the top right toolbar, and set a timer for it; it defaults to one minute before the node, and can be adjusted. It automatically throttles time warp when it’s about to activate. This is very helpful to avoid accidentally warping past your maneuver node.
You want to do roughly half your burn before the node, and half after, to be as accurate as possible. You can use the “Estimated Burn Time” calculation the game gives you, however it is often inaccurate, and may display “N/A”. You can either press Shift to run your engine at minimum throttle for a few seconds to get an adjustment (then Ctrl to throttle back down to zero), or if you have VOID, its burn time estimate would be much more accurate.
Ensure you’re still aligned to the maneuver vector, wait for half your projected burn time before your node (or if you have VOID, you can simply wait for the “half done at node” counter to tick down to zero), then press Z for full throttle. Watch the green bar to the right of your navball deplete as you complete your maneuver, and keep your craft aligned to the maneuver. As soon you’re almost out, or when your maneuver symbol starts to “run”, press X to kill your engines. Then rotate to the maneuver vector, and use Shift and Ctrl to carefully finish your maneuver. You want to be as precise as possible, and get the counter down to 0.1 or 0.0 m/s. Once you’re done, click the checkmark to delete your node.
OK, now you’re in similar orbits, but he’s still some ways behind you. What should you do now?
If you said “slow down”… that’s exactly the wrong answer. You’d get closer at first, but would soon fall victim to the “orbital rendezvous paradox”. You see, slowing down would put you in a lower orbit, which would decrease your orbital period. You would then end up orbiting faster, and speeding away from the target! This is of course ignoring the fact that since you’re in a low orbit, slowing down will likely just deorbit you. Oops.
You do want to be careful though; just pointing to prograde and speeding up would make it difficult to plan your encounter precisely. Instead, make a maneuver node somewhere in front of you (you do want to give yourself a few minutes to make the required adjustments). Pull the prograde axis some ways until you see the arrows indicating your closest projected encounter approach one another. Soon they’ll point at almost the same spot. Hover over it to see your projected distance.
Now you want to fine tune your maneuver to get your encounter as close as possible. Use either Precise Node or your scroll wheel on both the prograde/ retrograde axis, as well as the radial/ antiradial axis, to get as close an encounter as possible. (I do very much recommend using Precise Node, as changes are easier to undo with it, it allows you to edit your node from off-screen, and the scroll wheel is prone to “slipping off” the axis symbol and changing your camera zoom instead.) For best results, alternate between adjusting one axis, then the other, then back to the first one, and so on.
(More experienced players can combine the plane-shift with this adjustment; however, while adjusting these axes it may be necessary to readjust the normal/ antinormal axis to keep the planes aligned)
You want to get your encounter under 1km. If you’re having trouble getting your encounter closer, you can always perform your burn first, then create another node roughly halfway to your intercept point. Rinse and repeat till you’re happy with it. Remember to delete your nodes after you’ve performed them. And remember that you want to be as precise as possible when burning these.
Once you have a good intercept, switch your navball to “Target” mode. Then wait until you’re almost at your intercept point (Kerbal Alarm Clock can set a timer for that too). Press M to exit map view, and locate your target – there should be a small reticle somewhere, and if you hover over it you can see your distance.
Since you set your navball to “Target” mode, your displayed velocity is now relative to your target. You want to zero this out when you’re close to the target. Point your ship to the retrograde symbol. Wait until your target is almost at the projected distance, then press Z to fire. As usual, throttle down when you’re almost there. You don’t have to be too precise with this though; leaving 0.1-0.2 m/s is fine here.
You’re now in almost the same orbit as the target. You can switch to the Kerbal as long as you’re less than 2.5 km away, but it is much easier and faster if you bring the ship closer first. Point your ship toward your target (the opposite symbol points away from the target) . Give yourself a small impulse; not too much, or you’d waste fuel and may miss your target, or worse, not miss him! About 10 m/s is plenty. Turn about to the retrograde symbol again, and slow down when you get close. Zero it out when you’re less than 50 meters away.
Then point your ship to the zenith (white dot in the center of the blue half). This is because EVA’d kerbals have a preferred “up” direction, for some strange reason, and have no “roll” controls; aligning your ship to the zenith would make it easier to board.
You can now switch to the Kerbal using the [ or ] keys. Collect an EVA report; if you’re lucky, it’d be considered a new biome, netting you a few more science points. Then press R to activate his EVA pack, and L to activate his headlights. Press V to change your camera mode; change this to Chase mode. Go to the orbital map, and set the rescue vessel as the target. Slowly maneuver your Kerbal toward the pod. Press F when the prompt appears to grab the ladders, then press F again to board.
Hooray! Nothing left to do but quicksave and deorbit. You should know what to do by now. Hopefully you land in a new biome, and thus can do some crew reports and EVAs; once in the air (it’s safest to EVA just after your parachute is fully deployed), and once on the ground (don’t forget to collect a surface sample). Then recover your vessel to complete your contract!
The Rubik's Cube is a 3D twisty puzzle. Read the beginner's solution tutorial.
Around the Mun
In this chapter, you will learn:
- To build a vessel that is capable of orbiting the Mun, doing some science experiments there, and returning.
- Some principles for medium-to-heavy-weight rocket design
- How to use struts to stabilize your vessel
- Plan a trajectory across spheres of influence
- Kerbal Alarm Clock
- Precise Node
- VOID (Vessel Orbital Information Display)
First, if you’re in Career mode, go to Mission Control and accept the “Explore the Mun” mission. If you have it, also accept the “Transmit or recover science data from space around the Mun” mission.
It’s time to spend some of your hard-earned science points. First research Stability. This should complete column 3 of the tech tree. In column 4, research Advanced Rocketry. If you have enough points, also research General Construction.
For this goal, you will need a rocket that’s bigger and better than anything before. It’s going to be a little more complicated too; if you continue stacking solid fuel boosters, you’ll soon find that the craft would become too heavy to even get off the ground. The problem is that you’re not producing enough thrust to counteract Kerbin’s gravity; if you have VOID, you may see a statistic called “T/W Ratio” or “T:W”. This stands for thrust-to-weight ratio, which is basically how much thrust your rocket will produce versus Kerbin’s gravity. If it’s close to 1, your rocket will visibly struggle to get off the ground. If it’s at or below 1, your rocket won’t move at all, or only after it has burned and wasted some of its fuel. Once you’re in space, T:W becomes less important (because you are no longer directly fighting gravity), except as an estimate as to how quickly you can perform your maneuvers.
What you’d need to do at that point is to build outward, so that more than one engine can fire at once. However, you’ll soon run into more problems; another downside of solid fuel is that it is heavy. This makes keeping the craft steady and making the gravity turn more difficult, and exponentially increases the amount of engines and fuel required toward the bottom. This isn’t a problem for the lighter craft previously featured, but here, you would be better served by building a liquid fuel core and engine to lift you to orbital height. Solid fuel boosters are still dirt cheap though, and are thus best used for the first lift stages (to get you to ~10,000m).
So brace yourself; here comes the design specs:
The top consists of a Command Pod Mk1 with a Mk16 Parachute on its top and a TR-18A Stack Decoupler on its bottom, as usual. The parachute and decoupler should share stage 0. Below the decoupler is an FL-T400 Fuel Tank and an LV-909 Liquid Fuel Engine. Around the fuel tank, turn on Angle Snap (the button is near the bottom left corner, next to the symmetry button), and place three SC-9001 Science Jr.s symmetrically, and then three Mystery Goo Containment Units on their top. Another stack decoupler goes below the LV-909, and these should share stage 1.
Now below it, stack two FL-T800 Fuel Tanks, then an LV-T30 Liquid Fuel Engine. It shares stage 2 with two TT-38K Radial Decouplers, placed symmetrically around the top fuel tank.
On the radial decouplers, attach two RT-10 Solid Fuel Boosters, and thrust limit them to about 75%. Now adjust the position of both the decouplers and the boosters, so that one of the boosters sits straight below one of the Science Jr.s. This is where Angle Snap comes in handy. This is important to maintain bilateral (mirrored) symmetry of the craft as viewed from the top; without it, asymmetric drag will cause the craft to roll uncontrollably like a screw when launched. It is not a fatal error, but it would make aiming your gravity turn difficult.
Pair the RT-10s with two TR-18A Stack Decouplers below them, as stage 3. Then stick two Rockomax BACC Solid Fuel Boosters below the decouplers. These should be stage 4.
This introduces a small problem. Note that the boosters are quite long, and only attached near the top. If you launch the rocket as-is, the boosters will start swinging like pendulums… that weigh 11 tons and will likely ram right into your liquid fuel core!
Thus, you need some form of connection near the bottom, to hold them steady. In the Structural tab, find the EAS-4 Strut Connector. Ensure that symmetry is set to 2x, then click once on the BACC, and once on the bottom FL-T800, to connect them with a strut. Do the same for the other one.
Rotate your view to the other side; check to ensure that there are two more placed automatically (by the symmetry option) on the other side. You are now done! Check your staging once more, and name the craft and save it. I call it the “Munar Orbiter“. You can download the vessel filehere.
(If you couldn’t research General Construction, you won’t have the struts; instead, replace the paired stack decouplers with two radial decouplers on the bottom FL-T800, and attach the BACCs to those instead. It would be slightly more expensive, but it will work.)
Go back to the Space Center and save the game. Hit the launch button. You know the drill, wait a few seconds, then hit T for SAS, then Z for full throttle, then Spacebarto fire. Turn toward the east at 10,000m, and launch into an 80,000m equatorial orbit.
Now you want to plan a transfer orbit to the Mun. To do this, first locate the Mun in the map view, right click it, and Set as Target. Secondly, click at the point of your orbit on the opposite side of the Mun, and drag the prograde axis until your projected apoapsis is slightly beyond the Mun’s orbital height.
You might see intercept markers, but they would be pretty far apart. That’s because the Mun is still orbiting Kerbin; by the time you get there, it would have moved from its current position. As such, drag the center of the maneuver node to move it along your orbit. Drag it counter-clockwise until your orbit breaks, and you see lines indicating your projected path into the Mun’s sphere of influence (SOI). This is where the Mun’s gravity dominates over Kerbin’s gravity, and is where it is possible to orbit the Mun instead of Kerbin. (Though the sphere of influence has a real world counterpart, KSP’s orbital model is somewhat simplified, in that it only considers gravity from one object at a time, using what is known as the “patched conic approximation”.)
Carefully position the maneuver node so that you will enter the Mun from the right (counterclockwise) side, with a periapsis between 12,000m and 55,000m. It can be helpful to rightclick on the Mun and click “Focus View”, to better view your eventual path around it. (If you have Precise Node, you can adjust the position of your node by adjusting the “UT” [Universal Time] value.)
Perform the maneuver. As you get close, hit X to kill your engines. Then, instead of viewing the maneuver node marker, focus view on the Mun instead, and burn prograde slowly (with Shift/Ctrl) to get your periapsis to the desired height. If it’s too low, turn around and burn retrograde a little. Then delete the maneuver node.
If you exit map view now, you’d notice that you are quite visibly moving from Kerbin toward the Mun. Don’t forget that you’re here for science; in fact, an opportunity is coming up shortly. Once you’re above 250,000m, you will be considered “in space high above Kerbin”, and should thus open one of the Science Jrs and the Mystery Goo Container on top of it. Don’t forget to do a Crew Report, and an EVA Report. Also remember to Take Data from your pod, so that you can make more Crew Reports later.
It will be several hours before you enter the Mun’s SOI, so you’d probably want to use time warp. However, be careful; time-warping past SOI changes can result in inaccuracies, potentially giving you a rather different orbital path than is projected. Kerbal Alarm Clock has an option to set a timer to just before the SOI change; for best results, set a timer for 10 minutes before, then set one for 1 minute before, then wait for the SOI change either at normal speed or at 5x (two arrow) speed.
When you enter the Mun’s SOI, your navball will suddenly change, as it switches reference frames from Kerbin’s to the Mun’s. Your orbital path might move slightly, so check the periapsis again. if it’s too low, make a small radial burn to raise it, or if it is too high, make a small antiradial burn to lower it.
You will always enter Mun’s SOI on an escape trajectory. To put yourself in a stable orbit, create a maneuver node at the periapsis. Then drag the retrograde axis to shrink your orbit. As usual, aim for a circular orbit.
Don’t time warp to it just yet! There is still more science to do. As long as you’re above 60,000m, you are considered “in space high above the Mun”, and can thus open the second Science Jr and Mystery Goo Container, and perform another Crew Report and EVA Report.
Then perform the circularization maneuver. You are now “in space near the Mun”, thus you can now use the third and final set of science equipment, and yet another crew report and EVA report. During your EVA, collect all the science from all the equipment and store it back in the pod. You should now have 12 stored experiments in the pod.
After a couple of victory laps around the Mun if you so wish (you may be able to wring out some more science points by EVA reporting above different biomes), it is time to return home. You could just exit the Mun’s SOI, then try to lower the periapsis to return, but it is more efficient to plan a direct return path. To do this, locate the Mun’s orbit. The Mun orbits Kerbin counterclockwise (all planets and moons in KSP orbit counterclockwise). Orient your view so that the direction in which the Mun is going (the Mun’s “prograde”) is in the 12-o’clock position. Then create a node slightly in front of it, at the 11-o’-clock position. Pull the prograde axis until you get an escape trajectory. Continue pulling until your Kerbin periapsis falls to about 30,000m. If you do this right, you should have a Kerbin apoapsis slightly under the Mun’s orbit, and your escape path should be roughly parallel to the Mun’s orbit, but going backward. Essentially, you are speeding up relative to the Mun, and slowing down relative to Kerbin, with the same burn, thus saving fuel and time. The effect is that the Mun will “leave you behind” in its orbit, letting Kerbin’s gravity pull you back toward it.
Return trajectory from the Mun (click to zoom)
Quicksave the game with F5, then perform the maneuver. Again, avoid warping too quickly past the SOI change. (The map view may sometimes glitch out near the SOI change; just wait it out, it will soon switch normally) When warping in Kerbin’s SOI, pay attention to the altimeter, and be careful not to warp too fast when you’re due to reenter Kerbin’s atmosphere (~70,000m), or you might just zoom right past it.
As usual, open parachutes at 10,000m; if you are in a new biome, you can do a crew report and EVA report once after the parachutes fully deploy, and once on the ground. Don’t forget to take a surface sample too. Then recover the vessel. Note that the further you get from Kerbin, the more science you receive! This will give us quite a bit of freedom for future rocket designs.
Tip: turning off SAS after you partially deploy your parachutes will let your pod naturally hang off it, saving electricity. If the ground has a significant slope, turn it on again near the ground and adjust your heading just before touching down.
One Tiny Step (Minmus Landing)
In this chapter we will look at a rocket that is capable of landing on Minmus, doing some science, and returning to Kerbin safely. Why Minmus? It may be slightly harder to get to, but it is more science-rich (and we’ve also already gotten science from the space around the Mun), and it is much easier to land and take off from, due to its weaker gravity and flat “seas”.
- Kerbal Alarm Clock
- Precise Node
- VOID (Vessel Orbital Information Display)
- (new) Trajectories
You will also learn to:
- Set and use action groups
- Use fuel lines to connect fuel tanks
If you’re in Career mode, you should go to Mission Control and accept the “Explore Minmus” contract. Also accept any Minmus science data contracts, as well as “Plant a flag on Minmus”, if you have them. I also recommend you install the Fine Print mod. It makes contracts much more diverse, and the next chapters will cover how to complete some of them. Additionally, its contracts will be incorporated into the next version of KSP, so I suggest you get used to them now.
If you haven’t already, research Flight Control; this should complete column 4 of the tech tree. Then in column 5, research Fuel Systems, Electrics, and Space Exploration. Space Exploration unlocks a new science part, the 2HOT Thermometer; so you can use it on the launchpad and runway for some extra science points.
Here comes the rocket (download):
As usual, you start with a Command Pod Mk1, a Mk16Parachute on top of it, and a TR-18A Stack Decoupleron the bottom of it, sharing stage 0.
You may notice there are things stuck to the pod. Specifically there are three OX-STAT Photovoltaic Panels; these are placed symmetrically. Before placing, press Shift-S a few times to angle them upward. Then place one facing the north (toward the side with the flag; the door faces east), so that the other two flank your hatch (that faces south by default). This is a long mission, and thus you want solar panels to provide electricity to power your pod’s reaction wheels and rotate your vessel.
There are also seven 2HOT Thermometers on the pod. It doesn’t matter where they are placed on the pod as long as they don’t block the hatch; they are light enough that KSP considers them physically negligible.
Closeup of the pod.
During your flight, trying to right click each of those thermometers to perform scientific experiments would be quite a pain. It is thus easiest to assign them to action groups. Click on the blue hammer-and-spanner icon at the top of the screen. Click Custom01, then one of your thermometers. Add “Log Temperature” to your group actions. Now assign each of the others to Custom02 to Custom07 the same way.
Below the decoupler is an FL-T100, an FL-T200 and an FL-T400 Fuel Tank, supplying an LV-909 Liquid Fuel Engine. There are three SC-9001 Science Jr.s around it. One of them points toward the north. Three LT-1 Landing Struts are placed on the outside edge of the Science Jrs. These should be placed low enough that the LV-909 would be protected when they are extended. Last but not least, there are three more OX-STAT Photovoltaic Panels, stuck over the edge of the LV-909. These should be angled downward (Shift-W a few times), with one of them facing southward. This arrangement ensures that at least one panel will be facing toward the sun no matter where our vessel is pointing (unless the sun is blocked altogether by a planet or moon, but the pod stores enough electricity for that) Place a TR-18A Stack Decoupler under the LV-909. That’s stage 1.
Closeup of the bottom of Stage 1
Below it is a somewhat unusual arrangement. There is an FL-T400 Fuel Tank, stacked on a Small Inline Reaction Wheel, stacked on an FL-T800 Fuel Tank; Two more FL-T800s are placed symmetrically on the north and south sides. The reaction wheel is there because this vessel is somewhat heavy and tall, which makes it very difficult for the command pod’s reaction wheels to keep it steady or turn it. To visualize this, swing a pencil using two fingers about its end, and about its middle; which is easier? Thus, the reaction wheel is placed nearer to the center of mass to help it out. We won’t need it for the upper stage, so it would be dumped along with this stage.
Two LV-T30 Liquid Fuel Engines are placed below the side fuel tanks. Fuel will not automatically flow from the middle tanks to the radially attached (side) tanks however, so you need to connect them with FTX-2 External Fuel Ducts. These work similar to struts. Ensure that 2x symmetry is on, then click on the middle tank first, then the side tank. Place a TR-18A Stack Decoupler beneath the middle tank. That’s stage 2.
Closeup of stage 2.
Place a Rockomax BACC Solid Fuel Booster below the decoupler, then place two more symmetrically, again in a north-south orientation. Set the Thrust Limiter of all of them to 85%, then put them in stage 3. The total cost should be 27,507 funds.
Give the staging a once-over, name the vessel (my name is ‘Minmus Lander “Apallo”’) and save it, and then you’re ready for launch. As usual, wait a few seconds, Tfor SAS, Z for full throttle, then Spacebar for launch. As usual, launch eastward into a low orbit (~80,000m).
While launching, don’t forget you can use your thermometers. Hit 1 as soon as you launch to use your first thermometer, then click Keep Data. 2nd should be used in the upper atmosphere (>18,000m), 3rd should be used once you’re in low orbit.
Once you’re in orbit, you can extend your gears by pressing G (you probably will have to tap it twice to actually extend them). Locate Minmus (it orbits Kerbin further away than the Mun), then right click on it and Set as Target. Right away you should notice that Minmus has a slight inclination (6 degrees, though since your orbit might not be perfectly equatorial, you may see more or less). You thus have to correct your inclination to give yourself the best chance of intercepting it. As you might have learned from the orbital rescue chapter, you do this by creating a maneuver node at either the ascending node (AN) or descending node (DN), then adjusting the normal / antinormal axis.
(Optional) Note that your projected orbit might have lengthened slightly; that’s because your maneuver node’s axis is always in reference to your current rather than your projected orbit, so your maneuver gains a slight “prograde” pull in reference to the new plane. If you don’t want this to happen, you must pull the retrograde axis some. Note that this will change your plane yet again, so a balancing act must be done. It’s up to you whether you want to do this; keeping a near-circular orbit will make the next task a bit easier.
Once you have matched planes, find an encounter with Minmus, similar to the way you did with the Mun; create a node on the opposite side, pull prograde till your projected orbit raises slightly above Minmus’s orbital height, then move the maneuver node around until you get an encounter. (If your orbit has lengthened due to your plane change, you now may have to constantly adjust your maneuver to keep your transfer orbit at the correct height.)
(More experienced players can try using two maneuver nodes; one to lengthen the orbit, and a second mid-course correction to plane-change to get an intercept. Plane changes are more efficient the further you are, so this could save some fuel. Or even better; you can try launching right into Minmus’s inclination. Launching into an inclination will be covered in the next chapter about satellites.)
Try to enter on the right side once again, and aim for a Minmus periapsis of about 12,000~25,000m. This can be somewhat difficult, and you might see your orbit jitter quite a bit, since Minmus is so far away it makes accurately targeting it difficult. That’s fine though; you can always correct it mid-course and within Minmus’s SOI.
Thermometers don’t provide any science in deep space. However, once you enter Minmus’s SOI, you can still do a crew report, EVA report (and Take Data to free the crew report space), and open one of the Science Jr / Mystery Goo combos. Do it once again once you’re in low orbit around Minmus, and this time you can use your 4th thermometer.
Now is a good time to quicksave with F5 (alternatively, using Alt-F5 will allow you to quicksave to a specific filename. Alt-F9 quickloads from a chosen file.)
You now want to look around Minmus in the Map View, and pick a landing site. I suggest one of those flat “seas”, on the day side. Create a maneuver node, and pull retrograde so that it touches the ground somewhat past your intended landing site. The most efficient place to put your node is on the opposite side of Minmus, but you may have to put it a bit closer to avoid clipping any mountains on the way down.
If you have the Trajectories mod, turn it on with the special button in your toolbar. Turn on “show trajectory” and “body-fixed mode”. This will display your path relative to the surface, thus allowing you to account for Minmus’s rotation. Make sure it doesn’t clip into any mountains, and that the intersect point / “red X” is slightly past your intended landing site.
Once you’re satisfied, perform the maneuver. Delete the node, and check your trajectory once again. If you haven’t extended your lander legs, you should do so now. (Press G; you might have to do it twice)
Now you are on a collision course. Since Minmus has no atmosphere, parachutes are useless; you’ll have to use your engines to slow your landing to a safe speed.
To help do this, create another maneuver node close to the surface. Pull retrograde until your trajectory on that point is a straight line downward. If you have Trajectories, you should be able to very accurately pinpoint your landing site. Point to your maneuver node in preparation.
(Time warp tip: If it doesn’t let you warp past 1x, you can still use “physical time warp”, the four-arrow kind that you get within Kerbin’s atmosphere. Use Alt+. and Alt+, to increase and decrease physical warp. You will be limited to 4x speed. Do note that high physical warp may sometimes destabilize large vessels.)
As you get close to the maneuver, switch your navball to Surface mode. Now ignore the maneuver node and point to the retrograde icon instead; the maneuver node was just to estimate your time to arrival and burn time. Start burning when you get close to your intended landing site. (VOID users: the most accurate time to start burning is still at “1/2 done at node”; you may want to burn a fraction of a second earlier for safety purposes)
When you’re almost at zero the retrograde marker will start to move toward the zenith; press X to kill your engine. As Minmus’s gravity pulls you downward, your vector will turn nearly vertical. You can delete your maneuver node at this point.
The “seas” are very nice and flat, and are only a few meters above “sea level”, so you can use the altimeter to gauge your height.
As you fall, you want to kill off the last of your horizontal velocity; burning offset to the retrograde icon will “herd” it away from your level indicator. Easy on the throttle (Shift, not Z); it’s easy to overthrust against Minmus’s low gravity. Get the retrograde icon as close to the zenith as possible. Then point your level indicator to it/the zenith.
If you’ve ever played the old “Lunar Lander” game you’d know that being too cautious / thrust-happy would waste fuel, as gravity has more time to act on your lander. Of course, fail to thrust enough, and you’ll crash. A good rule of thumb is to not exceed 50 m/s at 500 meters, 25 m/s at 250 meters, and 10 m/s at 100 meters; you get the idea. Again, easy on the throttle.
Try to land at less than 9 m/s. Once you touch down, kill your engines with X, and turn SAS off with T. (Leaving SAS on when you’re on the ground may cause it to stay in a leaned position and waste electricity.)
Take a moment to congratulate yourself; you’ve landed! Do a crew report. Open your third and final set ofScience Jr and Mystery Goo containers, and use your 5th thermometer.
Do an EVA. Take Data from the pod, then pressSpacebar to let go and drop down to the ground. Go for a little moonwalk. Shift+W/A/S/D will have him run.Space will have him jump; look at how high he goes! Minmus has only about 1/20 of Kerbin/Earth’s gravity on the surface.
Don’t forget to take an EVA report and a Surface Sample. Also, plant a flag to commemorate your victory (and complete the contract if you have it). You may want to put the current biome into the title of your flag, to give yourself a reminder that you have visited it.
Now take all the data from the Science Jrs and the Mystery Goo containers. Pressing R will turn on your EVA pack allowing you to maneuver while off the ground. Minmus’s gravity is also weak enough that you can thrust upward with it using Shift. This is also why we didn’t bring a ladder here; it shouldn’t be too difficult to maneuver back to the pod and reenter it.
Press F5 to quicksave again. T to turn on SAS again, then thrust up with Shift to launch. (Full-throttle Z would likely make your craft difficult to control here). You can do your gravity turn almost immediately since there is no atmosphere; just be careful of any mountains around. Once again, turn east (90 degrees heading); but note that your vessel might not be oriented the same way it was on the launchpad, so pay attention to your navball. You only need an apoapsis of about 8,000~10,000m (if you’re not using VOID, you probably should watch the map view almost immediately after launching); then use a maneuver node to circularize it.
Plan a direct return trajectory, similar to what you did with the Mun. You will need to create your maneuver node somewhat further forward than you did on the Mun (10-o’-clock if Minmus’s orbital direction is 12-o’-clock), since you’re further away. Again, pull your prograde axis until your Kerbin periapsis is about 30,000m.
If you accidentally encounter the Mun, you can avoid it by adjusting your normal / antinormal axis. If you have Trajectories, you can actually see your projected landing spot on Kerbin if you increase “number of conics” high enough.
Press F5 to quicksave again, then perform the maneuver. Reenter and parachute-land as per usual; you can use the 6th thermometer “flying” above your landing site, and the 7th after you touch down. You can also do Crew Reports and EVA Reports, if you still managed to land on a new biome. Then recover your craft. This one mission alone should be worth about 900 science points. Congratulations for yet another successful mission!
While using the HTML editor, check the cleaning options you want to perform when you press the main Clean button or execute them one by one.
Satellites for Fun and Profit
To receive contracts for satellites in Career mode, you must unlock nodes containing a probe core (Flight Control) and a permanent source of power (solar panels from Electrics)
I recommend you research Advanced Flight Control for a probe with SAS capability.
- Kerbal Alarm Clock
- Precise Node
- VOID (Vessel Orbital Information Display)
First off, go to Mission Control, find a mission to launch a satellite and accept it.
Secondly, go to the Tracking Center. You should be able to see a colored orbit representing your goal. If your goal orbit isn’t around Kerbin, you’d need to change focus to that world by double clicking on it. Note also that there are marker orbs moving around that orbit as well; it is important to match that direction, or you won’t get credited for your satellite!
Now, you have to build your launcher. Ready for it?
Well… doesn’t look like much, does it? Trust me though, this is more than enough to get to pretty much any orbit around Kerbin, Mun, or Minmus. This is because the unmanned module is much lighter than the crew pod and scientific equipment we’ve been dragging about before. We also do not have to worry about the return trip.
Anyway, here’s how to build it:
A Probodobodyne OKTO serves as the command module. There is an FL-T200 Fuel Tank under it, supplying a Rockomax 48-7S.
All contract satellites need an antenna, so we’ll stick a Communotron 16 onto the tank. They also need a permanent power supply, so six OX-STAT Photovoltaic Panels are placed around the fuel tank. Just like on the Apallo, there are three on top, three on the bottom, and they are angled and staggered to catch light from any direction. There are also three Z-100 Rechargeable Battery Packs to last through any nights or eclipses.
The 48-7S shares stage 0 with a TR-18A Stack Decoupler. (If you have Precision Engineering, this may be substituted with the TR-2V Stack Decoupler, which is cheaper, lighter, and looks better here.)
Below the decoupler is a Small Inline Reaction Wheel; the OKTO’s reaction wheels are weak, and while sufficient for the upper stage, won’t be enough to keep the launch vessel steady. Below it is an RT-10 Solid Fuel Booster. It is thrust-limited to about 31%.
You may download the vessel here.
Oh, and one more important thing. Look at the description of your contract one more time (you can do so from within the VAB by clicking on the clipboard icon near the lower right). Some satellite contracts require you to stick a particular piece of science equipment onto it.
Most of these equipment (e.g. the thermometer) are small and physically negligible, and thus can be stuck anywhere on the upper stage; however, the Mystery Goo Containment Unit isn’t, and has to be placed carefully on top to keep balance. Remember to keep the Center of Mass and Center of Thrust as aligned as possible. You can make small adjustments using the Offset tool, while Angle Snap is turned off.
Additionally, due to the added mass of the Mystery Goo, you may wish to add another TR-18A decoupler and RT-10 booster to the bottom, increasing the number of stages to three. The bottom booster should be thrust-limited to about 54%.
Or you can download a version of this vessel with the Mystery Goo already balanced on it here.
You might also be asked for a “materials bay”, which refers to the Science Jr. You’d probably also want the extra booster for that version too.
Name and save your vessel. I like saving these under generic names at first so that they can be reused, then renaming them to remind myself of where they’re headed just before launch (e.g. Rockomax Mun Satellite).
Your next step will depend on which world your target orbit is around:
For Kerbin orbits (launching into inclination): Unless the target inclination is pretty low (<5° or so, depending on your skills), you’d probably want to launch into your target orbit’s inclination. It’d take slightly more fuel to get into orbit, but much less than is required to adjust it, and it’ll make the adjustment phase more intuitive.
To do this, you’d want a flag planted at the KSC. (Alternatively, you can place a pod on the pad as a substitute.) Then go to the Tracking Center. Select your flag and click “fly” to “control” it, then go to the map view. Double-click on Kerbin to focus on it. Adjust your view so that the AN/DN flags point to each other. Your target orbit should look like a straight line, and cross right through the center of Kerbin. (You can use the Mun’s orbit, or the orbit of any previously launched equatorial satellites, as a guide too; they should also be straight lines.). You want to wait/time-warp until KSC goes right under the target orbit. Be sure you’re looking at the correct hemisphere; KSC is on the east coast of an Africa-like continent.
(If you have VOID, instead of doing that by eye, you can open the Orbit Information box, and turn on Extended Info. You want the local sidereal longitude of your flag/pod to either match the longitude of ascending node specified in your contract, or be 180º out of phase. If the given LAN is negative, add 360º to it.)
Then, rotate your view a little, and pay attention to the direction that the marker orbs on your target orbit go when it passes over KSC. It could be northward, southward, eastward, westward, or anywhere in between.This is the direction in which you want to launch; instead of turning straight east as usual, turn in that direction. Do note that north and south are reversed in the sky half of the navball. You can make this a little easier by first rolling your craft with Q (counterclockwise) or E (clockwise) so that you only need to turn your craft on one axis (left/right/up/down).
Once you’re in orbit, go to your map view and view your handiwork; it’d likely be a little bit off, but that’s fine. Check your contract via the clipboard icon on your toolbar; ensure that your current vessel has all the parts required by the contract.
For Mun/Minmus orbits: Follow the previous chapters to get an encounter with Mun or Minmus. (Note that with Minmus, you can try launching to its inclination with the instructions above. Minmus has a longitude of ascending node of 78° and inclination of 6°.) Then, with view focused on the target world, create a mid-course correction maneuver. Adjust your normal/antinormal and radial/antiradial axes to make sure that you’re entering at the correct side of the world (the escape symbol denotes the exit). Double check the little orbs around the target orbit. Circularize into a stable orbit around that world.
Now that you’re in orbit around the correct world, it is time to transfer from your orbit to the target orbit.
Orbits are basically determined by two things; you need to be in the correct position, and you need to have the correct velocity (speed and direction). To change any orbit into any other orbit, you perform at least two burns; one to get into position, and one to change to the right velocity and therefore orbit. So your first maneuver node should get you into a position somewhere on the target orbit. It’s easiest to do so by matching one of your vessel’s apsides (Ap/Pe) to one of the target orbit’s nodes (AN/DN). Remember, create a maneuver node at the opposite side, then pull prograde/retrograde to raise/lower your orbit.
Keep in mind that space is three-dimensional, so things that appear close on the screen may not actually be that close (one point could be quite some distance “behind” the other). To get a better view of how close you are, create a second, “dummy” maneuver node near the intercept. Then Backspace to focus your view on your vessel, and then Tab until you are focused on the dummy maneuver node. You can then rotate your view around to see how close you are. You’d likely want to adjust both the size and position of the first maneuver to get as close an intercept as possible (Precise Node to the rescue once again, to avoid tedious view-switching while adjusting). The apsis and node should be pointing at the same spot no matter how you rotate.
More experienced players can try using two burns (one to lengthen the orbit and one mid-course plane change) to intercept on any point on the target orbit; for highly elliptical target orbits, intercepting near the target orbit’s apoapsis could save fuel during the next phase. With no flags to indicate your intercept point, this is slightly trickier; what you can do is to create the dummy node as usual, then move it around to mark the position of your intercept. Ensure it intersects the target orbit no matter how you rotate.
Perform your burn; you should be as precise as possible. Then delete the maneuver node.
Return focus to the “dummy” maneuver node. Your apsis might not be exactly on the target orbit; you’d want to move your maneuver node around so that it is as close to the target orbit as possible (ensure it intersects no matter how you rotate).
Now to get into the right velocity. Essentially, you need to manipulate all three axes, and match the target orbit as closely as possible. To do this, it helps to know what each axis does:
Prograde is “forward” relative to your current velocity, and raises your orbit on the opposite side. Retrograde is “backward”, and lowers your orbit on the opposite side. Pull retrograde even more, and you can “reverse” your orbit; this is obviously very fuel-expensive. Raising and circularizing orbits with this axis are generally more efficient the closer you are to the parent world / the faster you are going, due to the Oberth effect.
Normal is “leftward”, and antinormal is “rightward”. They will adjust your orbital plane counterclockwise and clockwise, respectively. These are generally more efficient the further you are from the parent world; the slower you are going, the easier it is to change your direction.
Radial is “outward”, and antiradial is “inward”. These are somewhat unusual; radial will raise your orbit in front of you, and lower your orbit behind you. Antiradial does the opposite. The effect is similar to rotating a hula hoop around a stick. It changes your direction, so it is more efficient the further you are from the parent world; however, it is inefficient compared to a combination of prograde/retrograde burns, and as such is best used for small-ish adjustments.
To ensure your orbital planes are aligned, you’d want to rotate your view such that your intercept point goes directly through the center of your parent world. Both your current orbit and your target orbit should look like straight lines in this view. You can also adjust your other two axes in this view; prograde/retrograde will change the “length” of your orbit, while radial/antiradial will “shift” it left or right. In fact, I encourage you to do so, as changing these axes may throw your orbital plane off again.
When the “lines” are as similar as possible, rotate around to check your work. You might want to make some final few adjustments, to get the Ap and Pe flags as close as possible. Hovering over them will tell you their heights; a good rule of thumb is to get the first three digits to match, or be as close as possible.
(Note that if your target orbit is circular or nearly so, it may be extremely difficult to get the Ap and Pe flags to be in the right position. Fortunately in that case, you don’t have to; you just have to make sure they’re the correct height)
Your orbit should very nearly be pixel-perfect at this point. Do one last check on your projected orbit to make sure you’ll be going the right direction (compare your apoapsis and periapsis times). Then all that’s left is to perform the maneuver. Again, get this as precise as possible.
When you are done, view your contracts by clicking the clipboard icon in the toolbar, and scroll to the relevant one. Ensure that “Reach the designated orbit within deviation” is checked. Now all that is left to do is to wait for a while, and that should fulfill the “maintain stability for 10 seconds” requirement, and complete your contract!
- If the thrust of your vessel is so powerful that you have trouble finishing your maneuvers precisely (easily happens with these lightweight satellites), you may rightclick on your engine and turn the Thrust Limiter downward in-flight.
- Stationary orbits (known as such because they are “stationary” relative to the surface) may sometimes require you to overlook a particular point on the surface. For Kerbin, you simply have to place your transfer (first) node approximately a quarter-turn before the point. For other bodies, it can be more complicated; you may want to use the Trajectoriesmod, turn on “body-fixed” mode, and make sure your apsis is at the correct spot. In any case you have a lot of room for error, since you can overlook almost half of the world from any particular point, so worst case scenario, just wait in your elliptical orbit until your intercept goes over the correct spot.
- If you just put something into a synchronous or tundra orbit (a tundra orbit is just a synchronous orbit with a specific, high inclination and eccentricity), using the Trajectories mod with body-fixed mode should reveal a closed loop (resembling a figure-eight or a twisted ellipse) called an analemma. An observer on the surface would see the satellite traverse this track every day. Stationary and synchronous orbits have orbital periods matching that of the world’s rotational period.
- When you have a lot of satellites in orbit, it is easy for them to get in the way of your map view in future missions. If you hover over the top of your screen, you can show/hide vessels by category, and hide all probes this way. This can cause a problem if your own ship is a probe as well as you won’t be able to see its icon; to remedy this, temporarily change your vessel to a different vessel type by rightclicking on the probe core, and clicking Rename Vessel. You can change the type of vessel your ship is classified as this way. You can also rename vessels/change icons at the Tracking Center by clicking on its name in the info box.