Campaign: Shuttle Program

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After creating space stations which require frequent crew changes, Kerbal scientists realized that using expensive multi-stage rockets was too inefficient. After many studies, they developed a new concept for reaching space - a space plane. An aircraft attached to a main rocket booster, a spaceplane would be reusable and highly effective at moving fragile cargo down to the surface, such as Kerbals. Spaceplanes negate the need for large amounts of money to launch cargo into space. With the new technology of the Space Shuttle, large amounts of cargo can be transported into space at a fraction of the original cost.

Missions modeled after American Shuttle Programs of the 1970's, 80's and 90's, including Enterprise ('76-'77), Colombia STS-1 ('81) & STS-5 ('82) and Atlantis STS-30 / Magellan ('89). It also includes fictional shuttle rendezvous with the (Russian) Mir station.


  • Length: 5-10 hours
  • Difficulty: 8/10 (Expert)
  • Skills needed:
  1. Spaceplane design (Tutorial: Spaceplane basics)
  2. Intermediate plane piloting
  3. Intermediate navigation via maneuver node
  4. Advanced orbiting
  5. Intermediate understanding of launch windows
  6. Intermediate understanding of intercepts/rendezvous
  7. Intermediate docking
  8. Ability to complete Kerbinai Program
  9. Ability to complete Kerbol System Exploration
  • For version: Every version post-0.15 (not yet tested)

Recommended Mods

  • Shuttle Orbiter Construction Kit (SOCK) - This mod includes everything you need to build the orbiter, and you can change the textures to whatever shuttle you want (even Enterprise and fictional shuttles such as Mayflower and America). SOCK also includes a functioning Canadarm (required either Inferal Robotics Continued or the Breaking Ground expansion).
  • reDIRECT - This mod is by the same author as SOCK, and includes the external tank and solid rocket boosters for that mod, plus some other things we'll need in future campaigns.
  • Bluedog Design Bureau - Yes, you will need this mod for this campaign, as it includes the Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) for sending payloads to other planets.

Space Shuttle Testing

  • Design a spaceplane and perform a test atmospheric flight
  1. The spaceplane should be capable of landing by itself, and traveling to orbit with the aid of a rocket booster. It should also have a docking port and sufficient RCS to perform an orbital docking, as well as space for a payload.
  2. Launch the space plane to the upper atmosphere, above 30 km but below 70 km.
  3. Glide or fly to a safe horizontal landing
  • Launch a space plane into a suborbital trajectory.
  1. Launch a space plane attached to a rocket booster to an apoapsis of over 70 km.
  2. Glide or fly to a safe horizontal landing.
  • If using the modded approach, Cormorant Aeronology doesn't come with a carrier aircraft. It may be easier to just use one of the stock aircraft/spaceplanes to practice approach and landing, since the suggested launch profile using a shuttle similar to the American Space Shuttle would be like flying the RTLS (Return To Launch Site) abort mode that was thankfully never used, and with Buran, it would be practically impossible since Buran's engines are puny compared to the American shuttle (though the Buran test article OK-GLI did have jet engines, and there were plans for all spaceworthy Buran orbiters to have fold-out jets for automated atmospheric landing). So, modded players, do yourself a favor and just practice with one of the stock SPH craft like the Aeris 3A.

Orbital Testing

  1. Periapsis must be above 100 km.
  2. Re-enter Kerbin's atmosphere and land safely.
  • (optional) Make an emergency landing
  1. Launch into a nearly orbital trajectory
  2. Continue on a free-return (no propulsion) and land safely.
  • If using the modded approach, set the orbiter's textures to Columbia (early) and the external tank to white.
  • It may be a good idea to do this mission four times. If you choose to do this, set the ETs textures to orange after the second flight. The boys at the VAB said the lack of white paint will shave alot of weight.
  • Watch for shedding foam!

Payload Testing

  • Launch a shuttle capable of carrying payload into orbit while also following the orbital testing guidelines:
  1. Launch into orbit a fully functioning satellite with solar panels, lights and mode of communication.
  2. Launch a shuttle into orbit, capture the satellite for analysis, release the satellite, and land the shuttle safely.
  3. Launch a final test using the shuttle to place a satellite with maneuver capabilities into orbit between 100 km and 130 km.
  • From here on out, go ahead and set the orbiter's textures to whichever you want, even Enterprise.

Near-Kir Test Rendezvous

  • Launch a shuttle headed to Kir space station for rendezvous and dress rehearsal for future docking missions.
  1. Launch into a Kir chase orbit and rendezvous within 5 km.
  2. Maneuver the shuttle orbiter using RCS to within 100 meters of Kir.
  3. Taxi around the station within 200 m.
  4. Return to Kerbin and land safely.

Shuttle-Kir Docking Module

  • Design and launch a docking module via the shuttle delivery system to Kir space station.
  1. Design a docking module for Kir (make sure there's no risk of damaging solar panels).
  2. The docking module must remain in the shuttle bay until deployed.
  3. Rendezvous and dock the shuttle to Kir using the docking module
  4. Transfer crew and resources.
  5. After the space station stay is completed, undock the shuttle from the docking module, leaving it with Kir.
  6. Safely land the shuttle on Kerbin.

Shuttle Payload Return

  • Launch a shuttle to retrieve satellites from testing.
  1. Launch a shuttle to rendezvous with test satellites.
  2. Rendezvous with the satellites and store them in the payload bay.
  3. Land safely with both satellites in tow for analysis by your scientists and engineers.


The board wants proof of the advantages of this new payload delivery system. Your scientists have plans for an orbiter probe to map the surface of and perform science around Eve. Extensive discussions resulted in the probe being named 'Kergellan' in honor of Ferdinand Kergellan, the famed explorer who circumnavigated Kerbin's waters just a few years ago (drowning, incidentally, before he could finish his maps). All you need now is an Interplanetary Upper Stage (IUS) booster system to launch a spacecraft out of your spacecraft.

  • Design an upper stage booster system and probe to map and perform science around Eve (Feel free to use mapping mods); if using the modded approach, BDB includes parts to build an IUS; you're on your own with Magellen.
  1. Launch a shuttle to an orbit between 300 and 310 km to deliver IUS/Kergellan payload.
  2. Must also fly small science payload which can perform experiments around Kerbin to be returned at the end of mission.
  3. Kergellan must contain two solar panels, long-distance communication, science instruments, and a propulsion system capable of reaching and orbiting Eve.
  4. Kergellan must orbit Eve within 2 degrees of 90 degrees polar inclination at an altitude between 185 and 750 km (Note: consider orbital resonance).
  5. Return the shuttle, science payload and crew to Kerbin and land safely.

Final Word

Progress since the first launch from KSC is incredible. Simple single stage solid rocket boosters have given way to complex rocket systems delivering space planes with payload of their own, tying together everything learned so far. Now that the shuttle program has started in earnest a new age of space is beginning. The shuttle will play a critical role in construction of the planned IKSS (International Kerman Space Station), but delivery of a GPS and communications data relay satellite constellation must happen to support this planet's rapidly advancing technological society. It can surely be said that impossibilities are only possibilities waiting to be explored. With these new capabilities, larger projects are awaiting.