Campaign: Age of Satellites

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Space Race Campaigns Beyond Kerbin


The Space Race was still on. Robert Kerman and his Kerbal Space Program, after an embarassing defeat by the Kerbiets, wanted to recover themselves by beating them to the Mun. But Robert and his team realized that getting to the Mun would require learning several things first. The first and most obvious things, of course were satellites. As both countries realized the potential of satellites, like for spying, and there was a heated race to put up to most in orbit, just like everything else in the Kold War. Finally, the scientists who were in charge of the whole operation decided to go on strike until their respective governments would allow them to put up "more useful" satellites for scientific purposes...such as mapping Kerbin in all its beauty, and to track the weather. Since the weather doesn't change on Kerbin (yet!), the scientists conceded the point and opted to just get a mapping satellite up.

This campaign is designed to present you with a mission manifest that will allow you to accomplish the goal of practicing basic orbital maneuvers on a range of satellites. Once you complete this campaign, you will have a nice constellation of satellites perfect for any fledgling space program aiming to study, orbit, and eventually land on the Mun and beyond. Missions are based on America's satellite program of the late 50's, including TIROS-1.


  • Length: 4-8 hours
  • Difficulty: 4/10 (Trained)
  • Skills needed:
  1. Intermediate navball familiarity
  2. Basic navigation via maneuver node
  3. Intermediate orbiting
  4. Basic understanding of launch windows
  5. Use of action groups
  6. Ability to complete Space Race
  • For version: Every version (tested on 0.20.2 - 1.0)

TIP: RemoteTech is an excellent mod if you want your satellites to actually have uses, like relaying signals from Mission Control. ScanSAT is also a great mod for mapping the surface of Kerbin and other celestial bodies.

Recommended Mods

  • Bluedog Design Bureau - Last campaign, we used this mod for the Mercury parts. This time, we're using it for the early US launcher parts, such as Thor, Delta, Atlas, Titan, and Vanguard (Saturn comes later). BDB also has parts for creating early US satellites, including weather and spy satellites. Note that early spy satellites had to physically send the film back to Earth to be developed, which creates a very interesting challenge for you.



Launch a self-sustaining test satellite into an equatorial orbit.
  1. Satellites, and all remaining satellites in the Space Program must now be self-sustaining. This probably means using solar panels or generators. Don't forget the batteries!
  2. Satellite must contain: 1 Communotron 16 antenna.
  3. Line-of-sight communication with KSC tracking station.
  4. Launch to a circular, equatorial orbit, altitude 100km ± 5km.
  5. Orbit once, then transfer to a circular 300km orbit using at least one maneuvering node.
  6. Your satellite, once deployed, must be detached from its lifting body (RCS thrusters are allowed on final craft).
  7. Final periapsis and apoapsis must be at 300km ± 1km.
(Tip: Consider using RCS thrusters after separating the satellite to correct the orbit, as the final decoupler may affect it.)

ComSat Program

  • ComSat I: a KEO communications satellite
Launch ComSat I into Kerbostationary Orbit (aka. GEO)
(Note: your constellation of ComSats, when finished, should all be equidistant in their orbits around Kerbin)
  1. Launch stage must include two radially mounted solid fuel rocket boosters, each with their own recovery system.
  2. Satellite must contain: 1 RA-2 relay antenna, 1 Communotron 16 antenna, propulsion for graveyard orbit (20km above KerboStationary Orbit, when the satellite retires).
  3. Satellite must be Kerbostationary (remain stationary with respect to the ground, periapsis and apoapsis at 2,868.75 km ± 1km, 0° inclination).
  4. Satellite must be directly over the Kerbal Space Center, dish pointing to KSC at noon.
(Tip: Use a lower orbit to time your insertion into geostationary orbit.)
(Tip: In map view, click on the Mun and select "Set as Target" - this will reveal nodes displaying your relative inclination to the Mun [0.0° inclination].)
(Tip: This heavier top heavy rocket, prior to the invention of SAS modules, may require that your scientists install the new LV-T45 thrust vectoring liquid fueled engine.)
  • ComSat II
Launch ComSat II into KEO in a suitable position. (Note: Your constellation of ComSats, when finished, should all be equidistant in their orbits around Kerbin)
  1. Use ComSat I model, unless there's a need for improvements.
  2. Satellite must be Kerbostationary.
  3. Satellite must have visibility of ComSat I.
  4. Satellite must have its dish pointing toward Comsat I at noon (KSC time).
  5. Satellite should be about 120 degrees behind or ahead of Comsat I.
  • ComSat III
Launch ComSat III to finish the ComSat satellite array.
  1. Must use the ComSat II model.
  2. Satellite must be Kerbostationary.
  3. Satellite must have visibility of ComSat I and ComSat II, ideally 120 degrees from both.
  4. Satellite must have its dish pointing toward Comsat I at noon (KSC time).
(Tip: Try adjusting the spacing of your ComSats by transferring to higher or lower orbits to "fall back" or "catch up" - then return it to KEO.)

Kiros I

Launch a self-sustaining weather satellite into an inclined, 3:1 synchronous orbit.
  1. Satellite must contain: 1 Communotron 16 antenna, stationary solar panels, scientific instruments (this is based on TIROS-I if you need design inspiration)
  2. Satellite must be 3:1 synchronous (orbits 3 times per day, see tip for altitude) to ensure every location below it is seen during daylight each day.
  3. Satellite can be inclined 45° if desired (for historical accuracy).
  4. Release satellite with one docking port attached to the lifting rocket for a softer separation than your standard decoupler.
(WARNING: This satellite is very delicate. If you damage it, Kerbal meteorologists will point to you for why their weather predictions aren't always accurate.)
(Tip: It's a good exercise to calculate what altitude you need [skip to the end for answer]. Use the formula r = k·T2/3 where r is the radius of the circular orbit [actually just the semi-major axis for general orbits], T is the period and k is some constant. For example, if want 0.5 times the period of a KO orbit (orbits twice a day), it would have (0.5)2/3 times the radius. Don't forget to include the radius of Kerbin, which is 600km, since the game displays the altitude instead of the radius. You should get about 1585.2km. For a 3:1 synchronous orbit, you should get 1067.6 km.)
(Tip: To prevent draining your liquid fueled satellite engine through the docking port with your last stage, before your flight you can turn off the satellite fuel tank ports at the launch pad.)


Launch a self-sustaining ground mapping satellite into a Stable Polar Orbit
  1. Satellite must contain: antenna, 2 retractable solar panel(s), 1 Probodobodyne RoveMate body, detachable nose cone or fairings (detach above 70km).
  2. Orbit at 90° ± 1° inclination, circular, altitude 100km ± 1km.

Spy Satellites

  • SpySat: a simple spy satellite
Launch SpySat, a rather large camera looking satellite into a Polar Sun Synchronous orbit
  1. Satellite must contain: antenna, RCS system, 2 extendable solar panel(s) [control group], 1 Probodobodyne RoveMate body, camera-like design [or use telescope mods].
  2. Satellite must be in a Polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (appear over the same ground at noon daily, 89.8(6)° inclination).
(Note: A truly sun synchronous orbit is not possible with current KSP physics, but if you follow the above goals you will get an approximate effect for a while)
(This orbit is best for taking pictures since the timing ensures shadows are eliminated!)
(Tips: Get circular at any altitude above 70km, adjust your polar orbit, and then adjust your sun synch at the poles
Launch about 30 min before noon over KSC, head north
Use the Mun for a target reference orbital plane)
  1. If using the modded approach, you'll have to send the film back via dropping film canisters. Try to land them close to the KSC, lest the Kerbiets find out the Kerbicans are spying on them and trying to discover their program to make the perfect ice cream.

(Shssh, don't tell the Kerbiets but this "Weather Satellite" has dual purposes.)

  • Kiros II: a weather (spy) satellite
Launch Kiros II (aka. SpySat II) a rather large weather satellite into a Molniya Orbit with period of 1/2 day that maximizes "hang time" over target.
  1. Satellite must contain: 1 dish antenna and 2 Communotron 16 antennae (one for meteorologists and one for government), 2 extendable solar panels, 1 static solar panel (for extra energy when transmitting with spies), RCS and liquid fuel system (to dodge the occasional missile interceptor), battery power for dark part of orbit (since spies communicate at night).
  2. Satellite must orbit at any inclination where the apoapsis is visible over a target continent.
  3. Satellite must have a periapsis of 75km, and an apoapsis of 3,095 km ± 20km.

Final Word

After mastering orbital mechanics for unmanned objects, Kerbal scientists everywhere were itching to find a few brave volunteers to serve as the first Kerbonauts who would be so dedicated to the cause of scientific exploration, that they would be willing to sacrifice their relatively worthless lives for it. This left a *small* number of educated Kerbals disagreeing with the questionable ethics of the program, but most rocket scientists agreed that they didn't need to listen to them anyways and for the rest of the stupid population, they had invented ways to control missions completely from the ground (what do you think the dishes at the KSC were for?). The promise of a flashy new space suit with jet packs and large ergonomic helments intrigued Kerbals everywhere, as no one had them before and there wasn't a whole lot to do on Kerbin anyway. Jebediah Kerman, a mountain skier and daredevil from Kernacopia, was the first to sign up and participate in the Kerbinai Program.

Meanwhile, as the brave (or maybe stupid) Kerbals signed up for Kerbinai, the scientists at KSC looked to pass the time it took to train them to launch even more satellites. But since Kerbin was now too boring to launch within... how about other places? It was finally time to explore Beyond Kerbin.