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A craft, vessel or vehicle is a group of parts including at least one command module. Inclusion of a command module is the sole difference between craft and debris.

Outside of scenarios and training, craft enter play only by being launched from the Launch Pad or Runway at Kerbal Space Center. One craft may be separated into multiple distinct craft, assuming the separated objects each have a command module. KSP also includes developer-built stock craft of several types, though they're not available in Career or Science mode games.

Vessel types


In Map view (and the Tracking Station), each object has a single type. Type is the criteria both for filtering the display of objects and the icon each object is represented with. Type can be manually changed through a command module's “Rename Vessel” option or in the “i” info panel in Map view. There are nine possible craft types, including Debris.

When craft are launched from the Runway or Launch Pad, and the first time a sub-craft detaches from its parent by decouplers or docking ports, KSP automatically assigns one of four types to each craft based on its command module. Each command module has a default type of either Ship, Lander, Rover, Probe, Plane or Relay.

When multiple command modules or craft are combined, type is resolved by a hierarchy (listed below from highest ranked type to lowest). When multiple command modules are built into one craft, the module with the highest type sets the default type of the whole craft. When multiple craft are docked together as one craft, the combined craft's type and name are determined by the craft which originally had the highest type. After undocking, craft resume their original names and types. When craft of equal type dock together, possibly the older craft determines the combined craft's name.

  • Base
  • Station
  • Ship
  • Plane
  • Lander
  • Rover
  • Relay
  • Probe
  • Debris

Being part of KSP, this type system is universal. However, it may not always match players' perceptions. A command module of one type may be chosen for what is functionally another. One craft may be a hybrid possessing qualities of multiple types or be composed of multiple sub-craft of different types joined together. Or the craft may be something completely different.

Descriptions of each type follow in the order they appear in Map view.

Debris (manual)

→ Main article: Debris

A craft's type can manually be set to “Debris”. This does not render the craft uncontrollable; it is not Debris in the usual sense. Possible uses include filtering out functional but no longer useful probes, although the Tracking Station's “Terminate” option may be better. It may also suit roleplaying needs for simulated conflicts.

Note also that any uncontrolled debris which can be docked with can be manually set to any other type by a docked craft, and this persists after undocking.


→ Main article: Probe

A craft with a “probe core” and no crew modules or external seats is automatically typed as a Probe. Commonly, a probe is designed to leave Kerbin and travel to another celestial body or orbit as a satellite. Probes often are orbiters but may also take the form of robotic rovers or stationary landers. Probes are generally thought of as small, but larger categories of vehicles like planes and rockets can be entirely probe-controlled, though players may categorize these as “drones” instead.

Probe cores can also supplement control of other types of craft when manned command modules lack crew; the type will still default to the manned module's type.


→ Main article: Rover

Rovers are wheeled vehicles built to drive on terrestrial surfaces. Rarely are they built to fly or even glide, though they may be carried by another craft elsewhere on Kerbin or to another celestial body. Typically they will have powered wheels, but landing gear coupled with RCS thrusters or reaction engines also work.

The EAS-1 External Command Seat is the only command module automatically typed as a rover. Players may prefer to manually type a wheeled Probe without a command seat as a Rover.


→ Main article: Lander

Typically part of manned missions to a celestial body, landers make a vertical landing on a terrestrial surface with landing legs and remaining stationary unless or until they lift off and return to orbit. Typically they arrive at their destination by detaching or staging from a larger vessel and deorbiting onto the surface.

KSP labels a craft as a lander if its command module is a Mk1 Lander Can, Mk2 Lander-can, or a PPD-12 Cupola Module.


→ Main article: Ship

The most general type. Any vehicle which possesses a manned command module with an enclosed crew compartment and is not a Lander is typed as a Ship. It applies equally well to the general categories of rockets and planes.


→ Main article: Space station

Short for space station, these are typically installations meant to remain permanently in a fixed orbit. Stations are distinguished from probe satellites by either being manned or made for other vessels to dock with, usually both.

Any craft docked with a Station temporarily becomes a part of it under the Station's name, excepting only a Base. The count of the docked craft's type remains as before, but the craft itself will not be listed or visible in Map view. After undocking, the craft's name and type will be unchanged.

KSP does not automatically assign this type to any craft[outdated] and so is assigned manually by players as they see fit.


→ Main article: Base

Bases are installations meant to remain in place on the surface of a celestial body providing resources or functionality for other craft or a crew.

Most Bases are designed to remain in place permanently, but some are designed with wheels or flight capability and merely stay in place for an arbitrarily “long time” while rovers or other vehicles travel to and from the Base during missions. Bases are usually manned outposts, though they may be vacant of crew for periods.

Any craft docked with a Base temporarily becomes a part of it under the Base's name, even a Station. The count of the docked craft's type remains as before, but the craft itself will not be listed or visible in Map view. After undocking, the craft's name and type will be unchanged.

KSP does not automatically assign this type to any craft[outdated] and so is assigned manually by players as they see fit.


→ Main article: Plane

Crafts launched from the Spaceplane Hangar are automatically typed as a Plane. The plane type is usually used for crafts optimized for atmospheric flight (having wings and air intakes).


→ Main article: Relay Satellite

Crafts with a "probe core", an antenna featuring relay capabilities, and no crew modules or external seats is automatically typed as a Relay. Relays are meant to be satellites staying in Kerbin orbit or being sent to other celestial bodies, with the purpose of providing communication with other crafts there through the CommNet network. In career mode, players often end up with many relay satellites in Kerbin orbit, launched because of missions or to expand the CommNet network. Players might not want to terminate them, as they provide communications, so hiding them from the Map View is a good option to improve readability.

Additional categories

There are also categories referenced in-game or in official material that aren't part of KSP's explicit types. These terms are useful for discussions or other contexts. One craft may belong in multiple categories, such as a VTOL SSTO spaceplane.


Rockets, along with planes, are one of the most commonly used categories in describing craft. Rockets rely on thrust for lift, using aerodynamics simply for stability.


Planes are the other most commonly used category of craft in KSP. Planes use wings inside an atmosphere for aerodynamic lift in powered, horizontal flight. Planes which use only air-breathing jet engines are airplanes.


Spaceplanes are planes able to function as spacecraft beyond altitudes with sufficient air for jets. The name of the Spaceplane Hangar implies them as a goal, though many stock craft are conventional airplanes.

Many players additionally require the ability to achieve orbit before considering a craft a spaceplane, though a suborbital spaceplane is a spaceplane.


Any craft that can achieve orbit without detaching any parts (such as fuel tanks or engines) is categorized as a single-stage-to-orbit or SSTO. These are almost always spaceplanes, although SSTO rockets are also possible.


The category of Vertical TakeOff and Landing is generally applied to any craft able to both takeoff and land vertically. It properly applies only to planes, but KSP's stock example is something perhaps best described as a VTOL rover. VTVL is the correct term for rockets that land vertically, but few players use the term.


An Air Launch to Orbit (ALTO) is a type of craft typically launched from a plane or Stratolauncher that can reach LKO or beyond. Some examples of an ALTO are the Stratolauncher and the Satellite Launcher.

See also