How to Build a Basic Satellite

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Building a Basic Satellite

Are you new to Kerbal Space Program and don't know where to start? Do your rockets tumble, flip, or generally disintegrate before reaching orbit? Do you want to launch a permanent and sustainable satellite? Do you want to practice the basics of deploying payloads into orbit? If so, then this tutorial is for you!

Specifications

  • Length: 5–15 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy (Requires basic knowledge of orbital mechanics)
  • For version: Every version

Steps

Step 1 - Building a satellite

Starting from the ground up!
  1. The first step is to build a satellite. Just about any probe body will work, however, if possible, the Probodobodyne HECS is a good first choice. It is important to verify the probe body includes a reaction wheel as you will need one if you want to move the satellite. If the probe body does not include a reaction wheel, go ahead and add one.
  2. Next, to power the satellite, add batteries. There are multiple types of batteries with different storage capacities, ensure you add enough to meet the needs of the equipment on the satellite. While an engine can provide limited power, it is best to outfit solar panels to also aid in replenishing power to the batteries when the satellite is on the sunward side of a planet. If all the power drains from the batteries, the satellite will not be able to move or communicate. To add variety to the satellite, consider adding a thermal control system and/or scientific equipment to conduct testing while in orbit. The final touches should include an antenna. If the satellite is in orbit close to Kerbin, then a Communotron 16 or two will be ample to transmit data to the ground control. However, the farther away from Kerbin the satellite orbits, the stronger (and typically larger) antenna the satellite will require.
  3. The final parts to add to the satellite will be to install a decoupler or separator at the base along with a faring module below that. and a fairing below that. It is important to ensure the faring covers the entire satellite as atmospheric friction during launch can destroy satellite parts during the ascent stage.
  4. Finally, build a rocket that will carry the new satellite to the designated orbit. Lower orbits at around 80,000 m will not require as substantial of a rocket and boosters as a satellite destined for and orbit of 200,000 m and above. Test different rocket and booster combinations to figure out which will be best to use for the satellite you built. If possible (due to funds and weight), add a remote control unit to the rocket to allow for deorbit after getting the satellite to its destination.

Step 2 - Launching the satellite into orbit

Launching a satellite in the traditional method includes a few critical steps
  1. Begin the launch by heading straight up
  2. When passing between 10,000 and 20,000 m, begin a gravity turn
  3. During the ascent, if the rocket has different stages, ensure to remove spent stages to lighten the rocket for maximum efficiency
  4. Around 70,000 m the faring housing the satellite can be deployed (blown off)
  5. At any point above 75,000 m, circularize the orbit of the satellite

Step 3 - Deploying the satellite

Situating the satellite in orbit
  1. Decouple the satellite from the final stage of the main rocket
  2. Extend all antennas, solar panels and thermal control systems on the satellite (if they were added)
  3. If a remote control unit was added to the rocket body, switch to the rocket and set it up to deorbit (crash back into Kerbin), once the rocket body is on its way back down, switch controls back to the satellite
  4. Fine-tune the satellites' orbit and orientation to the sun (for maximum solar panel gathering)
  5. If the satellite contains any science experiments, you may now begin to gather data and transmit it back to Kerbin

Finishing word

Congratulations! You've built a small satellite and put it into orbit. This is only the beginning, experiment with other configurations or larger satellites and rockets. Eventually, you will progress to orbiting satellites around moons and other planets, even sending Kerbals on adventures. Only your imagination limits you!