Tutorial:Career mode (Richmountain112)
Ah, the wonderful world of Spaceflight, there are not many games with the realistic approach to spaceflight as Kerbal Space Program, right? Plus, it's educational about Orbital Maneuvers and stuff like that. The magnificent Kerbol System lies ahead of you. So, you might think this is crazy, right-ist, or outright insane, it is the best spaceflight game ever, all thanks to the cute Kerbals that pilot your craft. If you don't know where to start, then leave it to me.
- 1 Your First Mission
- 2 Into Orbit
- 3 Mun or Bust
- 4 Minmus SSTO
- 5 Rendezvous and Docking
- 6 Interplanetary Transfer
- 7 External Links
Your First Mission
While it might be tempting to get into sandbox mode with unlimited parts, you might end up failing because of the lack of piloting skills. Instead, your best option is to go to Career mode. While it might seem hard at first, if you set the Funds Rewards slider all the way to 10x (or 2x if you think that's too easy), then it's actually pretty easy because you can launch a craft, then immediately recover it afterwards for ten times the funds.
For your first mission, all you need is an Mk1 Command Pod (or if you have the Making History DLC, the KV-1 'Onion' Reentry Module will do, but only for this mission because of the enormous drag it creates. You'll need to attach a nose cone to the top to use it for future missions) and Mystery Goo Containment Unit. Do a Crew Report, and you'll get a few science. To get more, you'll need your Mystery Goo Containment Unit, which can get you a lot more, or the ability to EVA and take a Surface Sample, which requires the Astronaut Complex and Research & Development Facility to be upgraded, but for me, I set it to which I can do EVAs without having to upgrade them. When you're done, put your Kerbal back into your craft and recover it.
If you followed the steps above, then Congratulations! You've completed your first mission, and now you need to unlock some stuff in the Tech Tree. Go to the Research & Development Facility and unlock Basic Rocketry and Engineering 101. These nodes contain very important parts that will allow you to reach orbit (eventually), but first you should get more Science because when I tried a Swivel for the upper stage, it fell apart mid-flight, killing Jebadiah. Don't worry because you can still get Science by hopping around the Kerbal Space Center using a small rocket. You can build that by getting an Mk1 command pod and adding the Mystery Goo Containment Unit and the "new" 2HOT Thermometer, then stack a TD-12 decoupler below the pod (we don't need a heat shield yet since we're just hopping around the space center) and as many fuel tanks as you can while ensuring that the Thrust-to-Weight ratio is above 1 (It can't lift itself off the ground if it's below 1) and putting a Swivel engine below the tanks and fins (radially attached to said tanks) to make it controllable, but for this mission, we'll send Bob Kerman instead because he's a scientist, and only scientists can clean experiments.
When you launch it, press Space (to activate the engine), then when you're flying, press A to tilt it towards the KSC (abbreviation for Kerbal Space Center), but be careful not to destroy anything, because if you destroy the Vehicle Assembly Building, then you'll have to launch from the Runway and use the SpacePlane Hangar instead. Do your Science in midair, Press Space when you run out of fuel, then activate your parachutes and land your craft near (or on top of) one of the buildings. Clean your science experiments when you land so you can repeat your experiments in a different location, and when you touchdown, perform your experiments to get Science. When you're done, recover your craft and see what you get. If you followed the steps correctly, you should get a lot of science from that.
If you are low on Funds, then there's no need to worry because of Contracts. These are things that give you Funds and Reputation (or maybe Science) upon success. Failure, on the other hand, takes away Funds (and Reputation if Kerbals are lost (Even if you set for them to respawn like my file)), so make sure you succeed at these. They can range from Launching Kerbals into space to having to land on every single celestial body without refueling, so pick carefully.
If you have enough Science for the next 3 nodes (General Rocketry, Stability, and Survivability), accept a Contract to launch a kerbal into orbit, and head to the VAB (abbreviation for Vehicle Assembly Building). Once you're there, build a rocket by stacking an Mk-1 Command Pod, Parachutes, and a Heat Shield (we're gonna need it to return from orbit), then a decoupler and a few Fuel Tanks. Put a Terrier engine below the tanks, then put another decoupler below it. Stack a few more tanks, then put a Swivel or Reliant at the bottom. Then, set the symmetry modifier to 3-fold and put Radial Decouplers on it.. On the radial decouplers, put a Hammer SRB and a nose cone on top of the boosters, but don't forget to add Science experiments to the command pod. There you go, Your first orbital rocket! Just note that you can’t throttle SRBs like you can with Liquid fueled engines.
Types of engines
There are several types of rocket engines, and these are the ones that will boost your rocket to orbit.
These engines can only be fired once, and when they start, they can’t be turned off. You might think these are useless, but they are... except for boosting your rocket to orbit, which is really important because they pack a lot of thrust and are dirt-cheap. One Kickback provides like a constant 60 Kilonewtons for about 55.7 seconds. You can make something similar with liquid-fueled boosters, but it would be far more expensive than if you just used an SRB.
The ones on your lower stage are these, like Vectors, Reliants, Mammoths, and Mastadons (Making History is required for the last one). These are mostly useful for getting out of the lower atmosphere, but Vectors and Mainsails are heavily recommended for Eve landers due to the former’s Gimbal range.
Upper Stage Engines
The Terrier and Poodle are the best choices for such stages because they function excellent in the vacuum of Space. There are other engines that are like this, like the Thud, Spark, and Ant. The former is best for landers, and the latter 2 are better for small probes like Relays.
Another type of engine, these are intended for small, precise movements like Docking. They can also be read used for Rotation if your craft lacks Reaction Wheels to rotate itself. I prefer these over Reaction Wheels because you can also translate with them, in case you realize that you’re about to land on steep terrain and see a flat place nearby.
Piloting the rocket
Launch it and watch your rocket fly (but don't forget to pilot it. It took me several tries to get into orbit). Be sure to raise your Apoapsis above 70 Kilometers, and then discard your first stage if it's out of fuel, then raise your Periapsis above 70 Km using your upper stage (or part of your lower stage if there's still some fuel in it, but don't forget to discard it before you complete your burn with your upper stage). If you followed these steps, you're in orbit, so run your experiments and don't forget to EVA to collect their data and do an EVA Report, because they may explode during reentry. When you're done, don't forget to do a deorbit burn at Apoapsis to enter the atmosphere, and separate the command pod from the rest of the craft during reentry. When you're at a low enough speed, don't forget to deploy your Parachutes, and when you splashdown (or touchdown if you land instead of splash), recover your craft and see how much Science you get. You should have enough to get a few nodes on the Tech Tree, specifically Advanced Rocketry, General Construction, Basic Science, and Landing. These all cost 45 Science, so you might want to be careful on what you spend.
Mun or Bust
In order to get to the Mun, we need all three of them. For the Spacecraft, use a FL-T400 Fuel Tank, stack a TD-12 Decoupler (ensure the arrow points up), Small Heat Shield, Mk1 Command Pod, and an Mk16 Parachute, but don't forget the Landing Legs and Solar Panels. Below the tank, use a Terrier and another TD-12 Decoupler (make sure the arrow points up so that they don't obscure the engine after separation). For the Transfer Stage, use another FL-T400 tank, a Terrier, and a TD-12 Decoupler. The Launch Vehicle should be some FL-T800 Fuel Tanks and a Swivel or Reliant, plus some TT-38K Radial Decouplers to attach some side boosters, which are similar to the core stage, but with nose cones instead of another upper stage (I didn't use this design because the side boosters kept crashing into the core stage). Launch your rocket into orbit, and when you get there, plant a maneuver node and play with the Prograde, Retrograde, Normal, Antinormal, Radial-in, and Radial-out markers until you get a Mun encounter. When you perform your burn, create another maneuver node when you're done, and apply some Retrograde, Antinormal, and/or Radial-in/out to get in orbit around the Mun, and perform your landing burn when you feel safe. Make sure that your landing legs are still on your craft to prevent it from tipping over so that you can make a soft landing (When I tried to extend my landing gear, on my first attempt I realized that the legs were attached to a stage I expended earlier. Second time, the engine exploded because they were too high up and it toppled on its side).
Land your craft on the Near side so that you can transmit your Crew Report. I (accidentally) landed on the Far side, so unless I set up a Relay Network, I can't transmit my science because it's obscured by the Mun itself. Hopefully, you made your craft to which the landing legs are unobscured by anything. In fact, I would recommend to use an engine like the Thud or Puff instead because those are radial-mounted and are not vulnerable to blowing up (The latter uses Monopropellant only). They might cause a little bit of Drag, but it will be worth it when you land on the Mun. If you have enough Delta-V to hop into another Biome (that's what gives you more Science when you land in a different area and perform the same experiments), then do a suborbital hop to your desired biome, whether it's another crater or the poles, then repeat the experiments there (if you got a Scientist on board). If your only crew is a Pilot or Engineer, then return to orbit and plant a Maneuver Node to Kerbin within Kerbin's Atmosphere, but don't forget to collect your Science first. You're gonna need the Funds that your Contract promised, so when you're in Kerbin's atmosphere below 60km, separate the pod from the craft and watch your reentry. When it says "safe" on your parachutes, deploy them (by pressing P) before 1000 meters so that you can land safely. With the type of parachute you have, it's unsafe to deploy any lower than that. If you followed these steps correctly, then congratulations! Your first Mun Landing and Return! You can do a Tourist contract and send some to the Mun and back of you have a Hitchhiker Storage Container with you to get some Funds.
Use your science to unlock the Aircraft parts for your SSTO to Minmus. Click on the Spaceplane Hangar, then build one. You might want to watch out for the Center of Lift on your craft. make sure it's slightly behind the Center of Mass, (but not too much because that will cause your plane to flip out during takeoff) which is just as important. You'll need your science, too, so you might want to add a cargo bay to your Mk2 Spaceplane for that. You'll need to watch your Delta-V as well, so make sure you have enough fuel as well. I would recommend testing it in Low Kerbin orbit to ensure that it doesn't flip out during reentry first, then take it to minmus. For the engines, I would use the Terrier for the rocket engine, and Panther or Wheesly for Jet engines. If you only have enough for a Low Kerbin Orbit mission, construct an expendable booster and remove the Jet engines.
Once you have a working SpacePlane design and ascent profile, take it to Low Kerbin Orbit, then plan a Minmus encounter (NOT a Collision Course), then get into orbit. Once there, plant a maneuver node, but this time, we're aiming for Minmus, so play with the node until you get a Minmus encounter. Repeat the same thing you did for the Mun landing, but be sure to reorient your SSTO horizontally right before touchdown on Minmus or you might be in a bad position to return. Fortunately, if you have RCS thrusters on your Spaceplane, you can reorient yourself to the desired position. For the return, do a horizontal ascent and when you lift off, orient your craft to which it can complete a stable orbit. If you don’t have enough Delta-V to get back to Kerbin, do a Mun gravity assist to drop your Periapsis within Kerbin’s atmosphere. From there, Aerobrake for several passes, then glide down to the Kerbal Space Center (or the island Airfield if you overshoot it). If you want an extra challenge, you can try the Desert Airfield if you want to. Just make sure you are less than 100 m/s horizontally and 5 m/s vertically to prevent your landing gear from exploding.
Rendezvous and Docking
In order to get to Duna, the best approach is an Apollo-style mission with a detachable lander, but you probably don’t have the skills to dock 2 crafts in orbit, so this Space Station is gonna help you practice. For the root part, use a Mobile Processing Lab MPL-LG-2 for the root, add a Rockomax Brand Adapter 02 with a Clamp-O-tron Docking Port to the back, and an Mk1-3 Command Pod in the front with a Clamp-O-tron Docking Port on the small node, and 2-fold Gigantor XL Solar Arrays, radial-mounted of course, and an antenna of some sort. Try experimenting with different crafts, and make sure to launch your crew transfer vehicle (whether it’s a Spaceplane/SSTO or multistage rocket with a command pod on top) when the station’s orbit is right below your launch site (whether it’s the KSC, Woomerang, or Island Airfield)
If you successfully dock with your station, switch out your crew and do whatever you need to do. When you’re done with that, undock your craft and deorbit. You will be reentering the atmosphere, so if you do a Spaceplane, be careful where you land.
If you’ve been asking, “Do I have to bring all that Oxidizer with me during interplanetary missions?”, and fortunately, that answer is yes. However, they all have their drawbacks, though.
One way to provide thrust is to not use rockets at all. These rely on intake air, so their vehicles only need to have Liquid Fuel with them. Another advantage is their high Specific Impulse at 3200 to 12600, making them competitive with the Ion engines at the low end, and Game-Breaking on the high end, if they weren’t completely useless outside of Kerbin or Laythe. Their Thrust-to-Weight ratio is terrible by rocket standards, and you won’t have any luck on Duna, Jool, or Eve unless you’ve installed a mod that adds compressed air tanks as parts (which I doubt there’s any). Fortunately, they’re still useful on SSTOs that don’t go past Minmus, and the CR-7 R.A.P.I.E.R. Engines are still useful as a rocket engine.
A more advanced version of the Jet engine, these work on Eve, Duna, and Jool, too. (If you have the Outer Planets Mod, then they also work on Sarnus, Tekto, Urlum, Nedion, and Thatmo, too, but be careful with Thatmo because it’s a little thin). You will need the Breaking Ground DLC for this, though, and don’t use a Turboshaft if you’re gonna use it on other bodies. Rumors claim this is the only thing that works in the lower atmosphere of the gas planets (but I never tried it myself, so I can’t confirm).
The Dawn engine is an oddball in the entire game in which it relies on Xenon gas and a lot of Electricity to work. There are a few advantages and drawbacks to these. They are extremely fuel-efficient (unless you put lots (Like a cluster of 20 or more) of them), have a Specific Impulse of 5 times of the Nerv and 11 times that of any normal rocket.
Naturally they have their drawbacks. First, their low thrust at 2 Kilonewtons means that you have to put a cluster of about like, 30 of them, which cuts down on their efficiency, or you have to wait like 3 hours just for one burn. Second, their tanks have a wet:dry ratio of 1:4, far less efficient than liquid fueled engines that have a ratio of 1:9. Real-Life engines have only 0.01% of their in-game thrust. 3rd, it’s near-impossible to use them on ascent stages (But they won’t be used on them anyways). Lastly, don’t go planet-hoppin’ searching for ore because you won’t find any Xenon naturally lingering around trapped in rocks. You just won’t because your Convert-O-Tron 250 will produce Liquid Fuel, Oxidizer, and/or Monopropellant instead.
Nerv Atomic Rocket Motor
The most efficient choice for interplanetary transfer is this because it only uses Liquid Fuel, so there’s no need to carry oxidizer unless you’re using other engines as well. Their specific impulse is also high at 800, in comparison to the highest Normal liquid fueled engine, the Wolfhound, at 380. Sadly, they are also the 7th most expensive engine in the game, and have poor Thrust-to-Weight ratio, at 60 Kilonewtons for a 3-ton engine. Fortunately, all of these issues are countered with near-unlimited funds, and for you guys, they will mostly be used in a vacuum.