Kerbal Space Program
January 17, 2013 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Kerbal Space Program is a cartoon-ish game in which you build rockets from pieces and launch/fly them around in a simulated solar system using basic orbital mechanics. It has an active forum, extensive modifications, a whole site dedicated to plugins and mods, and its own subreddit. This youtube video demonstrates the latest version, 0.18.

(This may be counted as a dupe, as there's a post about it from mid 2011, but the program is now substantially different than it was a year and a half ago and has a much larger community behind it).
posted by thewalrus (49 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Clearly faked with some sort of computer graphics or other camera tricks.
posted by straight at 3:08 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm just getting in to Kerbal Space Program now and it's fun. It strikes a nice balance between realistic physics and still being a fun and goofy game.

The development team, Squad, is based on Mexico City.
posted by Nelson at 3:18 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jebediah Kerman is how I feel inside.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:23 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


god speed my little kerbals. Of course, that was before Mun was discovered, so that design would probably not work now (read: fly without problems)
posted by boo_radley at 3:32 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


It has its own subreddit, but if you prefer to play and talk about it with other Mefites, there's also a dedicated thread and enthusiastic group of Kerbal rocket scientists over at MefightClub.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:34 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


My early attempts at Kerbal Space Program looked like a cartoon version of this.
posted by thewalrus at 3:36 PM on January 17, 2013


The best think about KSP is this tribute to Bobak Ferdowsi. It's almost like I'll live to see another age like that time in the 60's when space exploration was cool.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:41 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, OK, maybe not the best thing. The fact that I can output my spacecraft data to a file and run an R script on it is also pretty damn cool.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:42 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Folks OP has indicated this is a much-expanded post from the one in 2011, no need to flag as a double, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:49 PM on January 17, 2013


The inevitable Kerbal xX[MLG]Xx exists.
posted by thelonius at 4:32 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


best kerbal video
posted by Copronymus at 4:32 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Flagged as DOUBLY AWESOME.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:33 PM on January 17, 2013


Ha I was first to launch!
posted by thelonius at 4:35 PM on January 17, 2013


I played around with this for a few days. The learning curve is steep. I had to completely rely on tutorials I found on YouTube and even then it's not easy. A time sink, but a fun time sink.
posted by zardoz at 4:38 PM on January 17, 2013


Wait, is this just Windows? That would suck.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:46 PM on January 17, 2013


Wait, did you even look? It runs on MacOS just fine. Even some of the third party addons with files named "foo.dll" work, some sort of .NET chicanery.
posted by Nelson at 4:48 PM on January 17, 2013


KSP is cross-platform. I've been enjoying KSP on my Mac for months. Third-party plugins can be fiddly though, as some devs assume a Windows install.
posted by ddbeck at 4:49 PM on January 17, 2013


All right, I managed >800 km and 2,5 km/s. I guess I suck at spacecraft piloting or perhaps four stages, three RBs and five fuel tanks is just not enough.
posted by hat_eater at 4:54 PM on January 17, 2013


Wait, did you even look?

Well yes, that's why I asked a helpful...person like you. There wasn't a note on about OS, system etc. on the "put software in cart" page.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:01 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, is this in real time ?
posted by Flashman at 5:59 PM on January 17, 2013


Oh boy, they've been adding a whole bunch of new stuff to this game. I really need to find the time it play it some more.

There wasn't a note on about OS, system etc. on the "put software in cart" page.

Hm, you're right. Weird. They should probably fix that! The Mac version is a bit weird and dodgy and it doesn't run very well on my Macbook's integrated GPU, so I much prefer to run it in Windows.

Wait, is this in real time ?

There's time acceleration available when/if you reach orbit. It's automatically disabled when you fall too far into a gravity well. Kerbin is much smaller than Earth, so a successful orbital launch takes maybe 10 minutes in realtime, last I checked (although admittedly I've only managed to do this once or twice!).
posted by neckro23 at 6:13 PM on January 17, 2013


One of THE best games ever. Runs very well on the Mac.
posted by schwa at 6:41 PM on January 17, 2013


Wait, is the rocket always supposed to traveling away from the ground?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:44 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, that depends on your goals, really.
posted by boo_radley at 6:52 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you want to watch videos about KSP, my favorites are those of Scott Manley. He is an actual rocket scientist, he's nice and he makes the videos informative as well as hilarious. Some personal favorites: Easter Eggs in 0.18; Low Budget Lander; Scott & His Dad Play KSP; Compilation Of Crashes, Explosions and Mishaps; Kerbal Space Probes in 0.18.

I've been playing KSP on Linux (using Wine) since 0.15 and it's my main computer game these days. Current project: put space probes around or on every body in the Kerbol system.
posted by jiawen at 7:38 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, is the rocket always supposed to traveling away from the ground?

If it doesn't, you have a bad problem and you will not go to space today.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:25 PM on January 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


This is from many versions ago, but it's still one of my favorite KSP videos. Why yes, you can go pretty high on just powered decouplers. Plus, the music is a nice bonus.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:41 PM on January 17, 2013


My new (thanks AskMe!) husband has been playing this incessantly. When he made it into an orbit around the moon, I was notified via cryptic text:

"I would like to take a moment to thank all the kerbals, living and dead, who have dedicated their lives to achieving this momentous event in space exploration."
posted by nile_red at 11:33 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Are there any good videos of people actually succeeding in orbiting the moon? I can watch rockets explode for hours, but sometimes I need a little variety.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:56 AM on January 18, 2013


GENTLY CARESS YOU KERBALS GET INTO THE KERBAL SMASHER
posted by sneakums at 2:23 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh. Evidently reaching orbit isn't the same as staying in orbit.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:56 AM on January 18, 2013


Elementary Penguin: "Are there any good videos of people actually succeeding in orbiting the moon?"

Scott Manley to the rescue again: Mun Landing 4 Reals, Tutorial On Getting To & Landing On Moons.
posted by jiawen at 6:31 AM on January 18, 2013


I tried the game again last night for the first time in a good while, thanks to this post.

Designing a "proper" rocket was taking too long, mainly because there are about three times as many rocket parts available as there were last time I played. So, I made the simplest possible plausible one: a trio of huge solid rocket boosters attached to the bottom, and an SAS ring module on top of the crew module with parachute above that. I figured this could be a simple up-and-down test launch. Baby steps into space, if you will. Practically risk-free by Kerbal standards.

So Jebediah and co. strap themselves in, and up they go. The rocket goes straight up with no funny stuff. The SAS does its job, everything's cool. They make it to about 18 klicks elevation or so before the boosters go dry, then I activate Stage Two and the crew module jettisons.

I usually like to wait until the last minute to activate the parachute, because where's the fun in playing it safe? So, I let them freefall until they're about 1000m above ground. Jebediah is loving this, but I think the other two need Space Diapers. Quit screaming, you wimps, this is the simplest possible mission, right?

So a klick up, I trigger the parachute. It immediately detaches itself from the SAS module and my poor Kerbonauts only have a few seconds to make peace with the universe. Whoops! Sorry, Jebediah.
posted by neckro23 at 6:39 AM on January 18, 2013


Jebediah has always been and will always be at peace with the universe.
posted by boo_radley at 8:11 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


This thread finally got me to plunk down the cash. Woo!
posted by adamdschneider at 8:48 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


KSP is eating my brain for lunch for the past few months, I find it very hard to think about anything else. One bit of advice for those of you just getting into it: don't let purists tilt your opinions of the blossoming contrib scene surrounding this game. These are not MODS. They are PARTS! Most of the part makers have created Kerbal Aerospace Company brands and they are participating in the game as the devs intended through APIs built in to do exactly this sort of stuff. Even the mighty MechJeb, that single handedly can turn "Kerbal Space PILOT" into "Kerbal Space PROGRAM" lives peacefully and entirely in a folder called Plugins. The Kerbol System was made for him. All these worlds are his (except Eeloo, which is only available if you patch to 0.18.2 and are willing to accept one hell of a nerf job on RCS monopropellant consumption).

It's thrilling to see Part makers getting into the spirit of the Kerbal's slapdash world. The very useful Protractor part, so called because it replaced the alternative of HOLDING AN ACTUAL PROTRACTOR UP TO THE SCREEN LIKE A SAVAGE, takes the shape of a TI-81 calculator taped to your hull.

I am very eager to see, as this game lurches towards a 1.0, which of the awesome innovations happening among players are brought into the game proper. Remote Tech and Kethane make it an entirely new game. MechJeb spares you the drudgery and anguish. SQUAD has got a real winner on their hands, and they clearly have got what it takes to harness their community and ride.

AD ASTRA!
posted by ulotrichous at 10:23 AM on January 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Since I'm never going to write it myself I'll share my Great Idea for a KSP addon: bones files.

KSP has a neat feature where you can quit the game and leave a mission in progress. If your Kerbals are in a stable orbit or landed on a remote Mün they're still there the next time you play. It's a neat thing to see your kerbol system get cluttered up with space junk and marooned Kerbals and the history of your playing. Also it leads to rescue missions, which seem impossibly complicated but so noble.

Nethack has a neat feature where when you die, the game saves your corpse and equipment, for you to find on another play through. The bones file. Even cooler, if you play on a shared installation (like at the old school Unix timeshare) then you can find other people's corpses, loot. Bones files turn Nethack into an odd sort of asynchronous multiplayer game.

I want shared bones files for KSP. I want to dodge my friend's space junk, I want to rescue their Jeb trapped in orbit without enough fuel to come home. There's been a lot of talk about a general multiplayer KSP and for a variety of reasons, particularly time dilation, that's considered too hard to do. But this little asynchronous sharing seems conceptually simple.
posted by Nelson at 10:38 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, MechJeb is excellent. It gives you the piloting options that you need to fly effectively, like buttons to automatically hold your heading at prograde, retrograde, plus normal, minus normal, etc. The orbit information, surface information and vehicle information windows are valuable as well. The rendezvous module which shows your relative velocity to the target is very helpful when docking.
posted by thewalrus at 10:58 AM on January 18, 2013


I want to dodge my friend's space junk

Apparently the developers are working on the idea of stargates/jump gates, which will take your ship into a new solar system... Whether this will be a new standalone single player solar system or one created and populated by another human player is not yet known.
posted by thewalrus at 11:00 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


So... the sandboxy/mayhem inducing part of this looks delightful, but... just how much advanced math/geometry would I need to understand in order to make use of this?
posted by stenseng at 3:08 PM on January 18, 2013


So... the sandboxy/mayhem inducing part of this looks delightful, but... just how much advanced math/geometry would I need to understand in order to make use of this?

It's honestly not much of an issue. The visualizations of orbit paths and the maneuvers you can do are really intuitive (way better than previous versions), and building a craft is a lot like snapping explosive LEGO together. You can have a lot of fun just trying to get things into orbit.

The development team have provided some 'stock' prebuilt craft so you can get a sense of how things go together (or if you just want something that you know will get into orbit).

But really. Who wants stock when you can build your own?
posted by mikurski at 8:26 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here is a question that may affect whether I get this: can I put together a project Orion?
posted by thecaddy at 9:11 AM on January 19, 2013


Well, this is a nice diversion from the megaflu that's going around...

So I managed to land my Kerbals (alive even!) on the moon, but their horizontal vector was a little high and they lost everything but their capsule. Which is probably for the better because they were out of fuel anyway. I suppose that's what the "hitchhiker" module is for if I ever want to pick them up?

My rocket in the demo version seemed to have a lot more escape energy. Guess I'll go play with ion engines.

The atomic engine is there in the stock parts, but a little disappointing (high efficiency, moderate power, uses standard liquid fuel). thecaddy, I'm sure there's a a mod part for your atomic dreams.

I really hope that the version 1.0 career mode story revolves around an impending asteroid collision with Kerbal and you have to build your space program up from zero. Some missions with yearly close approaches of the asteroid complete with nukes and solar sails would be pretty cool. I just need to know that all these dead and stranded Kerbals are not in vain.
posted by Skwirl at 7:47 PM on January 19, 2013


Once you have your piloting skills nailed, the atomic engine is the ONLY one you want to use in outside-atmospheric stages and on rockets because its specific impulse is 800 while the best specific impulse from other engines is 320 to 390. Yes it has a thrust of only 60 kN but that is more than sufficient in vacuum.
posted by thewalrus at 12:21 AM on January 20, 2013


Here is a question that may affect whether I get this: can I put together a project Orion?

Not exactly, but close. Can even approximate an ESA service module.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:44 AM on January 20, 2013


Well, the atomic engine is disappointing in the sense that it doesn't involve pushing a nuclear bomb out your read-end and detonating it for propulsion. (Boy would Jebediah get a kick out of that.)

Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_pulse_propulsion
posted by Skwirl at 6:31 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just got my first Kerbal in orbit. Next stop, MUN.

Maybe modders will put the Orion engine in someday...
posted by adamdschneider at 8:19 PM on January 20, 2013


Munar orbit achieved. The atomic rocket is so efficient I could probably get Bill Kerman home, as well. Too bad I didn't put a chute on his capsule!
posted by adamdschneider at 9:49 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


They just released an updated demo based on the latest version.
posted by Mr. Pokeylope at 5:06 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


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