Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program (KSP) is a space flight simulation video game developed by Squad and published by Private Division for Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. In the game, players direct a nascent space program, staffed and crewed by green humanoid aliens known as “Kerbals”. The game features a realistic orbital physics engine, allowing for various real-life orbital maneuvers such as Hohmann transfer orbits and orbital rendezvous.

The first public version was released digitally on Squad’s Kerbal Space Program storefront on 24 June 2011, and joined Steam’s early access program on 20 March 2013. The game was released out of beta on 27 April 2015. Kerbal Space Program has support for user-created mods that add new features. Popular mods have received support and inclusion in the game by Squad. People and agencies in the space industry have taken an interest in the game, including NASA, the European Space Agency, and Peter Beck, CEO and CTO of Rocket Lab.

In May 2017, Squad announced that the game was purchased by video game company Take-Two Interactive, who will help support Squad in keeping the console versions up-to-date alongside the personal computer versions. An Enhanced Edition was released on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in January 2018 by Private Division, a publishing subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive. Two expansions for the game have been released as downloadable content: Making History in March 2018 and Breaking Ground in May 2019. A sequel, Kerbal Space Program 2, has been announced for a 2022 release.

The player administers a space program operated by Kerbals, a species of small green humanoids, who have constructed a spaceport called the Kerbal Space Center (KSC) on their home planet, Kerbin. From this space center players can create rockets, aircraft, spaceplanes, rovers, and other craft from a provided set of components. Once built, the craft can be launched by players from the KSC launch pad or runway in an attempt to complete player-set or game-directed missions while avoiding partial or catastrophic failure (such as lack of fuel or structural failure). Players control their spacecraft in three dimensions with little assistance other than a Stability Assist System (SAS) to keep their rocket oriented. Provided it maintains sufficient thrust and fuel, a spacecraft can enter orbit or even travel to other celestial bodies. To visualize vehicle trajectory, the player must switch into map mode; this displays the orbit or trajectory of the player vehicle, as well as the position and trajectory of other spacecraft and planetary bodies. These planets and other vehicles can be targeted to view information needed for rendezvous and docking, such as ascending and descending nodes, target direction, and relative velocity to the target. While in map mode, players can also access maneuver nodes to plan out trajectory changes in advance, which helps in accurately planning burns.

Missions (either player-set or assigned “contracts”) involve goals such as reaching a certain altitude, escaping the atmosphere, reaching a stable orbit, landing on a certain planetary body, rescuing stranded Kerbals, capturing asteroids, and creating space stations and surface bases. Players may also set challenges for each other on the game’s forums, such as visiting all five moons of Jool (the in-game analog for Jupiter), or use mods to test each other’s spacecraft in air combat tournaments.

Players can control in-game astronauts, known as Kerbals, who can perform extravehicular activities (EVA). While on EVA, Kerbals may use their EVA suit propellant system to maneuver in space and around craft and space stations, similar to the use of NASA’s Manned Maneuvering Unit. Actions that can be performed while on EVA include repairing landing legs, wheels, and deploying or repacking parachutes. Kerbals can also collect material from science experiments, allowing them to store data inside the ship’s capsule. During an EVA on any solid planet or moon, a Kerbal can place a flag or take a surface sample.

Historical spacecraft can be recreated and their accomplishments mimicked, such as the Apollo program, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, or the International Space Station. Players may install mods which implement destinations, weapons, additional rocket parts, and goals, such as attempting challenges in a real-scale solar system. Mods can also add informational displays showing craft and orbital statistics such as delta-v and orbital inclination, while a few can near-fully automate flight. Some mods have been added into the game, due to popularity. For example, resource mining, to get ore for refining into fuel, has been implemented from a popular mod.

As of version 1.9.1, the major celestial bodies in the game in order of their proximity to the parent star, the Sun, are Moho, Eve, Kerbin, Duna, Dres, Jool, and Eeloo (respectively analogs of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, and Pluto). Community modifications are able to expand this planetary system, even being able to add exoplanets or other solar systems. Moons in the system include the captured asteroid around Eve, Gilly; the two moons of Kerbin, Mun and Minmus; The singular moon of Duna, Ike; and the five moons of Jool. The innermost is an ocean moon dotted with small islands, Laythe, the only moon to have an atmosphere or liquid water; an ice moon, Vall; a moon the size of Kerbin, Tylo; a captured asteroid, Bop; and the outermost moon of Jool, Pol. Eeloo has no natural satellites.

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