Kerbal Space Program

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Kerbal Space Program (space simulator)
Kerbal Space Program High Res Logo.png
Developer(s) Squad
Publisher(s) Squad
Designer(s) Felipe Falanghe
Programmer(s) Felipe Falanghe, Mike Geelan, Jim-Kirre Benjaminsen, Marco Salcedo, Jesus Montaño[1]
Engine Unity
Platform(s) Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
Release date(s) June 24, 2011 (alpha 0.7.3)[2]

December 15, 2014 (latest, beta 0.90: Beta Than Ever)[2]

Genre(s) Space flight simulator
Mode(s) Single-player sandbox, single-player science mode, single-player career mode
Distribution Digital download: website or Steam

Kerbal Space Program (commonly abbreviated to KSP) is a space flight simulator developed by Squad currently in public beta development for release on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The first public version was released on June 24, 2011,[2] and is currently sold on the online official KSP Store, and since March 20, 2013, through Steam's early access program,[3] where it reached the top 3 best sold games.[4] Updates have been continuously released. KSP has large support for game mods and a large community to create them,[5] which developed shortly after the game's initial release.[6] Notable members of the space industry have taken an interest in the game, such as NASA.[7]


A rocket (preloaded ship "Kerbal X") sitting on the launchpad with the Vehicle Assembly Building and Mün, Kerbin's nearer moon.

The player controls a nascent space program operated by Kerbals, a race of small green humanoids, who have constructed a fully furnished and functional spaceport (known as the Kerbal Space Center, or KSC) on their homeworld Kerbin, similar to Earth. Despite being shown as funny cartoon-like little green men, sometimes lacking common sense,[8] they have shown themselves to be able to construct very well-made spacecraft parts and perform experiments in the lab.

Gameplay consists of constructing rockets and spaceplanes out of a provided set of components and launching them from the in-game space center's launch pad or runway, then going on to complete their desired mission while averting catastrophic failure.

Due to the complexity of orbital physics and the development of spacecraft, the game can be difficult for new users.[9]

Missions (although entirely player-set) generally involve, from simplest to most complex, achieving orbit, landing on the Mün or Minmus (Kerbin's two moons), landing on other planets,[10] capturing asteroids and creating space stations and bases.[11]

Once a spacecraft is built, it is placed on the launchpad or the runway and is ready for launch. Players control a spacecraft in all three dimensions with little assistance other than a stability system to keep a rocket pointed at a certain direction.[12] If the rocket has enough thrust and delta-v, it is possible to reach orbit. In flight, to visualize the player's trajectory, the player must switch into map mode, which shows the orbit or trajectory of the current craft, and the current position of other spacecraft and planetary bodies.[12]

The game can be played in three different gamemodes that are selected when the player starts a new game: sandbox mode, science mode, and career mode.[13] In sandbox mode, players are free to attempt any mission for which they can construct a suitable vehicle, with no punishments for failure[14] (except the temporary death of Kerbals who died during a mission) and using entirely user-assigned missions.

In Science mode, the initial selection of parts is limited, with the more advanced parts unlocked via "Science",[13] in the Research and Development building, gained by performing various scientific experiments on Kerbin and throughout the solar system. Science mode was partially designed to ease new players into the game and prevent them getting overwhelmed.[15] Science gained on a mission needs to be received by the space port.[16] This can be done by transmissions via antennas[13] in the game, or recovery by a craft landing back on Kerbin. Career mode is an extension upon science mode, adding funds, reputation, and contracts. In order to build and launch new rockets, the players must complete contracts to earn funds to pay for the new parts. Reputation will affect how many contracts are given to the player in a future update (less reputation leads to fewer contracts).

Historical spacecraft can be recreated and their accomplishments mimicked, such as the Apollo program, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, or the International Space Station.[17] Players may also install mods which can implement destinations, rocket parts, and goals for the game, such as mining for resources or incrementally deploying an interplanetary communication network.

The game continues to be actively developed, with new updates being released regularly, although Squad makes a point of not announcing release dates in advance. Squad publishes a developer blog[18] where upcoming features are discussed.


While the game is not a perfect simulation of reality, it has been praised for its representation of orbital mechanics.[19][20] Every object in the game except the celestial bodies themselves are under the control of a Newtonian dynamics simulation. Rocket thrust is applied accurately to a vehicle's frame based on the positions in which the force-generating elements are mounted. The strength of the joints connecting parts together is finite and vehicles can be torn apart by excessive or inappropriately directed forces.

The game simulates trajectories and orbits using patched conic approximation instead of a full n-body simulation, and thus does not support Lagrange points, perturbations, Lissajous orbits, halo orbits and tidal forces. According to the developers, full n-body physics would require the entire physics engine to be rewritten.[21]

The in-game astronauts, known as "Kerbals", have some physics calculations applied to them when they are on extra vehicular activities. For example, hitting an object with only the Kerbal's feet will send them into a tumble, which is a potential hazard in real-life spaceflight as well. While on EVA, Kerbals may use their very capable space suit to maneuver similarly to a small probe.

Centripetal force is modeled and players have created torus stations which exhibit measurable artificial gravity and can be traversed by wheeled rovers.

Some celestial bodies have atmospheres of varying heights and densities, affecting the efficiency of wings and parachutes and causing drag during flight. The simulations are accurate enough that real-world techniques such as Hohmann transfers and aerobraking are viable methods of navigating the solar system. Atmospheres thin out into space, but have finite height unlike real atmospheres.

Kerbal Space Program takes some liberties with the scaling of its solar system for gameplay purposes.


The game is currently in the beta stage of development and is considered by the developers to only be an approximation of the final product.[22] New features are added regularly in updates to the game. A date for the final release has not yet been announced, but is expected to come with the next update.[23] KSP is written in C# and uses the Unity engine.

The game's first public release was Alpha 0.7.3 on June 24, 2011. Versions 0.13.3 (March 3, 2012) and 0.18.3 (February 12, 2013) are available, in limited form, as demos; they are available at no cost, but have limited content and cannot receive updates. The latest version of the game, 0.90, was released on December 15, 2014.[11]

Squad has also made an Asteroid Mission Pack (update 0.23.5) with full support from NASA, that was released on April 1, 2014. It is based on a real-life initiative to send humans out to study asteroids.[11][24]



In the hours after its Steam release on March 20, 2013 it reached the top 5 of best sold games,[4] as well as the best seller on Steam for Linux.[25]


The public alpha and beta releases have been well-received so far. Many publications and individual people have referred fondly to Kerbal Space Program and praised the game's replayability and creative aspects, including Kotaku,[26] Rock, Paper, Shotgun,[12][27] IGN,[28] PC Gamer,[29] Gamespy,[30] Eurogamer,[10] Polygon,[20] Destructoid,[31] and The Torch.[32] It has also received a substantial following on Reddit with over 90,000 readers.[33]

Scientific community[edit]

The game has notably crossed over into the scientific community with scientists and members of the space industry having an interest in the game – including NASA,[7]SpaceX,[34] and the ESA.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Squad's Meet the Team Page Retrieved April 25th, 2014
  2. ^ a b c "Version history – KSP Wiki". Kerbal Space Program Wiki. December 16, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2013. 
  3. ^ Villapaz, Luke (April 2, 2014). "'Kerbal Space Program' Launches NASA 'Asteroid Redirect Mission' Update". International Business Times. Retrieved May 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Relaxnews (June 17, 2013). "PC Download Charts". xin.msn. Retrieved July 22, 2014. 
  5. ^ Rossignol, Jim (December 18, 2012). "Trajectory: Squad Explain Kerbal Space Program". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved May 2, 2014. 
  6. ^ White, Sam (May 22, 2014). "Minecraft in space: why Nasa is embracing Kerbal Space Program". The Guardian. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Andrew Groen (June 18, 2013). "NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab is obsessed with a certain game, and I bet you can guess what it is". The PA Report. Archived from the original on December 27, 2013. Retrieved June 19, 2013. 
  8. ^ Zuev, Artyom (July 31, 2013). "Environment art and modeling in Kerbal Space Program". Gama Sutra. Retrieved May 2, 2014. 
  9. ^ Kalican, Aykurt (May 30, 2013). "A Mission to Mun: Kerbal Space Program". Electric Feast. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b 31-01-2014 Eurogamer "Kerbal Space Program Early Access Review" Retrieved 25-04-2014.
  11. ^ a b c Fingas, Jon (April 2, 2014). "NASA's game collaboration lets you steer asteroids without leaving home". Engadget. Retrieved April 25, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Craig Pearson (May 24, 2013). "(Not) Rocket Science In Kerbal Space Program". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved June 19, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c Devore, Jordan (October 17, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program Finally Gets Career Mode". Destructoid. Retrieved April 26, 2014. 
  14. ^ Gilson, Adam (March 30, 2014). "Kerbal Space Program - Review". Retrieved April 26, 2014. 
  15. ^ Nealie, Cam (February 10, 2014). "Kerbal Space Program review". 3news. Retrieved April 26, 2014. 
  16. ^ Groen, Andrew (October 17, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program is finally an actual game and it’s magnificent". The PA Report. Retrieved May 1, 2014. 
  17. ^ Russin, Aaron (May 1, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program raises metaphysical questions of purpose". Spectator Tribune. Retrieved May 2, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Kerbal Space Program Blog". 
  19. ^ Emanuelli, Matteo (August 12, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program, the Spaceflight Simulator That Conquered JPL". Space Safety Magazine. Retrieved May 2, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b "To the Mun and Back: Kerbal Space Program". Polygon. January 27, 2014. Retrieved April 25, 2014. 
  21. ^ McRed, Targie (February 13, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program: Q&A with the devs". The Mittani. Retrieved May 2, 2014. 
  22. ^ "About". Kerbal Space Program. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ Sarkar, Samit (April 1, 2014). "Kerbal Space Program's Asteroid Redirect Mission now available". Polygon. Retrieved April 25, 2014. 
  25. ^ Silviu Stahie (April 1, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program Is the Best-Selling Game on Steam for Linux". softpedia. Retrieved June 18, 2013. 
  26. ^ Luke Plunkett (July 18, 2011). "Will You Help These Stupid Aliens Into Space?". Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Trans-Lunar: Kerbal Space Program". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. July 12, 2011. Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
  28. ^ Anthony Gallegos (April 21, 2012). "Five Ridiculous Upcoming Games". IGN. Retrieved November 12, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Kerbal Space Program". PCGamer. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  30. ^ Mike Nelson (March 29, 2012). "Become a Terribly Awesome Rocket Scientist With Kerbal Space Program". GameSpy. Retrieved June 19, 2013. 
  31. ^ Lyons, Sterling (February 5, 2012). "Revisiting the Kerbal Space Program". Destructoid. Retrieved April 26, 2014. 
  32. ^ Atomp (January 31, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program (Beta) , SQUAD (P)review". The Torch. Retrieved June 19, 2013. 
  33. ^ "/r/KerbalSpaceProgram statistics". Retrieved September 3, 2014. 
  34. ^ Boyle, Alan (2015-01-06). "Coming Soon From SpaceX's Elon Musk: How to Move to Mars". NBC News. Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  35. ^ "Kerbal Space Program: Beta Than Ever is Now Available". Retrieved 23 December 2014. 

External links[edit]