Kerbal Space Program

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Kerbal Space Program
Kerbal Space Program High Res Logo.png
Developer(s) Squad
Publisher(s) Squad
Director(s) Felipe Falanghe[1]
Programmer(s) Alejandro Mora
Mike Geelan
Mario Maqueo
Rob Nelson
Marco Salcedo[1]
Artist(s) Daniel Rosas
Juan Carlos Demeneghi
Iván Vázquez[1]
Composer(s) Kevin MacLeod
Victor Machado
Engine Unity
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Wii U
Release date(s) Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
April 27, 2015[2]
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U
Early 2016
Genre(s) Space flight simulator, sandbox
Mode(s) Single-player

Kerbal Space Program (commonly abbreviated as KSP) is a space flight simulator developed by Squad for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U. In the game, players control an aerospace program, build and fly spacecraft or aircraft under physics simulation, and explore celestial bodies with characters called kerbals. The first publicly available version was released on the official Kerbal Space Program store on June 24, 2011.[3][4] The game also became available on Steam's early access program on March 20, 2013.[5][6] The game was officially released out of beta on April 27, 2015.[2] The game has good support for game mods and a large community to create them,[7] which developed shortly after the game's initial release.[8] Notable members of the space industry have taken an interest in the game, including NASA[9] and Elon Musk of SpaceX.[10]


A rocket (preloaded ship "Kerbal X") sitting on the launchpad with the Vehicle Assembly Building and Mun, Kerbin's nearer moon
In-game Kerbals, Valentina and Jebediah Kerman, on the launchpad
A player-built space station with mods installed

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, which is based on Earth. Despite being shown as funny cartoon-like little green men, sometimes lacking common sense,[11] they have shown themselves to be able to construct very well-made spacecraft parts and perform experiments.

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, such as running out of fuel or electricity, the spacecraft breaking apart due to structural problems, or otherwise being unable to succeed.

Missions (either player-set or proposed in the form of "contracts" with set parameters to achieve) generally involve, from simplest to most complex, achieving orbit, landing on the Mun or Minmus (Kerbin's two moons), landing on any of the other 13 stock planets and moons,[12] such as Duna or Eve, capturing asteroids, and creating space stations and bases.[13]

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.[14] If the rocket has enough thrust and fuel, it is possible to reach orbit or even travel to other celestial bodies. 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.[14] While in map mode, players can also access 'maneuver nodes' which can be used to plan out trajectory changes in advance.

Historical spacecraft can be recreated and their accomplishments mimicked, such as the Apollo program, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, or the International Space Station.[15] Players may also install mods which can implement destinations, weapons, rocket parts, and goals for the game, such as mining for resources (though this has been implemented in the first official release of the game) or incrementally deploying an interplanetary communication network, Which was originally planned for 1.1 but scrapped because it would take longer than expected to implement.

Game modes[edit]

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.[16] In sandbox mode, players are free to attempt any mission for which they can construct a suitable vehicle, with no punishments for failure[17] (except the temporary death of Kerbals who may die during a failed mission) and using entirely user-assigned missions. Many players have constructed unrealistic spacecrafts in this mode, such as unrealistically huge, complicated, and/or extremely expensive rockets; replicas of real-life rockets and aircraft, automobiles, trains and boats.

In Science mode, the initial selection of parts is limited, with the more advanced parts unlocked via "Science",[16] 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.[18] Science gained on a mission needs to be received by the space port.[19] This can be done by transmissions via antennas[16] 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 and lower-quality contracts).[citation needed]


While the game is not a perfect simulation of reality, it has been praised for its representation of orbital mechanics.[20][21] 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.[22]

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 space suit propellant system to maneuver around.

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. Aerobraking, however, has become a much more difficult method of velocity reduction since the full 1.0 release due to the addition of a better aerodynamics model and optional atmospheric entry/reentry heating. Atmospheres thin out into space, but have finite, set heights unlike real atmospheres.

Kerbal Space Program takes some liberties with the scaling of its solar system for gameplay purposes. For example, Kerbin (the game's analog of Earth) is only 1200 km in diameter (approximately 1/10th of Earth's). Kerbin's density is over 10 times that of Earth's, in order to produce similar gravitational accelerations at the surface. The planets themselves are also significantly closer together than the planets in our solar system. However, there are mods that port our own solar system into the game, with accurate scaling and environments, and provide additional parts to make up the extra power requirements.


The game's first public release was on June 24, 2011.[3][4] The game entered beta on December 14, 2014, and was officially released out of beta on April 27, 2015.[2]

New features have been added regularly in updates to the game, although Squad makes a point of not announcing release dates in advance. Squad publishes a developer blog,[23] where upcoming features are discussed. Squad has said they are committed to continually update the released game with further content.

On January 27, 2014, it was revealed that Squad is working on an education-themed mod entitled KerbalEdu in collaboration with TeacherGaming LLC (of MinecraftEdu). It will include an improved user interface for easier data gathering and summary, pre-made lessons that focus on certain constructions, options to use the metric system, and a "robust pedagogy" that includes information outside of the game that ties into its content.[24][25]

Squad has also made an Asteroid Mission Pack, with full support from NASA. Released on April 1, 2014, it is based on the real-life initiative to send humans out to study asteroids.[13][26]

The majority of the game's music was provided by royalty-free composer Kevin MacLeod, with the rest of the soundtrack having been written by Squad in-house composer Victor Machado. The game's main theme was composed by lead designer Felipe Falanghe, and arranged by Machado.[27]

On June 5, 2015, it was announced that Kerbal Space Program was being ported to the PlayStation 4 by Flying Tiger Entertainment.[28][29] In August 2015, it was announced that Xbox One and Wii U ports were also in development by Flying Tiger Entertainment.[30][31]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 89%[32]
Metacritic 88/100[33]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 8.5/10[34]
Eurogamer Essential[35]
Game Informer 8.5/10[36]
GameSpot 9/10[37]
IGN 9/10[38]
PC Gamer (UK) 96/100[39]
Rock, Paper, Shotgun Recommended[40]
Publication Award
GDC Audience Award Winner[41]
2015 Unity Awards Best Gameplay winner[42]
2015 Unity Awards Community Choice winner[43]
2015 Golden Joystick Awards Best Indie Game[44]


In the hours after its Steam early access release on March 20, 2013, it reached the top 5 of best sold games,[6] as well as the best seller on Steam for Linux.[45] Squad have also released many non-digital products such as clothing and plush toys.[46]


The public alpha and beta releases were well received. Many publications and individual people have referred fondly to Kerbal Space Program and praised the game's replayability and creative aspects, including Kotaku,[47] Rock, Paper, Shotgun,[14][48] IGN,[49] PC Gamer,[50] GameSpy,[51] Eurogamer,[12] Polygon,[21] Destructoid,[52] and The Torch.[53]

In May 2015, PC Gamer awarded Kerbal Space Program 1.0 a score of 96 out of 100.[39]

Scientific community[edit]

The game has notably crossed over into the scientific community with scientists and members of the space industry displaying an interest in the game – including NASA,[9] SpaceX's Elon Musk,[54] and ESA.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ a b c Phillips, Tom (April 21, 2015). "Kerbal Space Program is finally getting a v1.0 launch". Eurogamer. Retrieved April 21, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "First Release is Up!". Kerbal Space Program Blog. Squad. June 24, 2011. Retrieved April 27, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Version history". Kerbal Space Program Wiki. Squad. June 24, 2011. Retrieved April 27, 2015. 
  5. ^ Villapaz, Luke (April 2, 2014). "'Kerbal Space Program' Launches NASA 'Asteroid Redirect Mission' Update". International Business Times. Retrieved May 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Relaxnews (June 17, 2013). "PC Download Charts". xin.msn. Archived from the original on December 22, 2013. Retrieved July 22, 2014. 
  7. ^ Rossignol, Jim (December 18, 2012). "Trajectory: Squad Explain Kerbal Space Program". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved May 2, 2014. 
  8. ^ White, Sam (May 22, 2014). "Minecraft in space: why Nasa is embracing Kerbal Space Program". The Guardian. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Groen, Andrew (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. 
  10. ^ "ElonMuskOfficial comments on I am Elon Musk, CEO/CTO of a rocket company, AMA!". Reddit. January 6, 2015. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  11. ^ Zuev, Artyom (July 31, 2013). "Environment art and modeling in Kerbal Space Program". Gama Sutra. Retrieved May 2, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Whitehead, Dan (January 31, 2014). "Kerbal Space Program Early Access Review". Eurogamer. Retrieved April 25, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Fingas, Jon (April 2, 2014). "NASA's game collaboration lets you steer asteroids without leaving home". Engadget. Retrieved April 25, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c Pearson, Craig (May 24, 2013). "(Not) Rocket Science In Kerbal Space Program". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved June 19, 2013. 
  15. ^ Russin, Aaron (May 1, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program raises metaphysical questions of purpose". Spectator Tribune. Retrieved May 2, 2014. 
  16. ^ a b c Devore, Jordan (October 17, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program Finally Gets Career Mode". Destructoid. Retrieved April 26, 2014. 
  17. ^ Gilson, Adam (March 30, 2014). "Kerbal Space Program — Review". Retrieved April 26, 2014. 
  18. ^ Nealie, Cam (February 10, 2014). "Kerbal Space Program review". 3news. Retrieved April 26, 2014. 
  19. ^ Groen, Andrew (October 17, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program is finally an actual game and it’s magnificent". The PA Report. Archived from the original on December 29, 2013. Retrieved May 1, 2014. 
  20. ^ Emanuelli, Matteo (August 12, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program, the Spaceflight Simulator That Conquered JPL". Space Safety Magazine. Retrieved May 2, 2013. 
  21. ^ a b Hall, Charlie (January 27, 2014). "To the Mun and Back: Kerbal Space Program". Polygon. Retrieved April 25, 2014. 
  22. ^ McRed, Targie (February 13, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program: Q&A with the devs". The Mittani. Retrieved May 2, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Kerbal Space Program Blog". 
  24. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (27 January 2014). "Kerbal Space Program lands on various schools' curriculum". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  25. ^ Warr, Philippa (January 24, 2014). "Kerbal Space Program to get children as well as Kerbals into space". Wired. Retrieved April 25, 2014. 
  26. ^ Sarkar, Samit (April 1, 2014). "Kerbal Space Program's Asteroid Redirect Mission now available". Polygon. Retrieved April 25, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Kerbal Space Program — Credits". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  28. ^ "Devnote Tuesday: A big announcement". Kerbal Space Program Blog. Squad. 2015-06-17. Retrieved 2015-06-27. 
  29. ^ "Kerbal Space Program is coming to PlayStation 4. What does that mean for you?". Kerbal Space Program Forum. Squad. 2015-06-17. Retrieved 2015-06-27. 
  30. ^ "Kerbal Space Program is coming to Xbox One!". Kerbal Space Program Forums. Squad. 2015-08-20. Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  31. ^ Phillips, Tom. "Kerbal Space Program set to land on Wii U". Euro Gamer. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  32. ^ "Kerbal Space Program for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved June 27, 2015. 
  33. ^ Kerbal Space Program at Metacritic
  34. ^ Devore, Jordan (May 5, 2015). "Review: Kerbal Space Program". Destructoid. Retrieved July 7, 2015. Science doesn't screw around 
  35. ^ Cobbett, Richard (May 7, 2015). "Kerbal Space Program review". Eurogamer. Retrieved June 27, 2015. An essential sandbox for anyone with an interest in space, rocketry, or explosions. 
  36. ^ Tack, Daniel (May 4, 2015). "Kerbal Space Program — It's Not Easy Being Green". Game Informer. Retrieved June 27, 2015. 
  37. ^ Clark, Justin (May 8, 2015). "Kerbal Space Program Review". GameSpot. Retrieved June 27, 2015. 
  38. ^ Macy, Seth G. (May 14, 2015). "Kerbal Space Program Review". IGN. Retrieved June 27, 2015. Kerbal Space Program is a deep, funny, and detailed physics sim that never takes itself too seriously. 
  39. ^ a b Savage, Phil (May 1, 2015). "Kerbal Space Program review". PC Gamer. Retrieved June 27, 2015. A perfect blend of science and slapstick, and a robust and compelling sandbox of possibility. Simply outstanding. 
  40. ^ Caldwell, Brendan (May 13, 2015). "Kerbal Space Program review". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved June 27, 2015. 
  41. ^ "14th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards". Game Developers Choice Awards. Game Developers Conference (UBM). March 2014. Retrieved July 7, 2015. 
  42. ^ "2015 Unity Awards". Unity (game engine). September 2015. Retrieved September 30, 2015. 
  43. ^ "2015 Unity Awards". Unity (game engine). September 2015. Retrieved September 30, 2015. 
  44. ^ "2015 Golden Joystick Awards". October 2015. Retrieved October 30, 2015. 
  45. ^ Stahie, Silviu (April 1, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program Is the Best-Selling Game on Steam for Linux". softpedia. Retrieved June 18, 2013. 
  46. ^ "KSP - Jeb Plushie & T-shirt". Retrieved 7 January 2016. 
  47. ^ Plunkett, Luke (July 18, 2011). "Will You Help These Stupid Aliens Into Space?". Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
  48. ^ Rossignol, Jim (July 12, 2011). "Trans-Lunar: Kerbal Space Program". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
  49. ^ Gallegos, Anthony (April 21, 2012). "Five Ridiculous Upcoming Games". IGN. Retrieved November 12, 2012. 
  50. ^ "Kerbal Space Program". PC Gamer. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  51. ^ Nelson, Mike (March 29, 2012). "Become a Terribly Awesome Rocket Scientist With Kerbal Space Program". GameSpy. Retrieved June 19, 2013. 
  52. ^ Lyons, Sterling (February 5, 2012). "Revisiting the Kerbal Space Program". Destructoid. Retrieved April 26, 2014. 
  53. ^ Hooper, Tom (January 31, 2013). "Kerbal Space Program (Beta) , SQUAD (P)review". The Torch. Retrieved June 19, 2013. 
  54. ^ Boyle, Alan (2015-01-06). "Coming Soon From SpaceX's Elon Musk: How to Move to Mars". NBC News. Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  55. ^ "Kerbal Space Program: Beta Than Ever is Now Available". Kerbal Space Program Blog. Squad. December 15, 2014. Retrieved December 23, 2014. 

External links[edit]