Kerbal Space Program is a game about a green humanoid species known as the Kerbals as they start a space program. Superficially similar to Orbiter, the difference between the two has been likened to the difference between making to-scale miniatures for architectural design and playing with LEGO bricks with rocket fuel in them, which you then hurl with glee at your sisternote .
The game offers three game modes to suit your style of play. The first is little more than a sandbox. You're set loose upon a space center complete with a vehicle assembly building and a launch pad, a bin full of rocket parts, ground personnel composed entirely of yes-men who build and wheel onto the launch pad anything you design no matter how crazy it is, and some astronauts to crew your creations. The second version is Science, in which you have to conduct experiments in order to unlock various piece parts, as you start off with just the very basics. The third mode is full-blown Career mode, and you have to juggle a budget, job offers, your Kerbonauts and conduct Science similar to the Science mode (which used to be the old Career mode, prior to 0.24). Essentially, you have to manage the entire Space Program. The number of parts has risen dramatically in later releases, and the community is cranking out fanmade addons at an impressive pace on top of that.
After four and a half years of development, version 1.0 was released on April 27th, 2015. This version, on top of taking the game out of Early Access, added the last gameplay mechanics that were left to implement: Aerodynamics, heating, fairings, resource mining and, last but not least, female Kerbonauts.
Its official website and download location is here, and a trailer for the game can be found here. Starting with 0.19, it's also available on Steam. It was ported to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in July 2016, and a Wii U version was announced, but never released.
In 2017, Kerbal Space Program was purchased by Take-Two Interactive. The game's terms of service were changed to reflect this in early 2018, with all users having to accept the new terms in order to continue accessing the official site and the latest updates.
To the surprise of almost everyone, a proper sequel simply titled Kerbal Space Program 2 was announced at 2019's Gamescom.
On June 10th of 2021, it was announced on the game's 10th anniversary, June 24th 2021, the last content update, 1.12 On Final Approach will be released. While bugfixes will continue to come out, Squad will focus on working with Intercept Games on Kerbal Space Program 2.
This game contains examples of the following:
- Aborted Arc: At one point, there was a plan for a loose narrative connecting the Easter eggs. Then, Nova Silisko (the person who conceived it) left the team, and the story was most likely abandoned. Silisko has stated on multiple occasions that he regrets sharing the so-called "plan" and generally wishes people would stop bringing it up.
- The final patch for the game, 1.12.5, adds an alien star map to one of the Mun arches, hinting that this storyline might be resurrected for Kerbal Space Program 2.
- Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Some minor ones involved in craft construction. Components requiring/generating power will be considered connected as long as there is some physical connection between them, even if there are no visible wires. To a lesser extent, the same is true of fuel (in some cases it isn't, but fuel pipes just have to connect somewhere on both sides). Most noticeable are docking ports, that allow transfer of fuel, power and Kerbals regardless of craft construction. Is there a giant fuel tank between a docked spacecraft and another living space? It doesn't matter. Kerbals can still move through it without problem. Even weirder since, in 1.11 and above, you can attach and detach parts in flight.
- Life support is not a factor, which simplifies rescues and mission planning somewhat. You can choose not to rescue a Kerbal stranded in deep space and you could be technically free of conscience since they're not dead, but are instead drifting forever with nothing to do, no hope of returning home, and no snacks.
- The Kerbal solar system and its planets are around 1/10 the size of the real ones. This would make many aspects of rocket design a lot easier, except that Kerbal rocket components tend to be less capable than real ones to compensate. For example, Kerbal fuel tanks have a much higher ratio of dry mass to fuel mass, while Kerbal engines have lower thrust-to-weight ratios. The main net effect is to save the player time. It takes 2-3 minutes to guide a rocket to orbit, compared to 10-20 minutes for a real one. Since you'll probably be re-doing your launches over and over until you can figure out what's causing those pesky explosions, it's a welcome respite.
- Aside from poor structural design and outside influences such as overheating and crashing, parts never fail, and rockets can throttle down to less than 1% and respond instantly—even after spending decades in space. Not a very prominent break, but important in rocket science none-the-less.
- Scanning planets for Ore is a one-and-done affair — so long as your satellite is in the proper orbit and has enough Electricity in its batteries, the game assumes the surveying attempt will automatically cover the entire planet, which saves you the tedium of having to babysit it while it uncovers slivers of the surface at a time.
- The part of the engine that handles orbital mechanics uses an approximation of real physics called Patched Conics to calculate a craft's trajectory. In this system, the influence of gravity on your vessels is only calculated for one celestial body at a time, and which is relevant depends on whether the ship is in a body's "sphere of influence". In reality every object in the universe exerts a gravitational force on every other object, so accurate predictions of your orbital path must take into account the influence of every large, massive body nearby, e.g. nearly every celestial body in the solar system (the N-Body problem). However the computational requirements for accurate N-Body physics are so high the game would likely not be able to run on many computers, so Patched Conics provide a pretty good substitute. There are mods to add N-body physics in, but they come with a corresponding hit to performance.
- For similar computational reasons, physics calculations are not performed on any object further than 25km away from the vessel the player is currently controlling. Objects in orbit are instead "on rails" and follow their predetermined paths forever until the player switches to them or closes the distance. Objects in an atmosphere more than 25km away are deleted and reported as destroyed.
- Neither solar panels or RTGs lose efficiency over time nor do batteries wear out. If you have a probe that has solar panels and no dark spots, it will last forever. By the same token, wheels and robotic parts from Breaking Ground will work until they are destroyed or removed from a power source.
- Ace Pilot: Pilot Kerbals can enhance the control of vessels, allowing them to point to particular vectors and enhancing their existing stability systems, getting that much more mobility out of craft. The more experienced they are, the better they get.note Although, once you unlock the probe cores that can do everything a veteran pilot can, they become somewhat obsolete... as long as your probe core have power and is in range of the comm relays (1.2 onwards). In addition to this, Jebediah and Valentina Kerman are both pilots, and both have the "Badass" flag. They are the only universally-generated Kerbals to have that.
- Adventure-Friendly World:
- The Kerbol system and its planets are scaled down by a factor of ten to allow players to travel with less delta-v than would be needed in real life.
- The Mun has a perfectly circular orbit and no inclination whatsoever, meaning players can reach it very easily without having to worry about plane changes.
- The game also has Minmus, Kerbin's second moon, which not only lets the player practice rendezvous with an inclined orbit but also lets them simulate interplanetary transfers by traveling between it and the Mun.
- Kerbals have no life support requirements whatsoever, meaning that you don't have to budget mass for food and air when designing missions. This also means they don't die if left stranded, giving players all the time in the world to send a rescue mission.
- Aerith and Bob: Somewhat odd example - all the Kerbonauts have names that sound fairly Middle American, but anyone who is not an orange suit has a name randomly generated from a list of prefixes and suffixes. So alongside Jeb, Bill, and Bob may sit Melzer, Bardrin, or Billy-Bobfred. There are also some characters who are named after historic space personages ("Buzz", for instance) or famous Kerbal Space Program Let's Players.
- After-Action Report: Many players like to share accounts of their most recent or most memorable accomplishments. The Mission Reports section of the official forums is set up explicitly for this. People also like to assemble collections of screenshots into captioned Imgur albums and share them as brief Machinomics.
- Alien Sea:
- Eve's oceans are purple and, according to the biome map (though not in practice), are literally Made of Explodium.
- Laythe’s oceans seem pretty normal – until you realize that it's water at a subzero temperature.
- The Outer Planets mod has Tekto, the Titan analogue. The oceans are green, and presumably made of hydrocarbons.
- Alien Sky:
- Duna, the game's Expy of Mars, has a thin red atmosphere. Unlike Mars, it also has a large, grey moon called Ike.
- Eve has a thick, heavy purple sky.
- From some angles, being on Laythe looks a lot like Kerbin until you turn around and see a massive green gas giant hanging in the sky. (The Sun is also smaller, being so much farther away.)
- This is lampshaded in the in-universe description for Tylo, Jool's third and largest moon."Scientists speculate that the view from the surface, with Laythe, Vall, and Jool overhead must be "quite something"."
- Alleged Car: Rovers were a bit unstable on release, sometimes shaking themselves apart or exploding with little reason. This has been corrected as of version 1.1... mostly.
- Update 1.11 added the ability to modify craft after they've been launched, provided one has the right parts and an engineer kerbal. Now it's possible to fix or at least salvage rovers that break down, greatly easing ustilizing them heavily.
- Anti-Frustration Features: The area around the Space Center is very flat and devoid of obstacles, allowing Space Planes to land safely even if they can't make the runway.
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Until the VAB and SPH are upgraded, you are limited to a size restriction (to fit within the hangar) and a total parts number restriction. There's no weight to a part's value, meaning you may have to choose between a Mainsail rocket booster or a handheld thermometer, because putting both on would put you 1 part above the limit.
- Artificial Atmospheric Actions: In the VAB and SPH, mostly consisting of various personnel trying to look busy and important.
- Artistic License – Physics: The game is generally pretty good about using real physics, but that makes the few places where it goes off of it stick out more. For example, a satellite is only calculated to be in one celestial body's sphere of influence at a time, making all exo-atmospheric orbits stable, and removing the Lagrange points. note Reasons not to include such physics features include performance (calculating and predicting the effect of tens of celestial bodies on potentially hundreds of spacecraft would slow the game to a crawl), simplicity for players (it's much easier to see what's going on), and most importantly, orbital stability (the gravity of the Mun would cause standard Kerbin orbits to slowly destabilize over time, forcing players to make tedious stationkeeping maneuvers like real satellites have to do).
- Art-Style Dissonance: Don't let the cartoonish proportions of the kerbonauts or their rockets fool you; the game is deceptively difficult if you don't already know a little bit about how actual rocketry works.
- Ascended Glitch:
- The Space Kraken, the fan-given name to a series of physics engine glitches that would often inexplicably destroy spacecraft without warning. An actual (dead) Space Kraken can be found on Bop, one of Jool's moons.
- The Mohole, a deep, perfectly-circular pit that leads directly to the center of the planet, was originally a glitch in the planet's procedural generation. As of 0.90, it has its own biome and science results.
- Ascended Meme: The loading screen roll references a few that are popular on the forums, such as "Adding K to Every Word", and contract descriptions occasionally use the phrase "Kraken help you if..."
- Asteroid Miners: Asteroids can be used as a renewable fuel source if your craft is equipped with the proper harvesting and refining equipment.
- Awesome, but Impractical:
- There's nothing (well, except diminishing fuel returns, and costs if you're playing career mode) preventing you from making a rocket far larger than the one you really need to complete the mission.
- The ion engine. It's the most fuel-efficient engine in the game by far, but it's expensive, uses a lot of electricity, and has a very low thrust output (despite still being several times more powerful than real-life ion engines, especially after an update that upped the thrust level appreciably). As a result, the burn time needed to get anywhere interesting can take hours, and you can only accelerate time up to 4x when engines are on without mods.
- The nuclear rocket isn’t much better, being huge in length, rather low on thrust (though still better than the ion engine), and merely twice as efficient as regular ones. On the upside, the 1.0 update made it not require oxidizer, meaning you can leave it out of your fuel tanks to save on mass; some therefore use it in conjunction with jet engines, which get their oxygen from the atmosphere.
- Space Planes, cool as they are, really don't offer much tangible benefit. Rockets are simpler to build and easier to fly, and due to Space Compression it's pretty easy to design a rocket that can SSTO and land as well, though you won't be as accurate on landing.
- Rovers can be fun to build and drive around, but are highly impractical even if you do get a rugged workable design together. In real life, rovers are awesome because they allow one space probe to observe multiple areas, but in the game that ability doesn't mean much. On all but the smallest bodies (where rovers don't work well anyway), biomes are all kilometres apart, so unless you can put the rover on the edge of a biome or spend a lot of time driving there isn't much payoff.
- In Career Mode, you will occasionally get contracts to survey several locations on a planet's surface, generally within easy driving distance of each other. A rover can be the most efficient way to complete these missions. Sometimes, however (and especially if dealing with a shallow gravity well) it may be easier to land a conventional probe and bring along some extra fuel to allow it to take off and land again a short distance away...
- There is one specific case where rovers become Boring, but Practical instead: Gathering early-game science from around your own Space Center. It's not an exciting way to gather scientific data, but it can be cheap and can make the early game easier.
- They seem to have finally lost this status as of the Breaking Ground DLC. Now there are surface features that can be scanned for science. It gives the player a reason, especially on higher gravity worlds, to maneuver around a planet's surface after landing.
- Lithobraking, which is the idea of losing speed by just... colliding with the ground. Sure it's pretty funny to see it happen when one gets it right, but due to everything exploding if you look at it funny you'll likely end up destroying everything that hits the rock beneath before it loses any kinetic force it has left.
- The Mark 3 cargo bays are ridiculously huge, capable of fitting multiple sattelites or entire separate vehicles. The Mark 3 line even has a cargo ramp that would allow a rover to drive in and out of them at will! Any rocket using them would be better served using that space for extra fuel, and atmospheric vehicles using them are likely to become The Alleged Plane due to the difficulty of balancing such a huge vehicle for flight, to say nothing of the center of mass shifting once the cargo is unloaded.
- Base on Wheels: At its most basic level, you could just slap some large rover wheels onto a Hitchhiker Storage Container and call that a base. Anything more elaborate depends on your imagination and engineering and piloting skills – and mods. Many contracts require the bases to be mobile, because they’re easier to assemble into larger structures that way.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: Technically averted, since Kerbals never take their helmets off in vacuum. However, they also don't require oxygen supplies and can survive in space indefinitely.
- Beautiful Void: Only one planet in the whole system has (debatably) intelligent life although there is evidence for it on others, and even that planet is mostly empty aside from your Space Center and a few other locations of note (as of 1.02). Some particularly enterprising modders are working to make the place feel more lived-in, literally.
- Beyond the Impossible: It's supposedly impossible to land on the gas giant, Jool, because it's a planet that's made of gas. However, before a patch made it so reaching ~250km will result in a message saying "collided with cloud", it was not only possible to land on Jool, but rather trivial. If you run experiments while in this state, you'll even get flavor text commenting on the impossibility of the situation.
- The Big Board: Both the Tracking Station and the in-flight map view allow you to see statistics on the various bodies in the Kerbol system and monitor the progress of your active flights.
- Bilingual Bonus: The Kerbal language is Spanish, played backwards and sped up.
- Billions of Buttons: Inverted for comedic effect. Kerbals have a joystick and a Big Red Button for commanding the modules, and... that's about it. Plenty of mods address this, with cockpits based around RasterPropMonitor are sufficiently instrumented for all-IVA flights.
- Body Horror: Kerbals on EVA can suffer from somewhat disturbing◊ glitches◊ when subjected to extreme forces.
- Boring, but Practical:
- As it also slides into Difficult, but Awesome, the Spaceship Slingshot Stunt is this due to its practicality of saving fuel for a round trip instead of directing expenses at the target. While this move is as promising as it should be, the process as a whole is boringly tedious since it requires several roundabouts around gravity wells, namely planets, to gain enough speed to reach out to others, a lot of timeskips usually ensues.
- Ferry missions in Career mode. Sending tourists into orbit around planets and return racks a sizable amount of cash, especially in large stable munarbuses for maximum efficiency.
- Astronaut rescue missions, especially early in the game, aren't quite as exciting as you might expect. They do however offer decent rewards. Where they really pay dividends however is that the rescued astronauts become part of the program, meaning you don't have to pay the exorbitant fees for new hires and stave off upgrading the astronaut complex.
- Vehicular Space Diving, done by throttling retrograde at full speed until orbital velocity around a planet becomes nil allowing the ship to descend with its own gravity well. This is essentially a Colony Drop but without the consequence of being burnt out by re-entry friction from horizontal velocity. Generally you do need extra fuel to achieve a safe landing in this strategy, since atmospheric drag might not have enough time to get you down to a safe velocity for parachute deployment — so this isn't always as boring as one might wish.
- Using a mobile processing lab and a lot of patience can allow the player to unlock the entire science tree without leaving the Kerbin system. Not as fun as getting science by sending missions to more remote locations, but cheaper, safer, and easier.
- Early in the game, it is possible to gather a small, but not inconsequential amount of scientific data from around your own Space Centre by building a simple rover and just driving around your own home base. This is aided by the fact that every building around the Space Centre technically counts as its own biome (some even incorporate more than one), so you can perform all of your scientific experiments at each of several nearby locations and get new results every time. Afterwards, the rover can be driven out onto the runway, and recovered for 100% of its cost. This is not an exciting way to earn science, but it can help you unlock one or two extra technologies near the bottom of the tech tree for little or no cost, potentially making the early game significantly easier.
- Monolithic space stations,note especially around Kerbin and its satellites. Its not as flashy as building a giant multi module space station, but it's cheaper, less time consuming, and you get all the scientific benefit.
- You can make as much money as you need by turning the launch pad into a fuel refinery. note
- Planes aren't terribly useful, since even a high-end spaceplane is less effective than a plain old rocket for delivering stuff to other planets. They're the most efficient way to gather science on Kerbin's surface however, since their overall cost is lower than an equivalent rocket, they're much easier to land at a specific destination, and the entire craft can be recovered for most of its value following a successful landing at the Space Center.
- Building a space shuttle? You'll probably find that attaching tanks engines and boosters on symetrically on either side of space plane is far easier to engineer that Nasa's iconic design or doing something like the Buran. Shuttles themselves can often be a more practical solution than an SSTO.
- Short landing and take off planes in comparison to VTOL and helicopters. The stock landing gear (outside the very first non-retractable set) are really rugged and once you figure out how to do flaps, you can already get a plane to land in hilly areas. Adding rocket assisted stop and takeoff can get you into most places on atmospheric planets. VTOL are tempting to seek surface features (since you could land right next to them and scan them directly with the aircraft), but you could just taxi a plane up to said feature.
- Boring Return Journey: Zig-zagged. Kerbin has strong gravity and is in a perfectly circular, non-inclined orbit, making it fairly easy to return to from other planets (especially Duna, which has weak gravity and an orbit that's only 0.6 degrees inclined). However, by this point the player is likely low on fuel, and may also have to worry about re-entry heating if they're going for an aerocapture. And did you remember to bring a parachute?
- Building Is Welding: Engineer kerbals will pull out a hand welder whenever they enter EVA Construction mode.
- Buzzing The Tower: Players love to buzz the space center's control tower. It's cool when done with a fighter jet, awesome when done with a hypersonic space plane and absolutely hilarious when done with a 100 meter tall 3-stage rocket.
- Camera Perspective Switch: If your rocket has a manned cockpit, you can switch to an Intra Vehicular Activity camera and experience the ride from the inside. Many players fly entire missions from the IVA perspective as a Self-Imposed Challenge.
- Cap: In Science and Career mode, you will only ever get 30% of the total value of transmitting data compared to recovery. The Mobile Processing Lab can boost this by a fraction, but you will never get as much as if you recovered the data.note
- Captain Crash:
- Building your own vehicles is one thing, landing them is another. Mun Landings, for instance, often end in the vehicle tipping over and falling to pieces, leaving the Kerbonauts stranded until help arrives (or backup help when the help befalls the same fate).
- Kerbals in general (and Jeb — one of your four initial Kerbonauts — in particular) are portrayed this way in the game's Flavor Text, and in the game community's memes. Kerbals are smart enough to build rockets, but not always smart enough to use them safely...
- Celebrity Paradox: At various locations in the solar system, you can find giant monoliths with the Squad logo on them. This seems to imply that the game devs exist in-universe as some sort of precursor species.
- Centrifugal Farce: Featured in the 0.21 release trailer.
- Chest of Medals: A series of service ribbons with a host of devices are available for use in signature lines on the KSP forums, indicating what planets you've been to and what you've done there. There is even a mod that tracks the careers of your Kerbals in-game, updating their ribbon and medal counts using the same criteria.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Jebediah Kerman, who always smiles all the time, no matter what is happening. Unless something goes wrong.
- Colony Drop:
- The introduction of the Asteroid Redirect Mission allows the player to attach ships to asteroids and redirect them to impact other celestial bodies. There is no particular reason to smash an asteroid at high velocity into a planet though, except as a Self-Imposed Challenge. However, managing to safely land an asteroid on another celestial surface can give another opportunity for additional scientific data.
- As for the "space station / artificial satellite" variation... well, all that really needs to be said is that it is trivially easy to deorbit any vessel compared to the effort needed to launch it into orbit in the first place.
- Construction Is Awesome: The game's primary appeal is that it lets you design, build, and fly your own spacecraft, space stations, and surface bases, including the possibility of assembling them part by part in orbit or on another planet's surface. See also Design-It-Yourself Equipment.
- Context-Sensitive Button: Docking Mode allows you to use the normal rotation keys for RCS translation maneuvers, although it isn't strictly necessary as you can also translate from the main keyboard configuration using different keys. You can also define custom action groups when designing a vehicle, so that you can, for instance, press one key to extend all of your solar panels at once instead of having to do it one-by-one.
- Convection, Schmonvection: Depends a bit on the circumstance. Engines dump heat into nearby parts, which can cause overheating if multiple engines or boosters are attached to the same part, but Kerbals standing directly in rocket exhaust don't seem to overheat. However, it is played straight when it comes to shedding heat: parts with lots of built-up heat lose that heat more quickly in thicker atmosphere, while parts in space take quite a while to cool down due to having no contacting fluid to pass heat into. A vessel close to something like the sun that has insufficient radiating surface area can actually find itself overheating from the small but continuous sunlight because there is literally nothing for it to have convection with.
- Conveniently Close Planet: Downplayed. Even taking into account the Space Compression, just getting to the Mun is a challenge for the newest of new players, and traveling to other planets requires quite a bit of planning and forethought — even more so if you plan on going home.
- Cool Car:
- Rovers are essentially meant to be Cool Cars In Space. Now, whether this succeeded or not is up to some interpretation...
- Rovers can be unstable and tricky to use, but it's definitely possible to build some cool designs out of the available parts — like rocket- and jet-powered cars, for a start (in case the Boring, but Practical electric motors aren't quite enough for you)...
- Character Level:
- Critical Existence Failure:
- Your Flight Log may tell you that parts take damage from engine exhaust, but this damage seems to have no effect on their performance at all until they're destroyed outright.
- Overheating does not affect the performance of parts at all, until the overheating bar is full and the part vaporizes into a puff of smoke.
- Aside from a few exceptions, collision damage works similarly. Certain parts (typically wheels, landing gear, and solar panels) have "Damaged / Broken" states where they function badly (or not at all) until repaired by an engineer, but with most parts, if they aren't destroyed outright they won't even get scratched. A battery pack that hit every single bump tumbling down a steep mountainside will still work just as well as the day it was unboxed if one of your astronauts manages to salvage it and slap it on the side of their spacecraft.
- Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: By default, Kerbals who die are listed as MIA for a while before respawning. However, there is an option to enable permanent deaths for your Kerbals. You have to hire all of your astronauts, and when they're dead, they're gone for good.
- Death World: Moho certainly qualifies. It's the closest planet from Kerbol, and the temperature is boiling at 300˚C. There is also an enormous amount of heat generated from Kerbol. Better hope that your ship has radiators, or it will come to an unfortunate end.
- Design-It-Yourself Equipment: The full game comes with a small selection of prebuilt designs, but if you want to do anything really impressive, you'll have to design and build your own rockets, probes, satellites, etc.
- Developer's Foresight: It's supposedly impossible to land on the gas giant, Jool, but they do have responses to performing science experiments on the "surface" such as the EVA report.
- Diegetic Interface: The vanilla game has virtual cockpits on the majority of crew pods, with an artificial horizon sphere, surface/orbit speed, vertical speed, and indicators for subsystems such as SAS. The RasterPropMonitor Game Mod adds multifunction displays◊ to the cockpits, allowing you to play almost the entire game from first person - you can even get out of the MK1 cockpit by pulling the canopy lever.
- Difficult, but Awesome:
- The LV-N Atomic Rocket Engine is the largest and heaviest engine in its size category, has trouble with decouplers, and has one of the poorest thrust-to-weight ratios in the game. Its thrust is so poor that it is almost useless on any ascent stage, limiting it to final stages only, which because of the aforementioned weight and decoupling issues, takes a lot more effort to get into orbit than lighter engines - and good luck landing back on solid ground when the engines are twice as tall as any landing gear. However, if you can get them up there, they are the single most fuel-efficient liquid-fuel consuming vacuum engines in the game. They are one of the most popular options for interplanetary vessels for this reason.
- The First Contract (0.24) update makes this apply to reusable spaceplane designs. Designing and piloting them are both difficult to master, but the relative cheapness of fuel compared to parts and the fact that they can be piloted back to and recovered at the Space Center for a complete refund on their parts value makes them highly cost-effective for transporting crew, experiments, and small probes into orbit.
- Certain advanced maneuvers such as gravity assists or aerobraking can save a lot of fuel when done properly.
- Asparagus staging is a very efficient method of storing fuel because you can drop the added weight of empty fuel tanks easily and frequently. It also takes a lot of careful placement and tweaking to get it to perform correctly, or the rocket could easily become unbalanced or wind up ejecting full tanks. The multiple external fuel tanks can make for some unwieldy rocket designs too.
- With version 1.0 comes ore refinement equipment, giving the player the ability to mine ore then turn it into rocket fuel and monopropellant. Now you can keep rockets gassed up without having to expend any parts or perform additional launches. Except that both the critical components to this are very heavy and one of them is radially mounted which of course can lead to headaches trying to get the thing stable. The process will also usually require several specialized space ships to transfer fuel from the base then get it into orbit again. To cap this all off, in career mode (where rockets actually cost money and refuelling them is helpful) many contracts require using spaceships built after the contract was accepted, so you'll still have to launch new spaceships anyway.
- Single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) spaceplanes are difficult to design, expensive to construct, and don't really do anything that can't be done with a plain old rocket, unless you're visiting the only other moon with an oxygen atmosphere. Additionally, getting the maximum benefit out of them means learning how to time your atmospheric reentries so that you can get the plane close enough to fly or glide to the space center's runway (while expendable rockets are essentially "fire and forget" since the benefit of recovering the parts themselves is usually quite small compared to the expected payout for the payload anyway). Their major advantage is that they're easier to re-use than conventional rockets, making them quite a bit cheaper in the long term. Space shuttles are usually even harder to design and fly than regular old space plane VTOLS. However, unlike space planes, parts are typically expended launching them.
- The "Making History" DLC adds three Vostok and Voshod inspired capsules that are lightweight and compact for their crew capacity and come with a built in decoupler and heat shield. It sounds pretty game breaking until you realize that because the capsules are spheres they are very unstable without a shroud and don't have built in control authority.
- "Breaking Ground" makes it possible to build completely stock electric (and regular fuel) driven aircraft. These are the by far the most efficient ways to get around Eve and are attractive on Duna as well. Building them can be challenging though, never mind getting them there (which often involves making them foldable) and making on that can survive reentry are even more so.
- Diminishing Returns for Balance:
- The amount of scientific benefit you get from performing the same experiment multiple times in the same environment rapidly decreases until you end up getting nothing out of it at all. This is supposed to encourage players to send craft to many different environments, both around Kerbin and elsewhere in the system. Later updates made this effect even more pronounced.
- Happens in ship construction too, though this is more of a realistic effect than anything hard coded into the engine. Basically the larger a rocket is and the more boosters added (after a point), the less efficient the rocket becomes. This is mostly because the more fuel is added to a rocket in later stages the more fuel is consumed in earlier stages getting that fuel to where it needs to be. Using additional engines makes things less fuel efficient and adds weight that must be moved around. The Other Wiki explains here. This is a factor to snap the player out of the "big dumb booster" mentality and stimulate them to use more advanced shipbuilding technologies, such as orbital assembly and advanced, high specific impulse engines.
- Disaster Dominoes: Any accident that doesn't involve your rocket crashing into the ground wholesale usually involves these, and even that is often only the last domino in a chain of design and piloting mistakes.
- Disposable Vehicle Section: Any multi-stage craft will be built this way, and completely justified. After all, getting to orbit requires a lot of propulsion and fuel, and once up there the empty fuel containers and excessively large engines just become dead weight. (Well, technically dead mass, but we digress.) Any craft that averts this is called a single-stage-to-orbit vehicle, and depending on engineering and mission goal can range from Awesome, but Impractical to Difficult, but Awesome. Some fan-made mods allow conversion of empty fuel-tanks into crew-cabins, laboratories, or other components, which makes construction of a space-station somewhat easier to accomplish.
- Dissimile: Eve's in-game description:[Eve] is considered by some to be an almost sister planet to Kerbin. Well, despite the purple, and the toxic atmosphere, and the extreme pressures and temperatures... Actually, it’s not very similar at all is it? Who are these people?
- Dramatic Space Drifting: Can happen if a Kerbonaut on EVA runs out of fuel before he makes it back to the capsule.
- Drives Like Crazy: Several of the multi-ton cargo and utility vehicles in the Spaceplane Hangar are apparently driven by speed-obsessed maniacs, including at least one who loves to drift in circles around much larger vehicles and another who nearly causes a three-car pileup by trying to thread between two moving vehicles.
- Drop Pod: Generally any lander that is not designed to lift back off (such as those used to land probes, rovers, surface bases that remain on the surface, or just return crew to Kerbin) would fit this trope, albeit in a non-military capacity. But for some more specific examples:
- The one-person and three-person conical crew capsules are designed to be used as single-use reentry vehicles for your intrepid kerbonauts coming home from space — with a parachute attached, of course.
- The addition of airbrakes in 1.0 allows players to slap them on Lander Cans to turn them into one-man drop pods. The airbrakes are powerful enough that only 4 are required to slow down a Mk1 Lander Can from orbital velocity to a safe landing speed.
- Drop Ship: Possible to build - though ususally of the civilian variety, unless you take "conquering space" literally - and in many cases far more practical. Landers that detach from transition modules to go to a planet's surface and back are a common and practical example. Space Planes that deliver small probes are another kind of example. Sometimes it is even possible to build an entirely VTOL design. Cupcake makes many good examples.
- Duct Tape for Everything: EAS-4 Strut Connector - basically KSP equivalent of duct tape. This is the only thing that holds most rockets from falling apart.
- Earn Your Fun: Figuring out how to build a rocket that will actually achieve orbit, let alone go places, can be a challenge for new players. But this is a game that rewards persistence and a willingness to endure failure, and gives experienced players a universe of possibilities.
- Easily Detachable Robot Parts: With clever use of docking ports and probe cores, you can create completely autonomous spacecraft from modular components that can operate independently of the main craft as well.
- Easy Logistics:
- Individual craft have limited fuel and electricity, but (discounting monetary costs) that fuel is effectively in infinite supply for your space program as a whole.
- You never have to worry about food, water, or oxygen supply. This actually makes manned missions in some ways easier than unmanned ones (as unmanned command modules require electricity to run).
- On the design and management side of things, no time passes while in the Vehicle Assembly Building or the Space Plane Hangar, and new craft are assembled and deployed to the launchpad or runway instantaneously.
- Easter Egg: "Anomalies" scattered across the surface of Kerbin, Mun, and other bodies. The most obvious one is The Monolith visible from the Space Center, along with the others like it around the system.
- Edutainment Game: While the original game is not primarily designed as one, its creators support its use in the classroom as a teaching tool and have been working on a special edition called KerbalEdu specifically meant for classroom use. At least one teacher has incorporated it into his classes.
- Ejection Seat: It's possible to create a (very clumsy) ejection seat for rovers with the use of miniature SRBs and a decoupler. With the NASA update, a real-life equivalent from the Apollo program is available for regular cockpits - the Escape Tower, a vectored SRB mounted on the top of the cockpit, which can be activated (in unison with a decoupler) in an emergency to lift the entire cockpit to safety.
- Update 1.4 introduced the ability to invoke this trope, minus the "seat", with the addition of backpack parachutes for Kerbonauts with the pilot specialization, allowing you to bail out of a stricken aircraft and reach the ground semi-safely.
- Emergent Gameplay: Quite a few people find ways to have fun with the game without launching rockets into space at all, or by finding unusual uses for game parts. Geofley's Cove, a fully aquatic base on Laythe, is one of the less outlandish examples.
- Another excellent example is The Wrong Brothers, in which a player goes through career mode using only the spaceplane hangar and runway, and never launches a single conventional rocket.
- Update 1.05 overhauled how buoyancy is treated in the game making it possible for some parts and even entire craft to sink. It is possible to build submarines and underwater bases, there are even contracts and records for them.
- Another surprisingly popular bit of emergent gameplay is using the backpack-mounted EVA parachutes introduced in 1.4, combined with purpose-built engine pods launched from the runway, to . . . go parasailing. Using a jet engine, no less.
- The Engineer: Engineer Kerbals, obviously. They can repack parachutes, fix broken rover wheels, and enhance the function of surface ore drilling equipment.
- Enormous Engine: The obvious result of sticking 2-meter diameter engines on 1-meter diameter fuselages or fuel tanks. More particularly, this is true of any launch vehicle, which is simply an enormous engine to get your (relatively) tiny spacecraft or probe up into orbit. Said launch vehicle tends to discard pieces after they are spent on the way up, gradually shrinking the size of the "engine" until only smaller ones remain.
- An Entrepreneur Is You: The 0.24 update introduces an economy system to Career Mode to provide funding and contracts for your space program.
- Epic Fail: Half the fun of the game is watching your carefully crafted creations explode, go way off-course, or slam into Kerbin at hundreds of miles per hour.
- A classic and popular one is releasing launching clamps before activating engines. This can easily happen due to a buggy staging sequence. As the result, your majestic rocket will slowly fall to the ground, exploding stage-by-stage on contact, until all that remains is the crew capsule sitting in the middle of the launchpad empty save for the ring of the aforementioned launching clamps.
- Another one that often occurs with single stage rockets with a parachute: the staging puts the parachute and the engine in the same stage by default, leading to the parachute deploying at the same time that the engine turns on, pulling the rocket sideways and into the ground.
- Epic Launch Sequence: The game is in part effectively dedicated to creating your very own.
- Many of the larger rocket launches can easily become this, especially if the total size of the completed rocket is over twice the size of the VAB. Other designs may be small or compact enough to fit in the building, or are designed to be launched in smaller sections and assembled in orbit, but will still be unconventional enough to warrant a prayer or two as you cross your fingers and hope the damn thing doesn't collapse under it's own weight, or crush the pad, or do both.
- On the subject of assembling rockets in orbit: Finally taking the helm of the completed super-ship, and firing up its engines to fly off to some untold adventure.
- Hell, any rocket launch can become this if the player doesn't have much experience with them, and some may consider just making it out of the space center in the first place to be their first real achievement.
- Escape Pod: Even in stock game you can attach additional capsules as such, but can easily result in dead weight.
- On update 1.04, kerbals that contracts ask you to rescue now spawn in a lone command pod or crew module. What happened to the rest of their ship is anyone's guess.
- Escort Mission: Tourism contracts in career mode provide you with some number of, well, tourists, who you must safely transport to some location(s) and return safely to Kerbin. They can't wear spacesuits, so they're effectively dead weight taking up seats in crew compartments, but at least they can't wander off somewhere when you're not looking.
- Everything Breaks: Since the 0.25 update, the buildings of Kerbal Space Center are destructible if hit with enough force. While potentially fun, this is generally considered a bad thing as destroyed buildings cannot be used until the player coughs up the money to rebuild them (in career mode at least.)
- Excuse Plot: The plot is essentially "Have a rocket and a few astronauts. Now go into space." All the Flavor Text for ship parts and mission contracts adds is "Everyone else is bad at going into space." You don't need to know why toy companies and canning factories need mineral scanners in a specific polar orbit of Moho.
- Explosion Propulsion: While this is arguably true of any liquid or solid fuel rocket (no Orion Drives in the unmodded game, yet) some players find creative uses for rocket exhaust:
- One common design has two powerful rockets facing opposite each other, designed to go to full throttle immediately and simultaneously. Each rocket cancels the thrust of the other, but any object placed in front of one of the nozzles will be launched away at high speed. This is often used as a feature of space stations to move small masses without needing to have their own propulsion.
- And then you have the massive abuse of decouplers known as "Plaid", named for how fast it goes (nearly 1 million meters per second - fast enough to reach the Mun in 13 seconds, or the Sun in 4 and a half minutes).
- Explosive Overclocking: Cramming too many engines too close to one another and firing them all at full throttle is guaranteed to make them overheat rapidly. Let them get too hot, and all those engines will explode spectacularly.
- Explosive Stupidity: Parts that absorb more heat than they can radiate away will explode, destroying the part and likely crippling the craft it's a part of. Major sources of heat include rocket engines, atmospheric drag, and (naturally enough) the sun. Cue inexperienced players who don't know better, or somewhat more experienced players pushing their limits just a wee bit too far...
- Expospeak Gag: A few of these have crawled into the fan vocabulary from real-world rocketry, notably "rapid unplanned disassembly"Translation and "lithobraking."Translation The latter is a legitimate landing technique that can be used in-game successfully◊, but most of the time the term's used in the ironic sense.
- Face Palm: Gene Kerman (the guy at Mission Control) does this if you cancel a contract.
- Fearless Fool: A common fan interpretation of Jebediah Kerman's personality. The description of him on his Steam trading card supports this."Fearless? Brainless? Who can tell?"
- Fictional Counterpart: Weird names and minor tweaks aside, KSP's set of planets is essentially the same as ours. After a small, rocky planet and one with a very thick atmosphere, Kerbin is the third planet from its star, followed by a small red planet, then a small rocky object (the counterpart to Ceres), then a huge gas planet with lots of moons, and so on. Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune equivalents are missing from the stock game, but do exist as a mod.
- Notably averted with the moons. Gilly and Minmus are entirely fictional while Pol and Bop are something of composite character of various minor moons. Ike is also something of a composite character between Mars's moons but is rather different, being a large rounded body. Laythe is based on a hypothetical wet Io (with elements of Titan), but has little in common besides relative size and orbit. Only Val, Tylo, and, of course, the Mun have direct real solar system counterparts.
- Flanderization: According to the development staff, the attitude implied by, among other things, the use of the word "kerbal" as a synonym for "ridiculous and impractical" is a result of the fandom taking one aspect of the Kerbals' approach to rocket science and blowing it totally out of proportion. To quote this development blog post:Bac9: Overall, I'm convinced the obsession with disasters and perception of Kerbals as worthless engineers only caring about explosions is destructive for the game. KSP deserves much more than being a glorified disaster simulator where rockets falling apart and crews being killed is the prime entertainment and the only expected result.
- Flying Car: Rover wheels + rocket parts = Hilarity Ensues. Skilled builders may elect to place wings, control surfaces and tailplanes on the car, in an attempt to make it more or less a proper flying car.
- For Science!: Literally in career mode, where doing experiments, sending reports, and collecting samples in various environments both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial accumulate science points used to unlock the Tech Tree. Generally, the further out from Kerbin you go and/or more inaccessible the location (Eve, for instance), the higher the multiplier for doing science becomes, thus "For Science!" is a wholly rational justification for conducting missions.
- Friction Burn: A completely serious example, and one of the banes of players trying to make Space Planes or aerobrake from a high orbit. Atmospheric heating due to compression, scaling with pressure and speed, can cause Overheating of parts. This means a vessel's speed has to be carefully monitored such that it doesn't incinerate in the air. Ironically, a blunter nose is preferable to a more aerodynamic one in this case (particularly if it has a high thermal capacity) because the physics simulation actually models a detached shockwave, putting less stress on other parts.
- A Parabolic Nose Cone (usually considered 'blunt' by laymen) is the most efficient, real world and in-game physics, reduce drag and on of the better cone shapes to reduce heat from friction (a good balance if top speed is the player's goal). Players can create their own nose cones using the provided fairing parts. The addition of a tiny heat shield on the tip of any cone with the edge facing forward (not the intended orientation) can be used to mitigate the detached shockwave with minimal addition of drag.
- Frictionless Reentry: Played straight during development. Oddly, scary-looking reentry flames were added early on, but for a long time they were purely decoration; you could still plow vertically into the atmosphere at interplanetary speeds and survive unscathed. Fully Averted in version 1.0, which added the heat effects from re-entry that had been absent in the alpha and beta releases (unless you used the Deadly Reentry mod), though you can still turn off (or increase) the heat in the difficulty settings.
- Fun Size: Kerbal proportions are quite odd compared to those of humans. For one, their heads are ludicrously oversized.
- Funny Background Event:
- One of the engineers in the rocket assembly area randomly hits the floor with his hammer.
- Some of the engineers are carrying tire irons around.
- The large group of Kerbals in reflective vests and carrying lighted batons, doing... Well, it's not really clear. Semaphore lessons? Yoga?
- On the Munar menu screen, an empty helmet will sometimes roll across the Mun's surface in the distance. (In case you're wondering how it got there...)
- A sandcastle on the Mun can sometimes be seen in the background.
- The service trucks added in 0.21 to the VAB and SPH drive around, but you will occasionally see the trucks drifting.
- Future Copter: Any air-breathing stock VTOL will necessarily be this. As the stock parts have no rotatory wings, the only way to have any upward thrust is via downward-vectored engines, typically jets.
- The arrival of working rotors with the Breaking Ground expansion actually made these even more common, since multi-rotor helicopters steered with reaction wheels are actually a lot simpler to make than conventional helicopters with tail rotors. Shrouds for building ducted fans are also included.
- Game-Breaking Bug:
- Earlier versions used to have a few of these; most of them have been fixed in later versions.
- If you attached your engines directly to the large orange fuel tank, it had a nasty habit of causing said engines to overheat much faster than normal. This could be circumvented by adding a smaller fuel tank to the bottom and taping it up with struts, or by using two half sized fuel tanks instead.
- When RCS thrusters were first added, they were programmed to have more thrust when they were closer to the ship's center of mass. Since there wasn't any cap on this, having an RCS thruster dead on the center of mass would give it infinite thrust, crashing the game.
- Landing physics, especially when high impact speeds are involved, can be dicey. Expect things to disappear, such as:
- The game has picked up a reputation for devouring memory, especially if mods are added, as the game must load every single asset into memory upon starting. Viewing the Space Center causes memory usage to increase, and it will increase with every successive view. Nasty memory leaks crop every once in a while, such as the part overheat gauge in version 1.0.0 causing the game to crash within minutes once a part starts to overheat. Starting version 1.1 these bugs should be all but eliminated with the new 64 bit Unity engine.
- Earlier versions used to have a few of these; most of them have been fixed in later versions.
- Game Mod: The game is extremely mod-friendly, and several mods have been directly incorporated and their makers hired on as developers. One of the fanbase catchphrases is "There's a mod for that", since there are so many, from autopilots to improved visuals, from vital features the devs haven't got around to yet, to fun and wacky parts like soccer balls.
- Gameplay Automation: The "MechJeb" user-made addon adds an autopilot feature to the game. Since each autopilot program is a separate "module" (with one for docking, one for ascent, one for rendezvous, etc), it's the player's decision how much they want to automate their flight.
- Guide Dang It!: One of the game's few flaws is that there is little in-game documentation of how most things work. Even if you know rocket science, you'll still need trial and error to figure out what all the rocket parts are and how they work (Really - even astronauts have trouble playing if they've never played it before.). In version 1.1 and onwards a "KSPedia" in-game information system that (hopefully) remedy this.
- Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: Mün.
- High-Tech Hexagons: The roads in the Kerbal Space Center are arranged in hexagons, and there are certain parts like the HECS probe core, and the deployable solar panel from the Breaking Ground expansion, that are hexagonally shaped. Some of the flags that come with the game also feature hexagons in their designs.
- Hilarity Ensues: Common in the official promotional shorts, most of which involve some poor kerbal suffering Amusing Injuries by ignoring some basic rule of spaceflight safety.
- Historical In-Joke: The S1 SRB-KD25k "Kickback" Solid Fuel Booster is based on the most powerful rocket motors ever flown, the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster. Like the Space Shuttle's SRBs, it claims to designed for recovery. In practice, the recovery of both are more trouble than they're worth. To recover falling rocket stages, one has to add an unmanned probe core and parachutes, manage staging just right, not to mention be a certain distance from it.
- Hitbox Dissonance: In older versions of the game, a few of the buildings at the Kerbal Space Center had some wonky collision meshes, such as the SPH being about 10 meters taller than it actually appeared to be.
- Hurl It into the Sun: Perfectly possible, but by no means easy. Doing so from Kerbin orbit requires at least four kilometers-per-second of delta-v, and that is including a Spaceship Sling Shot Stunt, or twice the amount of delta-v without one. Just getting there is a major Self-Imposed Challenge for some players, though getting a close flyby (by astronomical standards) can be a big boon to science in career mode.
- Improbable Piloting Skills: Often times directly proportional to the improbability of the craft.
- Improvised Microgravity Maneuvering: If your ship is out of fuel, it's possible to get out of the craft and push with the EVA jetpack. Since jetpack fuel is automatically refilled when you get back in the cockpit, it's theoretically possible to get anywhere in the system a few m/s at a time.
- Inconvenient Parachute Deployment: An unfortunately frequent occurrence when parachutes aren't properly staged or the player has triggered them at inappropriate times. For example, deploying main chute before deploying a drogue chute might cause the main chute to wrench off due to it being unable to handle the greater air forces at higher velocity.
- Infinite Supplies: Kerbals do not require oxygen, food, or any other supplies and can run literally forever. Averted for the various rocket fuels, which will run out and forms the basis for the game's difficultly. However, some mods can make it so that you have finite life support supplies if you want the extra challenge.
- Interplanetary Voyage: No science-fiction technology for you — if you want to explore the local solar system, you have to do it the old-fashioned way, with rockets and orbital mechanics.
- Infinity -1 Sword: The mid tier buildings in career mode. You'll likely upgrade at least the launch pad and vertical assembly building before you even get to the Mun. The rest of early game will likely be spent upgrading everything else, but you likely won't need the extra abilities of the level three buildings until you're doing very complicated late game stuff.
- In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: Kerbonaut helmets don't have mirrored reflective visors. This is presumably so that the player can get a kick out of watching their expressions change when something goes horribly wrong.
- Subsequent updates added optional sun visors to the space suits, which can be deployed at the click of a button to avert this trope (and also avert premature kerbonaut blindness).
- In-Universe Game Clock: "Internal Game Clock" variety. Time normally passes in real time and is recorded in Earth minutes, hours, days, and years (with, since 0.23.5, an option to switch to Kerbin days and years, where each day is 6 hours and each year is 426 days). Thankfully, as some missions could take a very, very long time in real-time, there are options for time acceleration. Each planet and moon has its own day-night cycle determined by its motion within the solar system, which is important when planning landings or using solar-powered probes.
- Hit So Hard, the Calendar Felt It: Whatever the reason, the game always starts on Year 1, Day 1, 0:00:00. Which just so happens to be the middle of day in the Kerbal Space Center.
- I Don't Know Mortal Kombat: Aside from the abovementioned Lu fiasco, there is noticeably little use in remodelling the real-life Lunar Orbital Rendezvous system in the game’s miniaturized environment. The mass of the additional engine, the Mk 2 Lander Can, the supporting electrics, the manoeuvring engines and fuel for them, and the docking port – all in all, another, albeit lighter, spaceship does not justify the delta-V savings from not having to take the return fuel up and down the gravity well. (NASA did it that way because it's a lot safer, with ways to abort and return to Earth safely at any stage of the mission. They didn't have the option of laughing at the funny explosion and then hitting "Load Save" if something went wrong.)
- Instant Costume Change: Jeb, Bill, Bob, and Val have orange spacesuits while inside a pod, but when they go on EVA their suits magically turn white. To add further confusion, they have orange EVA suits in promo material and even the loading screen images, but never in unmodded gameplay. The other, randomly-generated kerbals wear white suits at all times.
- Averted in 1.10, which adds a proper suit customization system; now, kerbals on EVA wear whatever color of suit was selected for them prior to mission start. (Jeb, Bill, Bob, and Val start with orange standard suits by default, of course, and will wear them both inside and outside the spacecraft.)
- Iron Butt-Monkey: As long as the Kerbals are not killed outright, they can come out of some spectacular disasters none the worse for wear, allowing for some serious Video Game Cruelty Potential (see below).
- Jet Pack: Every Kerbonaut has an EVA pack equipped by default to prevent them from floating away from their vessel, somewhere between an MMU and SAFER but carrying far more fuel. It only works as a traditional jet pack on low gravity bodies, though on the smallest objects, it is possible to achieve orbit.
- Just Plane Wrong: The J-X4 "Whiplash" is a ramjet engine, which in real life only works when the plane is already going sufficiently fast (usually around Mach 3) and would require another engine to accelerate the plane in the first place. Ramjets also require a shock cone intake, but the game doesn't require you to use one. For all intents and purposes ramjets in KSP work just like regular jet engines.
- Lens Flare: You can see the effect whenever your camera is pointed towards the sun.
- Little Green Men: The Kerbals are green, and approximately 0.75 m tall.
- Loads and Loads of Loading: This will definitely happen if you have a low end computer, or if you have a 3,000-part ship being put on the pad.
- A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...: Is set entirely in the fictional Kerbol System.
- Made of Explodium:
- Rockets have a habit of blowing up on occasion, usually during stack separation or when insecurely radial-mounted pieces "wobble". Justified by most of a rocket's volume being fuel containers which in turn hold most of the rocket's mass... mass that is itself a two-part combustive compound designed to explode preferably slowly and in a controlled manner. Pretty much Every Rocket Is A Pinto.
- Every single part, regardless of function, will explode when it hits the ground with enough force.
- Starting with 0.25, all of the buildings at KSC explode and get destroyed in a fireball if hit with enough force. The water towers appear to be filled with Kerosene.
- According to flavor texts, Eve's Alien Seas are literally made of explodium, but you cannot actually ignite them in-game. Probably because there's no oxygen in the atmosphere.
- Made of Iron: In contrast to the Made of Explodium rocket parts, Kerbonauts are incredibly durable. Besides never running out or air or needing food or water on multi-year space journeys, they can somehow survive crashing into the ground at up to 45 m/s (about 100 MPH) completely unharmed. Your ship's landing gear will snap off and/or explode at one-third that speed. It's been speculated that it's in fact their helmets that are Made of Iron. Landing a Kerbal on their legs will generally kill them instantly, but if you flip them over and land them on their helmets, it's possible to survive.
- The Many Deaths of You: Blowing up in liftoff, drifting into the void of space to starve or freeze to death, spinning madly on the launch pad, hurling yourself into the sun - there's no end to the creative ways these guys can perish.
- Masculine Lines, Feminine Curves: Male Kerbals have heads shaped like rounded cylinders and female Kerbals have heads shaped like ovals.
- Meaningful Name: As mentioned under Aerith and Bob, some of the randomly generated names are Shout Outs to real-life people (like Buzz Aldrin or notable KSP lets-players). Furthermore, Valentina Kerman is named in honor of Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, first woman and first civilian in space. Even the ground crew gets this treatment- Gene Kerman in particular being an obvious Expy of Gene Kranz, right down to the snappy vest.
- Mechanical Horse: Yes, you really can build one. It's entirely made from stock parts, too.
- Money for Nothing:
- In the early game, it's difficult to make money. However, once you reach orbit, many contracts with easily fulfilled objectives (rescue missions, science data from space, etc) open up allowing for Money Grinding. Unless you build seriously over-engineered rockets, you will always turn a healthy profit on contract missions, turning out huge sums of moola to spend on silly and/or expensive endeavors.
- Some contracts require you to test parts on the launchpad, meaning that you can load a vessel, test the part to complete the contract, then recover the vessel for a 100% refund.
- The other "currency," science points, follows a similar trajectory. Early on, it can be hard to grind out enough points with your limited part options; but once you can get to the Mun or Minmus with a bunch of experiment parts, you can easily gather enough science to unlock everything by visiting all the biomes on the moon(s). Then you can use those parts to visit other planets and get vast amounts of additional science... and have nothing to spend it on. Science can be exchanged for money, but, well, see above.
- With the aid of the mobile processing lab you can greatly increase your science returns and rather easily research the entire tech with only visiting Kerbin and its satellites.
- Mother Ship: This is probably one of the most popular methods of interplanetary travel. Even if the mothership in question isn't reusable, it's still a lot more practical (if not as fuel efficient) to bring a big ship that can deploy a lot of probes than to just repeatedly send probes to almost the exact same place, or to cart interplanetary vessels to and from the planet.
- Mundane Dogmatic: No aliens (bar the kerbals themselves), and all technology present is equivalent to modern-day or near-future / in-development rocket tech.
- Nerves of Steel: Jebediah Kerman almost never loses his cool. If you can get him to crack, the odds are good that your spacecraft is already doomed.
- Nintendo Hard: The game is pretty harsh and unforgiving if you don't know what you're doing; most new players take a while to achieve their first orbit, partly because of common misconceptions about how real rockets reach orbit (you don't need to go up very far, but you need a tremendous amount of horizontal velocity). Even if you've mastered the game, a single mishap can ruin that epic Jool mission you poured hours into.
- While building finely balanced, efficient rockets and sending them to other worlds may not be particularly easy, this pales in comparison to trying to build a Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) space plane and docking with your orbiting space station. Seriously, try it!
- No Antagonist: The only obstacles to your progress are your own design or piloting mistakes. That and the harshness of space.
- Noodle Implements: Stuck in space with no fuel, so tantalisingly close to being able to return home? Why not literally get out and push? Just take an EVA, and push your spacecraft in the direction you want! You can get an unlimited amount of delta-V like this, if you could be bothered constantly getting in and out of the ship to replenish your EVA fuel (plus, this process is extremely slow).
- No One Gets Left Behind: A popular form of Self-Imposed Challenge is to always, always make a rescue attempt for any Kerbonauts stranded far away from home unless they're plainly lost to the clutches of space. See Video Game Caring Potential below.
- No OSHA Compliance: Parachutes, landing gear, or anything to insure the survival of your Kerbals are entirely optional. It is even possible to make rockets that face down.
- No Plot? No Problem!: There's no real story or backstory to the game aside from player fanon. There's just you, your space program, a ton of rocket parts, a solar system filled with planets and moons, and an endless supply of eager would-be rocket jockeys.
- Not the Intended Use: See Emergent Gameplay above. For example, since fuel tanks are buoyant, you can build rocket-powered speedboats with the right parts.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Bill & Bob Kerman always look worried whenever the spacecraft is doing anything other than holding still. All characters do this if something explodes. If Jebediah ever stops grinning... see above.
- With the addition of other Kerbonauts, it has been revealed that each one has a personality based on certain modifiers, which in turn determines how brave or cowardly each one is. One of these modifiers is if the Kerbal is trained as a pilot or not (either yes or no). If he is a pilot, he will be mostly happy. If not, he will scream his pants off.
- Bob will always look terrified. He'll only calm down if the craft is confirmably drifting back to the surface slowly via parachute or has come to a complete, safe stop.
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Science Kerbals have no specialization, they are all experts in generic Science! They can clean out and refurbish otherwise expendable experiment modules, enhance the degree of science gained from experiments, and staff laboratory modules to conduct longer-term research. There is, at least, a distinction between scientists and engineers.
- The basic science devices are also like this. One is the "Science Jr.," a big cylinder full of nondescript "samples" that react to their environment, and the other is a tank of "mystery goo." You can research more specific tools, like thermometers and barometers.
- One-Gender Race: Not anymore, but prior to verion 1.0 all Kerbals appeared to be the same (apparently male) gender while the game was in beta.
- Outside Ride: Kerbonauts can ride on the outside of rockets by holding onto ladders, but they don't have especially strong grip (so be careful if you try it yourself and never try it when the craft is accelerating). Version .20 added seats; see Rocket Ride.
- Overheating: A mechanic in the game is a realistic modeling of heating effects. Different parts have different heat tolerances, with separately tracked values for internal and surface heat, and radiate heat differently depending on atmospheric temperature and pressure. As expected, radiating heat is very slow in space. If the built up heat exceeds a given part's threshold, it experiences a Critical Existence Failure. Some of this heat can be managed with additional radiator parts to help cool it, just make sure none of those radiators are facing prograde during atmospheric entry, because their heating flux works both ways.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Dres. Most people have never heard of its real-life equivalent, Ceres, giving it a disadvantage from the start. It looks almost exactly like the Mun, and lacks any planetary personality—Moho is closest to the sun, Eeloo is farthest, Eve is very difficult to escape from, Duna has a cosmetically interesting surface, and Jool has several moons with various quirks. Dres is just a gray rock in an uninteresting location. It has neighboring asteroids, but so does Kerbin. Dres gets so few visitors that the challenges forum has a "Dres Awareness" project, to encourage players to send epic missions to the poor neglected planet.
- Perhaps its only claim to fame is the fact that it sits at a highly inclined orbit making it somewhat challenging from to get an intercept with. However if anything this just deters people from even bothering as it makes a flyby on the way to Jool rather ugly and Delta V consuming than it would normally be.
- As far as moons go Val is often ignored. Even within its own system Tylo has freakishly strong gravity, Bop and Pol having micro-gravity and mountains going for them, and Laythe has an oxygen atmosphere. Outside of the Jool system even Val's gimmick of being an ice moon are overshadowed by the much more readily accessible Minmus.
- Perpetual-Motion Monster: If one were to dump a Kerbal on the Mun with nothing more than their spacesuit, they could sit there forever. They also have infinite stamina, and they can shrug off any amount of G-forces. Various mods force you to feed, water, and/or oxygenate your Kerbals, but in the stock game they can only die from high-speed impacts or incineration, much like inanimate objects.
- Before the introduction of re-entry heat, if one had the EVA Parachutes mod, it was completely possible to perform interplanetary EVAs.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Most of the soundtrack (aside from the main title theme) was created by Kevin Mac Leod.
- Punny Name: The Dessert Launch Complex is said to have been named as a pun by snack loving Kerbals.
- Purely Aesthetic Gender: Male and female Kerbals differ only in appearance, not in capabilities.
- Ragdoll Physics: If a Kerbal hits something at high speed (but not fast enough to die instantly), they go into ragdoll mode, flopping around helplessly and often violently until they tumble to a stop. This doesn't cause any permanent injury, somehow, but can be pretty irritating if they fall down a mountain and you're forced to wait several minutes in real-time before you can control them again.
- Randomly Generated Quests: Most contracts in Career Mode are randomly-generated, using the player's progress so far as a guide. Contracts might require the player to place a satellite in a specific orbit around a planet, test a spacecraft part at a certain altitude, etc. The payout is calculated based on the "difficulty" of the contract.
- Reentry Scare: With heating introduced, this is a justified state in some cases, especially if you’re dealing with a spaceplane, which doesn’t just have an ablative heat shield. It's still relatively manageable for a skilled player (or one screaming down behind a metric tonne of heat shielding).
- Ridiculously Fast Construction: A non-RTS example. Unlike real life, craft have no lead time whatsoever. No time passes when in any of the buildings, including the VAB or SPH, so a craft can go from conception to the launch pad in 0 seconds of game time. So it's entirely possible to have a Kerbal on the mun 2 days after the space age begins (assuming you know how to build the craft). It also means that a kerbal trapped in space can be rescued in a matter of days, if not hours. Some mods avert this by adding realistic construction times once the craft is designed in the editor.
- Refining Resources: Version 1.0 added ore that can be mined across various planets, and scanners to detect concentrations of it. This can allow refueling as ore can be converted to fuel, however, this can be hard to do at times as both the drill and the converter are rather large.
- Resources Management Gameplay: While the Career mode has to deal with reputation, science, and funds on the strategic level, every gameplay mode has to deal with resources on a mission level. These include number of crew, electric charge, reaction control propellant, and especially fuel (crew support like oxygen and food are thankfully infinite... unless you play with certain life support mods.) Since sending more of these things into orbit requires expending them in ever greater quantities, there are seriously diminishing returns for trying to take more with you, so efficient use of them is necessary.
- Retro Rocket: It's not impossible to build and operate a reusable SSTO "tailsitter" rocket like the trope depicts, merely very, very difficult. Having a fueling station at the destination or in-built ISRU capabilities are highly recommended if you want to make it somewhat practical for more than just quick orbital or suborbital hops. On the other hand, many rockets will look retro on takeoff, but will most definitely shed parts on the way up.
- Rocketless Reentry: Technically possible in older versions of the game; the trick to it involved landing them on their head. The addition of reentry heat essentially ended the practice.
- While you can't do it with just a Kerbal anymore, you can still make craft that that have the Kerbal reenter without a pod. All you need is a heat shield, a motor, a parachute, and a chair.
- Rocket Ride: 0.20 introduced official support for seats, mainly intended for rovers. Of course, sticking one to the side of a large rocket and launching it into the stratosphere was one of the first things a lot of users did.
- Rule of Fun: Squad's response when anyone asks them if they will do anything to make the game more realistic is "Would that make the game more fun?" If they think it will, then they will try to incorporate it, and if not then they will let it slide. Some things are intentionally unrealistic for the sake of fun; the entire universe has Space Compression applied because using real-life scales would make climbing to orbit and reentry/landing rather tedious.
- Running Gag: Just about all the science parts warn you in their descriptions that "the warranty will be voided if X happens" (X usually being a mundane or obvious use for the part). Becomes a Brick Joke if you somehow manage to land on Jool and run a seismic scan:The sensor has informed you that the warranty has just been voided. No refunds.
- Save Scumming: You can hit Escape and choose "Revert to Launch" or "Revert to Vehicle Assembly" if something goes wrong and you don't want to lose money on a vehicle and/or a Kerbal.
- The F5 key lets you create a quicksave (Alt-F5 to name it), and F9 (or Alt-F9) reverts you to that quicksave.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale:
- The developers avert this but the use of this trope in media has caused some confusion among players less familiar with actual astronomical scales. Even among those familiar with space flight don't always remember exactly how big space really is. For instance, some have suggested ignoring time acceleration (i.e. being able to increase the speed of the game) and instead allow the program to run essentially in the background to allow for realistic flight during extended missions. Even acknowledging that a single mission would very well be months long, they don't seem to realize that most of that time would be spent doing... nothing.
- The distances are less than they would actually be, but that's due to the Space Compression. The scales for Kerbin/Mun/sun are roughly the same as for Earth/Moon/Sun accounting for it.
- There is, however a Mod which gives more realistic planet sizes and distances, however, an additional mod is usually needed to rebalance fuel and electricity, or all but the only the most carefully planned ships will have serious trouble even making it to the Mun!
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: If something goes badly wrong, a Kerbal can EVA to escape. Sometimes they can survive the fall by landing on their helmet. In 1.5, any Kerbal at Level 1+note unlocks a personal parachute, allowing them to easily jump out and survive a problem, given that their parachute deploys.
- Series Mascot: Due to his Memetic Badass status, Jebediah is the most recognizable of the Kerbonauts.
- Sequel Hook: in the very last update for the game, 1.12, A new anomaly was added, A star gate, that would also appear in the then-upcoming KSP 2.
- Shout-Out- Often found in the equipment part descriptions
- The tiny size of the "LV-1 Liquid Engine" is mocked with What is this, an engine for ants?.
- The "Advanced Grabbing Unit" is otherwise known as The Klaw.
- If opening up a materials bay doors for science over Jool, the science report will tell the story of the computer saying "I'm sorry, I can't let you do that" and then hurriedly complying when you head to the fusebox.
- The release notes for the 1.0.5 update has the following comment: "Kerbals have the added advantage of not requiring any potatoes for unplanned long-duration stays on desolate planets." One of the contract blurbs also notes that "we're going to have to science the... Kerbal out of this."
- The PB-NUK Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator generates a small, steady charge indefinitely, but it should not be used on rover excursions to provide heat.
- One of the companies mentioned in-game is called Sean's Cannery.
- PR representative Walt Kerman wearing a yellow hazmat suit could be a roundabout Breaking Bad reference.
- Simple, yet Awesome: Encouraged by the Career mode introduced in the 0.24 "First Contract" update. Each rocket part now costs funds, of which the space program only has so much at any one time, making simple rockets with inexpensive and easily recovered and refurbished parts necessary for accomplishing elaborate objectives, where an unrestricted mode might favor flashier and less humble designs.
- Once the appropriate technologies are unlocked, other options become available. Simple designs can be hard to recover, but complicated SSTOs for low-orbit missions may actually save more money - provided the player is able to bring them back to the runway in one piece.
- Simulation Game: It's not on the same realism level as Orbiter, but it's realistic enough to be a great way to learn basic orbital mechanics.
- But if you want more realism, the Real Solar System and Realism Overhaul mods basically turn the game into Orbiter, and then some. For example, Realism Overhaul uses real-life rocket engines and propellants and takes ullage and limited ignitions into account, on top of the collision detection, power management, and custom vehicle designing that come with the base game and are not available in Orbiter. The Principia mod replaces the rough approximations of orbital mechanics with a more realistic n-body simulation like in Orbiter.
- Mods like Kerbalism add life support, radiation, part failures, and other mechanics that increase difficulty and realism.
- Single-Biome Planet: Zig-zagged during development. Kerbin up to version 0.17 was mostly grassland, with the exception of the poles, which were icy. 0.18 and above added rivers and deserts. Version 0.22 and 0.23 added a variety of "biomes" to Kerbin, the Mun, and Minmus, which will give different research data when experiments are performed within them. Finally averted in 0.90, which added biomes to every celestial body in the solar system (except the sun and Jool).
- Slapstick: Valentina Kerman and the other female Kerbonauts are no more explosion-proof than their male counterparts.
- Stiff Upper Lip: Jebediah, Valentina, and any other Kerbals with the hidden badS flag will be calm unless something goes catastrophically wrong. If they do start screaming, well... stuff is about to get ''really'' unfortunate.
- Soft Water: Averted, and often outright inverted. A hard splashdown can outright destroy a spacecraft and its unlucky passengers. In fact, splashdowns are often actually more dangerous than landings on solid ground, since when a spacecraft hits the water, it doesn't slow down very quickly. Consequently, all or most parts on it must pass a check to see whether or not their actual splashdown velocity exceeds their rated maximum impact velocity. If it does, they're destroyed. Often, this leads to oceans swallowing up entire spaceships, leaving only a few high-impact-tolerance girders or decouplers bobbing in the water. By contrast, when a spaceship impacts land, the first parts that hit the ground absorb some of the impact velocity and it decelerates much more quickly, giving parts (and crew) far away from the point of impact a chance of survival.
- The 1.05 update made water, while not soft, at least softer, by giving the simulation a new buoyancy model. Craft that are properly shaped and hit the water at the right angle can certainly survive at velocities that might shatter less aquadynamic designs. Even seaplanes are viable if built right!
- Played completely straight with the Kerbals themselves, who can reliably survive plunging vertically into water at their Kerbin terminal velocity of approximately 60 m/s (over 130 mph), three times what will reliably kill them when hitting solid ground.
- Something Nauts: Kerbal space explorers are called kerbonauts.
- Space Compression: To cut down orbit times and prevent the game from becoming astronomically boring, Kerbin is a mere 1200km in diameter. Jool, the gas giant, is roughly the size of Earth. The orbits of planets and moons are similarly scaled down. All in all, the Kerbol system is roughly 1/11th scale... except for mass. Kerbin weighs about the same as Earth, meaning it's equally difficult to get to orbit on either planet, roughly. But if you want more realistic scaling, there's a mod for that.
- Space Is Noisy: Rockets and explosions can always be heard. Justified in that most of those explosions happen either in-atmosphere or when you're still attached to the thing blowing up/making noise, giving the sound a medium on which to propagate to your ears; in the depths of space, less so. Averted when using certain mods.
- Space Plane: Possible to build, though not easy in the slightest.
- Space Station: A basic space station isn't too difficult to put into orbit. Making anything elaborate is dependent on your docking skills, and the ability of your PC to load large numbers of parts.
- Space Whale: A very minor example, but one selection of music for when a ship leaves the atmosphere and enters space is unmistakably whale song. What this means is anybody's guess.
- Spaceship Slingshot Stunt: The game lets you pull off realistic gravity assists, both to gain a lot of speed or to shed it, depending on which side of the gravity well you try to sling around.
- Speaking Simlish: Kerbals speak Spanish that is sped up and played backwards, making it almost unrecognizable. Contract messages are in English but may as well be in Simlish because it's all incomprehensible word salad gibberish.
- Species Surname: While not exactly the name of their species, every single named Kerbal character in the game has the last name "Kerman".
- Sphere Eyes: Kerbals have these.
- Stellar Station: It's possible to build such a space station in orbit around Kerbol (the game's analogue to the Sun), but doing so requires that your station design is sturdy and heat-resistant enough to not burn up that close to the star. Not to mention the immense difficulty of having enough Delta V to cancel out your momentum in order to get into a stable orbit in the first place. It's a high risk, high reward scenario where you get some very valuable science from studying Kerbol up close if you manage to pull it off successfully. See this video for a demonstration.
- Strolling on Jupiter: In early builds it was possible to land on Jool, the Kerbal system's only gas giant. The "surface" was simply a way for the developers to texture the planet without having to do anything too different. Getting there would even reward the player unique messages from the scientific equipment lamp-shading the absurdity of the situation, and, of course, the treat of wandering around a featureless green plain. Subsequent versions would make it harder and harder the land on Jool, culminating with the "surface" finally being removed altogether.
- Stuff Blowing Up: If any part of a spacecraft hits the ground (or another part) too fast, it makes a nice explosion. The interesting thing is that parachutes and scientific equipment make the same explosion as, say, fuel tanks full of rocket fuel. These explosions seem not to harm other parts though.
- Struts For Everything: For the moment, the best solution to any problem involving the rocket coming apart is simply "Add more struts". Lucky for you, there's a mod if you don't want your rocket looking like a map of the Japanese metro.
- Subsystem Damage:
- Each individual rocket part has its own parameters, including heat and impact tolerances. With a little luck, you can even save your crews from crashes that will destroy the rest of the vehicle.
- Some parts, such as rover wheels or solar panels, can be broken without being totally destroyed. These broken parts can be repaired by an Engineer, which restores them to full functionality.
- Succession Game: The International Youtube Space Station, assembled by various players who contribute one module each.
- Suspend Save: While your game autosaves periodically to prevent blatant Save Scumming (not that it really needs to at this stage), there's also a single-use quicksave feature that allows you to save at various points during a mission so that you don't have to launch an entirely new rocket if your current one suddenly becomes a million-dollar lawn dart.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Found in the descriptions of various rocket parts:
- The X200-8 fuel tank is totally not a stolen swimming pool frame.
- The Atomic Rocket Motor is harmless. Mostly.
- The scientific thermometer is totally not a store-bought model, and admitting that it is voids its warranty.
- Taken to extremes with the Not-Rockomax Mini Node, which is so obviously not a miniaturized version of an already-existing part that the (in-universe) manufacturers helpfully point out the complete lack of a resemblance in the name.
- Tech Tree: A feature of the game added in the .22 update. Kerbonauts and probes can now gather science in flight in Career mode, which you can use to research technology to unlock more parts.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Female Kerbals have noticable eyelashes, longer hair, and a smaller more oval head compared to the males. But apart from that, they still have the same exaggerated body proportions.
- This Ain't Rocket Surgery: The text bubble introducing the Vehicle Assembly Building says that the process is pretty simple, and starts to add "it's not as if it were rocket science" before performing a verbal backspace.
- Those Magnificent Flying Machines: The fanbase has made some strange contraptions that, against all odds, still fly. See Good Bad Bugs.
- More particularly, any aircraft on Eve actually flies more easily than it does on Kerbin thanks to Eve's atmosphere being five times thicker, which makes even improbable designs workable. Especially since any such craft cannot functionally use jet engines due to the atmosphere lacking oxygen with which to power their internal combustion, and it must use other methods of thrust.
- Tidally Locked Planet: None of the actual planets are tide-locked to the Sun, but the Mun is locked to Kerbin, Duna and Ike are locked to each other, and all five of Jool's moons (Laythe, Vall, Tylo, Bop, and Pol) are locked to said planet.
- Tim Taylor Technology: Fan lore is that almost any problem you have with a rocket can be solved with "MOAR BOOSTERS!!"
- Too Dumb to Live: The numerous shorts Squad has made to advertise the game are filled with this behavior. The worst offender? One kerbonaut finds that a wrench he needs has somehow gotten into his helmet. So, he decides to take his helmet off to get it. While standing on the Mun. Which has no air. And another kerbal reacts to seeing the ownerless helmet rolling around by grabbing at his own helmet as if it might spontaneously come off.
- Too Fast to Stop: Docking accidents, flipped rovers with blown-out tires, "unplanned lithobraking"... There are many ways you can run into this trope in the game.
- Transforming Mecha: Difficult in the base game, but the Infernal Robotics Game Mod adds many servos and pistons to make transforming vehicles. More modest designs include spaceplanes with retractable powered wheels to function as a (clumsy) rover or alter their lift surfaces mid-flight for optimizing their behavior. More fantastic designs include a replica of Starscream from Transformers Now possible in the base game with the Breaking Ground DLC.
- Tron Lines: The futuristic space suits in the Breaking Ground expansion.
- Truth in Television: Sure NASA and the other space programs have brilliant engineers and scientists to build their spacecrafts, but sometimes things go a little Kerbal anyway. The tragedies are, of course, tragic, but those aside, here are a few more lighthearted examples:
- This note◊ painted on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
- The Soviet N-1 Moon rocket with 30 engines on the first stage is quite Kerbal◊. It is a result of a familiar issue of not having large-diameter parts, and spamming the smaller engines. It also experienced some rather catastrophic failures—in the the second launch attempt, it fell right back onto the launchpad, creating the largest man-made non-nuclear explosion in history (about 7 kilotons, almost half the yield of the Little Boy). Similar disasters frequently happen to large Kerbal rockets because of inadequate struts or staging errors.
- N-1’s competitor UR-700, never going off the drawing board, has a nearly unbeatable kerbalness quotient. All of thousands of tons of its propellants were the toxic, carcinogenic hypergolic fuels; it used the Direct Ascent principle popular among KSP players; it had not one but nine vertical stacks, because the designers wanted all the parts to be rail-transportable (which is much like a Kerbal player dealing with lack of sufficiently large parts); it had fuel crossfeed from the first stage into the second stage, also fired at launch; and its orbital stage had its own strap-on boosters.
- When training for the Moon landing, Neil Armstrong bailed out of the "Flying Bedstead" aircraft after losing control of it. His fellow astronauts were amazed at how unfazed he was by the incident. Fearlessly leaping out of a failing rocket in midair is a standard procedure for Kerbals (heck, they didn't even have parachutes until 1.4).
- Those who find rendezvous and docking to be difficult and counterintuitive may take comfort in the fact that early astronauts in the real world got off to a rocky start with it themselves. Gemini 4 was America's first attempt at having two different craft rendezvous in space. Unfortunately, neither the astronauts nor the ground crew fully understood the orbital mechanics involved, and so as they tried to thrust towards the target from a higher orbit, they ended up actually speeding away from it, which is completely backwards from how things are on the Earth's surface but makes perfect sense once you realize that they were thrusting into a lower orbit by firing against their own orbital velocity, which would make them orbit faster in the long run.
- People who either aren't good at docking or haven't unlocked the parts yet often just integrate a lab into a conventional rocket with detachable capsule and deorbit the whole thing when they are done. This was more or less the whole idea behind the Manned Orbital Lab project, a United States Air Force project that actually flew a mockup.
- The game's fandom (at least on the official forums) rejoiced on at least two occasions due to mentions from people who work in space science. The first was when Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted that he thought the game looked fun and would probably spend "far too much time" playing it if there was a Mac version. (This resulted in the until-then low-priority OSX port becoming the absolute #1 priority for the devteam!)
- The second was, if anything, an even bigger reaction when, in response to a question on their blog, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover team stated that there were a number of people on the team who liked to play KSP during their free time. The unpaid endorsement by a group of REAL rocket scientists (or close enough to it for all practical purposes) set off tears of joy from the user base.
- Former Astronaut Ed Lu played the game with Scott Manley, Ed's first flight crashed in less than 30 seconds, the second got into space, but not into orbit. Despite not making it to orbit in-game, he still described it as "fun to play", which is pretty fair praise, too.
- Ed Lu also appeared in a livestreamed interview with the KSP developers themselves.
- A SpaceX Falcon 9 disintegrated during launch in June 2015 due to a defective strut snapping under pressure. Turns out "add more struts" is a valid technique!
- A Falcon 9's spontaneous combustion while sitting on the pad was a rare event in real life, but probably felt familiar to KSP players, since this can easily happen for a variety of reasons (too many or too few launch clamps, not enough struts, part clipping...). Some people joked that SpaceX should have pressed "revert to VAB."
- File under "Unconventional rocket / aircraft configurations": During the 1970s the US Air Force performed a test launch of a Minuteman ICBM from the back of a C-5A Galaxy, one of the world's largest cargo planes.
- Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: The game's art style is cartoony and its description text, missions, and characters are humorous. The physics engine, however, is pretty close to reality and if you've built any flaws into your craft or your piloting skills aren't up to snuff, you'll know. Usually by all the explosions.
- Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: There's nothing that says you can't try to go straight for the Mun (or anywhere else) with a full crew in a rocket that you just built and aren't sure how it will perform. There are a few perfunctory checks to make sure that you haven't forgotten anything important (like parachutes for a safe return), but you're not even obligated to adhere to those. Fan lore is that the Kerbal species as a whole is like this — they're so excited about exploring space that they'll gladly strap themselves into the rockets they've built without bothering to test the design for flaws first.
- Unflinching Walk: One of the loading screen pictures depicts Jebediah Kerman smiling for the camera while something in the background — probably what's left of his spacecraft — goes up in a mushroom cloud.
- Uniqueness Value: Jebediah, Bill, Bob, and Valentina Kerman are the only kerbonauts guaranteed to appear in every playthrough, and wear special orange IVA suits by default. Jeb, Bill, and Bob are the "original three" who manned every rocket in the game's earliest builds, while Valentina is officially the first female kerbonaut. Some players go to great lengths to keep these four safe and sound, or to include them on milestone flights.
- Videogame Caring Potential: Some players equip their crew capsules with not only parachutes but various other elaborate safety and/or abort systems, rescue all stranded Kerbals, and try to land returning ships as close to the Kerbal Space Center as possible...
- Videogame Cruelty Potential: ...while others take gleeful pleasure in sending the hapless trio to die in the cold blackness of outer space. Or just blowing them up. With the flexible editor, it's possible to create elaborate systems designed only to eliminate as many Kerbals as possible. A simple one involves taking a bunch of living quarters and putting decouplers between each one, and then using cranes to keep it above ground as you drop each segment off one-by-one.
- Video Game Cruelty Punishment: ... and then in career mode starting with 0.24, losing Kerbals will reduce your reputation, lowering the quality of the contracts that are offered to you because losing crew makes you look incompetent to investors.
- Violation of Common Sense: The best way to land a falling Kerbal? On their head. Their helmets can survive practically anything!
- With this in mind, you can usually save a Kerbonaut from a doomed aircraft by simply having him step out the hatch while low enough to the ground.
- Earlier builds of the game had issues with scaling antennas for transmitting science. You'd think the more advanced antennas would have been better in some way, but they were actually worse; the high-tech ones transmitted faster than the basic Communotron 16; but a few extra seconds hardly matters when most space missions have days or even weeks of downtime, and the better antennas weighed more, cost more, and used more electricity. Later builds fixed this by limiting transmission ranges and tying the Science received to signal strength, meaning the earlier, cheaper antennas are now less useful for long-range missions unless they're supported by a good network of relays.
- Visual Pun: One of the loading screens is a painting of Jeb, in a spacecraft or station, chasing after a snack cake that's moving away from him. The snack cake in question? A Moon Pie.
- Weaponized Exhaust: An (often) unintentional example of using this on yourself if you are not careful with spaceship construction. All engines have heat tolerances which, when exceeded, will damage the engine. Too many engines too close together can overheat each other at full thrust, and other parts of the spacecraft too near the exhaust might be damaged as well.
- Also, if anything comes loose near a working engine, even a Kerbal, it will be launched off into the horizon at unsurvivable speeds, so standing near engines in general is not a good idea.
- We Have Reserves: Lampshaded by the manual in the game itself, Kerbin consists of a virtually undepletable population of Red Shirts dedicated to be substantially launched to anything that moves around the star system. After all, it wouldn't be any fun at all if you managed to run out of Kerbals to be flung into orbit. Despite of this, losing any of the original four orange suitsnote , provided with a Permadeath option, they will be lost forever.
- Weird Moon:
- Apparently Minmus doesn't make a lot of scientific sense. The wiki has since been updated with a detailed and quite well-researched Hand Wave for most of its abnormalities. As of Breaking Ground, picking up a green sandstone from Minmus will mention how odd the fact that the moon has salt flats despite low gravity and apparent lack of water.
- Laythe also has liquid water and surface temperatures that would let humans - and presumably kerbals - walk around near the equator with nothing but a warm coat and a rebreathing mask, despite being much too far from the sun for this to be possible without some other mechanism. However, the developers have cunningly placed it in a Laplace orbital resonance with 2 other Joolian moons. The heating is supposed to come from the tidal interaction between these objects, in the same way that Io is kept hot enough to have volcanoes in our own solar system
- Wide-Open Sandbox: In Sandbox mode, money has no importance and there are no goals. 0.22 has added a rudimentary campaign with a limited selection of starting parts and the option to unlock more by researching your way up a Tech Tree, while 0.24 has continued to flesh out the campaign with funding and reputation systems to place additional limits on your space program. Even then there's no storyline as such, and you're free to do whatever you want within the limits of your available parts.
- The World Is Just Awesome: With the improved facial reactions that have been introduced in 0.19, Jebediah Kerman can often be found gazing with almost childlike glee at the incredible sights around him. Many players are inclined to agree with him.
- Yes-Man: Played with. No KSC worker bats an eye at the exploding machines of death you bring on to the launchpad, with the exception of some scientists, who will frequently stop and look at your rockets in horror before walking away in the VAB, regardless of how sound or unsound the design in question is.
- You ALL Look Familiar: All Kerbonauts of a given gender have the exact same face and haircut, as well as the last name of "Kerman." Whether they're all clones, a family of Inexplicably Identical Individuals, or just members of a very homogenous species is a matter of some fan speculation. They aren't all perfectly identical, though, as they have individualized personalities determined by different levels of Bravery and Stupidity, as well as a hidden Pilot Training (or "Bad S") flag.
- You Can't Make an Omelette...: You Can't Make A Mun Landing without blowing up a few rockets.
- You Have Researched Breathing:
- Ladders and Thermometers are very high-end technology, as are support struts. It's okay however, you can get the science for it by finding out water is wet. Wheels come even later, along with command chairs, even though the basic command pod requires no research and presumably has a similar chair inside it. Lampshaded by the Flavor Text for the "Electrics" technology:"Just for the record, we did know about electricity before rocketry. It's combining the two that's the big step forward!"
- It's harder to build planes than it is rockets and you typically unlock the parts needed for rockets before aircraft. Boats and land vehicles come after this. This can lead to the odd situation where you are basically sending science ICBMs to gather data about the world you're on early in the game.
- Ladders and Thermometers are very high-end technology, as are support struts. It's okay however, you can get the science for it by finding out water is wet. Wheels come even later, along with command chairs, even though the basic command pod requires no research and presumably has a similar chair inside it. Lampshaded by the Flavor Text for the "Electrics" technology:
Modded GameDue to the vast community, modding tools, and easiness, there are plenty of mods that greatly changed how the game functions from stock. Listed below are some examples:
- Alcubierre Drive: Through either KSPI or the standalone Alcubierre Drive mod.
- Escape Pod: Implemented as a mod by Umbra Space Industries: the Deployable Emergency Reentry Pod is an inflatable one-man shelter atop a miniature propulsion block. It's still less insane than the real-life General Electrics Manned Orbital Operations Safety Equipment.
- Human Resources: The "Kethane" Game Mod comes with the KE-WAITNONOSTOP-01 Kerbal Unreconstitutionator, which can recycle Kerbal astroanuts into kethane (to refine into fuel)
- Interplanetary Voyage: Some mods, such as KSP-Interstellar mod, added advanced thrusters and even Alcubierre Drive — yet they are still based on theoretical physics instead of any science fiction science, and may require even more resource management just to warp to a different planet.
- Just to add to the insanity of easy interplanetary travel comes many unique planet packs that introduce entirely NEW solar systems for players to explore. From the purple, accretion disk baring Olu'um which comes from Gameslinx's planet Overhaul. To the (possibly) artificial, The All from Kerbal star systems. Each pack offers a tinge of insanity, and even more so if you decide to group several of them together.
- Orion Drive: Via a Game Mod made by the webmaster of the hard science website Atomic Rockets. In true Kerbal fashion, the first test fire of the drive caused the command module to go flying off the top of the ship like a cork on a wine bottle.
- Outcome: Catastrophic Failure!