Welcome to The Kerbal Player’s Guide! In your hands you have the most comprehensive guide to Kerbal Space Program (KSP) ever created. This book covers everything from getting to know the characters and planets, building rockets and planes, and understanding rocket science to modding and integrating hardware into the amazing game that is Kerbal Space Program.

KSP is one of the most detailed and realistic space program simulation games ever created. After buying and playing the game, you will find yourself responsible for managing little green astronauts, performing research, running missions—oh, and flying around space in rockets and planes that you designed and built yourself.

KSP creates a fantasy solar system remarkably like our own for you to explore: from colossal Jovians to tiny asteroids, you can find it all. The game takes a very realistic approach to running a space program, so don’t be too surprised if you learn some actual rocket science along the way as you play the game.


We wrote this book to be fun and useful for a wide range of readers. If you just want to learn how to play Kerbal Space Program, we’ve got you covered. If you want to try out some more advanced play, then you’re also set. If you want to get really advanced and learn the actual rocket science behind what you’re doing, how to use (and make) mods for the game, or even how to build hardware that interfaces with the game, you are sorted, my friend.

There’s really only one prerequisite for getting the most out of this book: you need a copy of Kerbal Space Program and sufficient patience for the trial-and-error process of learning to fly to literally outer space. If you don’t already have a copy of KSP, we’ll show you where to buy it in Chapter 1.

Organization of This Book

This book is divided into three parts.

Part I

In Part I, we’ll introduce the game and get you flying.

Chapter 1, You Will Go to Space Today, introduces you to the overall game and gets you flying with your very first rocket.

Chapter 2, Rockets! discusses the ins and outs of rocket design in Kerbal Space Program.

Chapter 3, Maneuvers, teaches you how to perform orbital maneuvers, which you’ll find extremely useful when you want to do more advanced space trips.

Chapter 4, Planes in Space, introduces you to the wonderful world of aviation and teaches you how to build planes that can reach orbit.

Chapter 5, The Worlds of Kerbal Space Program, wraps up the first part by introducing you to the wider universe of Kerbal Space Program.

Part II

In Part II, we’ll start introducing more advanced parts of Kerbal Space Program.

Chapter 6, Running a Space Program, shows you the finer points of Kerbal Space Program, including how to manage your resources, perform research, and run the best space program this side of Kerbin.

Chapter 7, Historical Reenactment, is a collection of missions that you can follow along with to re-create famous space flights, including the first human space flight and the first moon landing.

Chapter 8, Getting to the Planets, takes you beyond the starting planet, sending you out to the distant planets of the solar system. You’ll be landing on icy Duna, colossal Eve, and mysterious Laythe.

Chapter 9, Rocket Science, peeks behind the mathematical curtain and discusses some of the actual science that powers space flight.

Part III

In Part III, we’ll look at how you can extend the game for yourself and take your spacefaring journeys even further.

Chapter 10, Introduction to Mods, shows you how to download and install modifications to Kerbal Space Program, which can add to and change your experience of the game.

Chapter 11, Utility Mods, presents a selection of mods that can make your life easier, such as autopilot systems, tools for managing the various systems on board your ships, and alarm clocks that will keep you from missing important in-game events.

Chapter 12, Adding Realism, completely changes the way the game is played by introducing mods that make the game much more realistic (and much more challenging).

Chapter 13, Creating a Mod, provides you with the tools you need to create your own mods, using Blender and Unity to create a custom part that you can use in your own ships.

Chapter 14, Adding Hardware to the Game, wraps up the entire book with a tutorial on wiring actual hardware to the game, allowing you to create panels that interact with what’s happening in the game.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical conventions are used in this book:


Indicates new terms, URLs, email addresses, filenames, and file extensions.

Constant width

Used for program listings, as well as within paragraphs to refer to program elements such as variable or function names, databases, data types, environment variables, statements, and keywords.

Constant width bold

Shows commands or other text that should be typed literally by the user.

Constant width italic

Shows text that should be replaced with user-supplied values or by values determined by context.


This element signifies a tip or suggestion.


This element signifies a general note.


This element indicates a warning or caution.

Supplementary Material

Supplementary material (code examples, exercises, errata, etc.) is available for download at

Later in this book, we’ll be including source code and snippets of configuration files that you’ll use to customize the game. In general, if example code is offered with this book, you may use it in your programs and documentation. You do not need to contact us for permission unless you’re reproducing a significant portion of the code. For example, writing a program that uses several chunks of code from this book does not require permission. Selling or distributing a CD-ROM of examples from O’Reilly books does require permission. Answering a question by citing this book and quoting example code does not require permission. Incorporating a significant amount of example code from this book into your product’s documentation does require permission.

We appreciate, but do not require, attribution. An attribution usually includes the title, author, publisher, and ISBN. For example: “The Kerbal Player’s Guide by Jon Manning, Tim Nugent, Paul Fenwick, Alasdair Allan, and Paris Buttfield-Addison (O’Reilly). Copyright 2017 Babilim Light Industries, Ltd, Secret Lab, Paul Fenwick.”

If you feel your use of code examples falls outside fair use or the permission given above, feel free to contact us at .

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Jon, Paris, and Tim

Jon thanks his mother, father, and the rest of his crazily extended family for their tremendous support.

Paris thanks his mother, without whom he wouldn’t be doing anything nearly as interesting, let alone writing books.

Tim thanks his parents and family for putting up with his rather lackluster approach to life.

Collectively, we’d like to extend massive thanks to everyone at Squad for all of their help with this book, and for making a seriously fun game.

We’d also like to thank our editors, Rachel Roumeliotis and Brian MacDonald—their skill and advice were invaluable to completing the book. Likewise, all the O’Reilly Media staff we’ve interacted with over the course of writing the book have been the absolute gurus of their fields.

A huge thank you to Tony Gray and the Apple University Consortium (AUC) for the monumental boost they gave us and others listed in these acknowledgments. We wouldn’t be writing this book if it weren’t for them. And now you’re writing books too, Tony—sorry about that!

Thanks also to Neal Goldstein, who deserves full credit and/or blame for getting us into the whole book-writing racket.

We’re thankful for the support of the goons at MacLab (who know who they are and continue to stand watch for Admiral Dolphin’s inevitable apotheosis), as well as Professor Christopher Lueg, Dr. Leonie Ellis, and the rest of the staff at the University of Tasmania for putting up with us.

Additional thanks to Rex S., Nic W., Andrew B., and Jess L. for a wide variety of reasons. Special thanks to Ash Johnson, for secret reasons, and to Mars, for mysterious reasons.

Alasdair Allan

Up until now I wasn’t aware that you could end up writing a book because of a bet. Now I am. Depending on when it finally goes to press this is either my tenth or eleventh book. But every book is different, and they do not write themselves. I’d like to thank my wife, Gemma Hobson, for her continued support; I’m still not sure why she lets me write books. I’d also like to thank my coauthors, all four of them—they made it so that I didn’t have to write the bits I didn’t want to write. They’re also the reason I could play video games and tell my wife that I was working.

Paul Fenwick

A most enormous thank you to NathanKell, for his unwavering support, good ideas, amazing friendship, and bottomless patience. Nathan’s work is what inspired me to start playing Kerbal Space Program in the first place, and to discover that he’s also one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met fills my heart with joy and gives me hope for the human race.

I also owe tremendous thanks to everyone who’s contributed to the Comprehensive Kerbal Archive Network (CKAN) project, including ideas, code, metadata, organizing, brainstorming, and criticism. In particular to nlight for so skillfully (and rapidly) building our GUI; RichardLake, dbent, and mgsdk both for writing so much code of the highest quality, and for being so patient with my own C# learning curve; hakan42 for keeping things moving even when I was overworked; Ippo for being our first metadata czar and downright wonderful person; Postremus for fixing such a wide variety of bugs with such enthusiasm; TinyPirate and Kemp for such unceasing and heartwarming moral support and publicity; plague006, Daz, and Olympic1 for being such incredible, eternal champions of our metadata; and Felger, not just for keeping it real and solving my struggles with too many parts, but also for being such an accommodating and delightful host when I visited NASA. An extra, extra special thanks goes to politas, for taking the station of Mission Director at the CKAN project; may you go to Infinity and Beyond!

Finally, I would like to thank techman83, not just for developing and maintaining the infrastructure that allows the CKAN to run, but for being such an amazing and constant friend. I am in awe of your curiosity, your resilience, your adaptation to change, and your ducking amazing technical skills. I love you.

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