Kerbal Space Program: How To Construct Your First Successful Rocket


Simulation games have been popular for years, but few franchises have nailed the combination of intrigue, difficulty, and replayability like Kerbal Space Program. Developed by Mexican developer Squad, it was originally released for PC, Linux, and macOS before gaining a cult-like status and eventually joining the console ranks.


In the game, players are charged with running all aspects of their own space station, from spacecraft construction to flight and researching new technologies. Kerbal Space Program is renowned for its steep learning curve and complex mechanics, with equally intensive pre-career training missions. A player’s first task is to create a successful rocket which can generate income, Research Points, and allow their Kerbals to reach the stars and beyond. Here’s how it’s done.

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Preparing To Build A Ship

Complete the Training & Tutorials

Kerbal Space Program Menu

Many players love to sink straight into a game and ignore the tutorial, for which there is no shame or judgement. Kerbal Space Program, however, is not the game in which to do this. It requires a lot of conscious effort and brain power to master.

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The game also uses fairly accurate physics mechanics (and yes, it does get quite serious) and the tutorial does an excellent job of explaining it to players in fairly digestible pieces. Tutorial missions include building the first (admittedly poor) rocket, understanding how to enter and exit orbit, and how to successfully progress to the stars.

Be Patient

Image of a Kerbal Landing on the Moon from Kerbal Space Program.

In simulator games, there is a significant amount of trial and error to be expected. Nobody is an expert on their first try, and Kerbal Space Program is no exception. The game encourages the player to make mistakes to learn from, and develop an understanding of physics while keeping everyone alive.

In Kerbal Space Program, players are given a fairly large chunk of money to begin with and this should be used to experiment with rocket structures. Understanding how thrust, pitch, and other movement systems work is crucial to moving out of Kerbin’s atmosphere, so making a variety of rockets is key. Don’t aim for the Mun just yet.

Start Small

Kerbal Space Small Ship In Hangar

When players first begin their Career on Kerbal Space Program, they won’t have access to all the parts available to them in the Training or Sandbox modes. The parts which are offered at the start of the game are very basic and, in some cases, literally rubbish.

As such, starting with a simple rocket is the best way forward to generate some Science Points and perhaps even money for a building upgrade. Simply sending the first rocket into the sky is enough to generate some Research Points, which will be discussed later in the article.

Complete Research Contracts

Image of different contracts available in Kerbal Space Program.

No simulator game is complete without contracts and missions which generate income. In Kerbal Space Program, players are tasked with Research Contracts which provide Research Points as a reward.

These Research Contracts vary in length and difficulty. Rewards also vary dependent on the former factors. When starting out, players should pick the easiest contracts in order to generate Research Points quickly. For example, some contracts involve ‘testing’ a new engine, which simply requires players to attach it to their rocket and complete a launch in order to gather the required data.

Research New Technologies

Image of a Reserve Battery used for Emergency Landing in Kerbal Space Program.

In Kerbal Space Program, players unlock new technologies by spending Research Points. These points are gathered through Research Contracts, or by completing/breaking World Milestones throughout their journey. New technologies are crucial for creating successful rockets which can explore the surface of the Mun and beyond.

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When starting out, players can only unlock two technologies: Basic Rocketry, and Engineering 101. Basic Rocketry is the first technology players should seek, as it unlocks a powerful new engine which will be essential for breaking previous Milestones and generating further income. It also unlocks fuel tanks, for prolonged outings into the atmosphere and beyond.

Ship Parts For A Successful Rocket

Image of Sandbox Mode from Kerbal Space Program.

Creating a successful rocket requires a set of crucial items. A Command Pod, a parachute, and an engine are all that are needed for the initial space journey to collect Research Points. However, as players progress towards their first successful rocket, upgrades and a specific structure makes everything easier.

For a powerful and successful journey, the player requires multiple fuel tanks, a powerful engine, and decouplers (unlocked through Research Technologies) for activating the second engine.

Ship Construction

Command Pod & Secondary Engine

Kerbal Space Program Command Pod

To make a great rocket, players must attach the parachute pod to the top of the Command Pod. The completed Command Pod must then be attached to an engine or fuel tank, with a decoupler underneath. Decouplers separate the Kerbal rocket into ‘stages’, which are removed from the rocket by tapping the Space bar.

The next part to consider is the engine which will fuel the player’s maneuvering in space. A good beginner choice is the LV-T45 “Swivel” Liquid Fuel Engine, which allows players to control the ship’s thrust while disregarding its high mass thanks to the lack of gravity.

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Following this, another fuel tank allows players to extend their voyage. The FL-T100 Fuel Tank is unlocked through the Basic Rocketry technology and can be connected to the “Swivel” engine. Players should attach a decoupler to the bottom of this engine for the next stage.

Primary Engine

Kerbal Space Program Primary Engine Attached

When considering the primary engine for the initial launch off of the Launch Pad, there are very few options for beginners. After unlocking Basic Rocketry, the TR-10 “Hammer” Solid Fuel Booster is the best option to use for a successful launch. Attach this to the bottom of the craft, and besides the initial, research-generating rocket, this completes the construction of a player’s first successful rocket on Kerbal Space Program.

Players are highly recommended to complete the flight training programs on Kerbal Space Program to gain an excellent understanding of how to control spacecraft. It is an incredibly difficult simulation game, but one of the best in the market today. With Kerbal Space Program 2 on the way, now is the best time to start learning.

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