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Orbital Mechanics 101 - A Kerbal Space Program Tutorial


pebble_garden
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Moderators' note -- while these videos are quite old now and some aspects are obsolete (such as the ship parts), the tutorials are of high quality and are still helpful. Keep in mind, though, that they are now of use more for their space travel science than as game guides. 

 

Hey, everyone! I've made a 15 minute tutorial on the basics of orbital mechanics. It's a visual, uncomplicated presentation designed to help non-technical people wrap their heads around orbital navigation. I hope it helps! I recommend watching it at 720p (the highest resolution available).

Orbital Mechanics 101 (HD) (v0.18.4, but still totally works with v0.2x)

If the ads on DailyMotion bug you, try installing an ad blocker or you can just watch the YouTube version.

I've also made many other KSP tutorials. Mind you, I don't always demonstrate the best or most efficient methods. I just want to give newcomers a leg up, as simply and quickly as possible.

Oh, and I've scoured the internet for the very best Creative Commons music tracks to augment the visuals, complete with a track list and download information at the end of each video. I hope you enjoy the tunes!

NOTE: YouTube now demands that I accept a Google+ identity to leave comments, or even access my channel's inbox. Since I won't do that, I'm going to turn off YouTube comments and move to Daily Motion. But if you post in this thread I can respond just fine. Thanks to all my supporters/subscribers!

The Miranda Project (v0.21.1 and v0.22) - An updated, more comprehensive version of the earlier Phoenix Project series. (Work in progress)

Lesson 01 - Intercept and Rendezvous <-- Comes with a lesson download with saved games and .craft files

YouTube version.

Maneuver Nodes (HD) (v0.19.1) - A quick, 10-minute introduction to the use of maneuver nodes.

Maneuver Nodes

YouTube version.

Take Me To The Mun (HD) (v0.19.1) - A simple approach to reaching the Mun, complete with rocket assembly instructions.

As a playlist

Part 1 - Rocket Construction

Part 2 - To The Mun

Part 3 - Home Again

Mission To Minmus (HD) (v0.18.4) - How to reach Minmus using a nuclear-powered Phoenix-variant.

As a playlist

Part 1 - Lander Construction

Part 2 - Launch Vehicle Construction

Part 3 - Launch to Orbit

Part 4 - Transfer and Landing

Part 5 - EVA

Part 6 - Return

The Phoenix Project (mostly HD) (V0.18.4) - A series of lessons in orbital rendezvous and docking, under a variety of conditions.

As a playlist

Part 1 - Rocket Construction

Part 2 - Launch to Orbit

Part 3 - Rendezvous (direct intercept from launch)

Part 4 - Orbital Rendezvous

Part 5 - Challenging Rendezvous (eccentric, inclined orbit)

Mun Ferry (HD) (v0.18.4) - A complete mission played at 4x speed, showing the launch and operation of a Munar Ferry, to be based at Kerbin-orbiting station Gamma.

Without commentary

With commentary

Gamma to Delta (HD) (v0.18.4) - An orbital transfer flight from stations Gamma to Delta, orbiting at 100 and 200km respectively.

Gamma To Delta

The Goddard Problem (HD) (v0.18.4) - A visual demonstration of the effect of different throttle settings/ascent profiles, showing the impact of aerodynamic resistance, gravity, fuel expediture, etc.

The Goddard Problem

I removed links to some very old KSP videos that no longer apply, but the truly adventurous can find them on my channel.

Edited by Vanamonde
Offering YouTube versions of my most popular videos
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This should be stickied.

It definitely should. Anyone starting KSP with no knowledge of these concepts can get it done in fifteen minutes. I would have killed to have this tutorial a few years ago when I started orbiter 2006.

Beats reading the first half of Go Play in Space a dozen times.

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I would have killed to have this tutorial a few years ago when I started orbiter 2006.

You and me both! It took me many months to learn these concepts in Orbiter. The problem is, most of the people writing orbital mech tutorials are extremely technical. There\'s nothing wrong with that, of course. But using interactive visuals, I thought I could demystify the subject and spare newcomers some frustration.

There\'s real beauty in the way orbital mechanics work, it\'s a blend of chess and ballet. Maybe a bit of trapeze artistry as well.

Darn it, I just saw some text in the video I thought I\'d fixed. I\'ll have to reupload it. Fixed and reuploaded, relinked above.

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That\'s really excellent work, both simple and clear. Nice choice of soothing music as well. Also, I think text on the screen works better than narration. It gives the viewer more time to think about what is being said.

But am I missing something? How are you controlling throttle from the map screen?

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How are you controlling throttle from the map screen?

The throttle keys still work in the map screen. At least, they do when you have the attitude ball up. (Not sure if they work when it\'s hidden.) I\'ll have to test that.

Some things don\'t work in map view, like stage lock.

And thank you for the kind words, Vanamonde!

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Oh. My. God. With the navball up, you can indeed control throttle from map view. How the hell did I miss that? I\'ve been playing this game every day for 2 months! Do you know how much easier my life is going to be now?

Apparently, it\'s not just newbies that can benefit from this tutorial.

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Any plans to do more tutorials like this one?

Most certainly. Things like getting from the ground to orbit, powered descents on the Mun, orbital rendezvous and RCS technique, that sort of thing. I love everything about spaceflight and can\'t wait to share what tricks I\'ve learned playing KSP, Orbiter, and every other space sim I could lay my hands on.

Right now I\'m working crazy hours in my day job. Today was my first whole day off from work in two weeks! I\'ll have a bit more time for fun projects in about a month.

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With the navball up, you can indeed control throttle from map view. How the hell did I miss that?

:o Mother of God.... I didn\'t know that either. Although thinking about it I had vague memories of it working in previous versions. I just assumed it was not added yet. No more thrust. stop. press M. Check. Press M. Thrust. Stop. Overshoot. Dammit!!!

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First off, great videos. They helped me out so much and made appreciate the complexities of space flight and orbits so much.

Quick orbital mechanics question. If I have an nice circular orbit at 90 degrees like you showed in the video, with my Ap and Pe at 12 and 6 o'clock respectively. How would I go about rotating my Ap to 3 o'clock with my Pe at 9? After getting the hang of basic Kerbin orbit, thanks to your video, I have now naturally set my ambitions for the Mun. A lot of the time after establishing orbit I end up needing to adjust my Ap and Pe so when I increase my orbit with a burn at either end it will intersect the orbit of the Mun at the right place.

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If you are in a circular orbit, then every point is both Ap and Pe. Changing their place will come naturally as you start burning, at which point you will find yourself either at Pe or Ap, depending on whether you're burning Prograde or Retrograde.

If you were talking about a plane change, you have to burn toward the normal (or anti-normal) of your current orbit, until you have the desired orbit. Your Pe and Ap may have changed by then, and you can adjust them easily.

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If you are in a circular orbit, then every point is both Ap and Pe. Changing their place will come naturally as you start burning, at which point you will find yourself either at Pe or Ap, depending on whether you're burning Prograde or Retrograde.

If you were talking about a plane change, you have to burn toward the normal (or anti-normal) of your current orbit, until you have the desired orbit. Your Pe and Ap may have changed by then, and you can adjust them easily.

This is an excellent answer. Yes, every point in a circular orbit is both Ap and Pe. That's why the markers flutter so wildly, the program can't decide where those points lie. I actually prefer to leave my orbit a little eccentric, just to keep the markers steady.

On the subject of repositioning your Ap and Pe, I have something fun for you to try. While in a circular orbit (it can be a little eccentric), try burning straight toward the ground or up away from it. Use the center dots in the brown and blue hemispheres of the Attitude Indicator for these orientations. Watch what happens to your Ap and Pe markers.

Burning straight toward the ground has the effect of rotating your Pe toward a point 90 degrees ahead in your orbit, and burning straight up into the sky does the same for your Ap.

I've learned that I can burn with a slight vertical offset from pure prograde or retrograde with very useful effects, so long as I stay aligned with the orbital plane.

Edited by pebble_garden
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