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The KSP Caveman Challenge 1.3.x - 1.10.x [re-booted]

Mr. Peabody

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With @Speeding Mullet's blessing I am honored to present the fourth iteration of the KSP Caveman Challenge:

KSP Caveman Challenge

Facility upgrades are forbidden.

Terrible runway and launchpad.

Part count of thirty and vehicle mass limit of 18.0 tons.

No fancy patched conics, no maneuver nodes and no Deep Space Network.

Abhorrent fear of technology as primitive as can be.

Acquire 1188 Science Points to unlock twenty nodes of the technology tree.



Challenge Rules:

Stock career mode (DLC expansions allowed*)

Include pictures of your Science Archives

No mods that alter game play (mods used for graphics, radio chatter, ect. are fine)

Use of the KER mod is not permitted

 No use of Mods or Cheat Menu in separate games

No cheat menus or any other shenanigans

No kraken/ladder drives or similar contraptions


Science Points have many sources just detail the method for the majority of Science Points acquired

*The Making History/Breaking Ground expansion pack will be allowed, but will be split into a separate category from stock. Users who complete the challenge using the expansion pack will not receive as many kudus and will not be eligible for the "Order of the Trilobite." Use of the mission builder is prohibited.


Help Resources:

This thread is perhaps the single largest compilation of previous attempts and useful information, but here are some other places you should check out.



eqMdhjV.jpg TALC: Complete Challenge in Easy Career Mode

You'd better make quick work of this soft-rock career

 ZxWs2iX.jpg  Apatite: Complete Challenge in Normal Career Mode

The minimum amount of flare.

  1. Stevie the Crusher
  2. dvader
  3. Martian Emigrant
  4. Minimal Minmus
  5. GoSlash27
  6. QF9E
  7. RoninFrog - *challenge completed with expansion packs installed.

cPh5n2L.jpg   Vanadium: Complete Challenge in Moderate Career Mode

A tool's hard edge can make all the difference.

R6KH0jF.jpg Topaz: Complete Challenge in Hard Career Mode

Happy, shiny caveman.

LZr6Qdb.jpg Corundum: Custom Difficulty

This career would not wear down a tough caveman...

NpEClRY.png FHdrzck.png

dgVYCOX.jpg  Diamond: Custom Difficulty

For brilliant cavemen, possessed of fire.

kGzi0pl.png fZKgeWj.png

zWjYCf4.jpg  Nano-crystalline Diamond: Custom Difficulty

Hard caveman. Good luck, you'll need it!

dbnA4qN.png VLPI9c7.png

1njZxGq.png  The Trilobitic Order

Legendary cavemen. (& cavewomen!)






                          Talc                                                   Apatite                                             Vanadium                                                    Topaz 

 dhqsVPO.png    K0wXzl7.png     DDz0Wec.png        fqMk3ZH.png                                                             

            awarded for completing talc    |                           awarded for completing apatite  |                            awarded for completing vanadium                 |                   awarded for completing topaz

                Corundum                                                 Diamond                                          Nano-Diamond                                    Badge of Honor

vBsXXeD.png     xJ1lLA1.png      tV4K9v0.png      6VryCnp.jpg

        awarded for completing corundum                   | awarded for completing diamond                         | awarded for completing nano-diamond                            | awarded for completing everything!

                  Order of the Trilobite


      | awarded for exceptional merit & dedication | 


Edited by Mr. Peabody
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@Physics Student, nicely done. Will be looking forward to seeing more updates from you in the future. :)

I found a design which I used in my attempt (not yet complete) that could heave two capsules into space on the first flight by hot staging each SRB stage.

I earned 51 science points on the first flight in normal difficulty. Updates from my normal attempt will be coming soon.

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Here is the start of my normal difficulty entry. This rocket just managed to heave the payload above 70K kilometers.

UkmLFCQbF7u3.jpg   5Gutbx9eF9Px.jpg 

RieEB9AzGh3z.jpg   8jOatgoPBo1Z.jpg 

Mission #1 stats:

Science earned: 51   Nodes unlocked: engineering 101, basic rocketry, general rocketry, stability, and survivability.  Contracts completed:  launch our first vessel and escape the atmosphere.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Having s run at this in my favorite settings: Hard mode, reverts and quickloads on, comm network enabled with no ground stations. Took some trial and error but relay sats with 8 antennas are doing the job. 

Eyeballing Mun transfers is not trivial. I still don’t see how I can possibly eyeball a Minmus transfer (no spoilers)

Looking forward to Miniaturization and assembling bigger boosters on the launch pad

Edited by fourfa
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I played a little further, but on my settings, nothing noteworthy happens. I basically have to do all the testing contracts. Scraping together a few funds here and there (now over 100.000) is possible but every science point is so hard gained! Also, my reputation doesn’t get out of that sinkhole. (One failure makes up for 20 successful launches - financially and reputation wise). I did all the science I can with Mun and Minmus flybys and still haven’t even unlocked the terrier engine (not even the reliant). I will bail on the settings. I’m not saying it’s impossible, it’s just super tedious.

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Album a/75g1C will appear when post is submitted

A few screenshots of progress to date.  So far, this has been easier than I expected on Hard settings.  Orbital science return capsules, relay sats stuffed to the gills with antennas, and so far very little use of my kerbals.  I just now got my first soft-landing on the Mun.  I could definitely machine-gun a bunch of those landers at Mun, but I really want to try Voltroning a heavy lifter on the pad for a manned direct-return mission.  I'm picturing a core Swivel stack on launch clamps (WHYYYYY do these count against pad mass?), with a rover driving over from the runway with SRBs or Reliant-T800 boosters to dock on the side (the Mun lander got me Miniaturization)

Edited by fourfa
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This has been so interesting for me.  I started using KER pretty quick after getting KSP, and it just never occurred to me that calculating TWR is so trivial as to not even need a calculator (thank you, metric).

Second, looking for every ounce of efficiency from a fixed mass has led me to think about things I haven't considered since the first week of playing the game.  For instance I finally realized that a pair of Thuds is actually a better first stage Mk1 lifter engine than the Swivel or Reliant.  I never would have thought that otherwise.  At a 1.4 liftoff TWR, Swivel can lift 12.2t, Reliant 13.94t, and Thuds 15.75 (with considerably better ASL ISP).  Three Thuds has too much TWR for the 18t limit, though it's still efficient compared to SRBs.  But if you can afford five parts for the engine room - two Thuds on decouplers at full power, a Swivel at 20% thrust at launch (for around 1.4 total TWR ASL), stage away the Thuds and max out the Swivel when their ISPs cross over around 7km...!  What fun

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Ahh I never got around to trying this before, but this time I will. I've been trying to optimize my early game career play and trying this has already provided some interesting insights. I'm starting at the bottom (Talc) and working my way up, so here are my first two:

Talc: https://imgur.com/a/N6SfI

Apatite: https://imgur.com/a/zrEKc

I'm working on Vanadium right now, and the lessons on efficient science gathering from the others is making things go fairly smoothly.


For assembly, I have an idea that I think might work better than the one I tried in my Apatite playthrough: Build a mobile support tower on the lawn that can hold up the rocket parts vertically, and add them to each other's sides with a crawler. Doing it this way removes and launch clamp mass concerns, and could allow 6-way symmetry on the booster core, if you start construction with one of the side boosters. It would also free up the launchpad, making delivery trips shorter, or maximum part size bigger. I'll probably have something like that in my Vanadium submission when I complete it. 

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On 11/25/2017 at 8:10 AM, Physics Student said:

I will bail on the settings. I’m not saying it’s impossible, it’s just super tedious.

Concur. For experience's sake, the normal settings will do nicely. Anything more only proves that you have too much time on your hands.

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Gahh.  I've been working on attaching side boosters to a launch-clamped core stack on the launchpad, with a crawler with rover wheels and small landing legs to elevate the crawler to the docking ports.  One time I got it to dock, and the universe exploded.  I guess the wheels and/or landing legs pushing on the ground while the core craft is on launch clamps causes existence to detonate.

So scratch that, I'll just let the core stack teeter on the engine bell while I drive over.  Lots and lots of drive over, doesn't line up, return to SPH and adjust, repeat until frustrated.  I only tipped over a few core stacks so far.  Meanwhile if I wanted to be done I have a manned Minmus orbital return craft that will unlock everything in one go... but I don't really want it to be over yet.

Maybe I need to try it on harder than Hard


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Yeah the explosions happened on my end when I was still trying to dock crawlers underneath things, and the landing gear caused it to bounce up when unfolded (see apatite album). As for alignment, if the standardized "this many parts high" system doesn't work for you, I've found "merging" in a ghost of your crawler inside the editor load menu to your core stack gives you some idea where it will end up. For LY-10 gear under ~10 tons load, you would sink the ghost into the floor until just the top of the wheel is showing, to account for compressing the suspension. You could also make a mock-up connection on the runway, then calibrate your core stack to that new height.

On my end of things I'm finally getting comfortable not having reloads. Means designing abort functionality into craft, and so far that has kept me from multi-mission flights. Part count and weight budgets mean more when you have to survive something going wrong. I've also had to do profit contracts for the first time, to have buffer funds in case of relaunch. I'm probably gonna see how far I can get without lawn assembly, before trying to optimize the rocket from vanadium.

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Well, I went to Minmus and ended up with more science than this dumb caveman knows what to do with.  The second mission - Val stripped out all the extras from her orbiter and landed it, then pointed it straight at Kerbin from the surface and burned directly to a 30km re-entry.  Unfortunately she exploded from overheating (no heatshield, just the bare Mk1 pod) but the science pod survived.  Thank you for your service, Cpt. Valentina Kerminova Kerman  O7

Simulations by the after-action commission show that a higher periapsis of 45km would have been survivable, and would re-enter safely on the second pass.

My late-stage lifter of Reliant and 3 sparks was VERY versatile and could easily put 4.3t in orbit.

This was my first time playing Caveman, and oh man it's great.  I'm stuck on a laptop away from home for a few months, and this kind of stock gameplay is just right.  I think I'm just going to restart with harder rules, like no Kerbin science etc

Edited by fourfa
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Here's my progress update for my Topaz WIPComplete!


This is my next iteration on my rocket, though the staging still failed. I did solve the instability between booster core and payload by setting all parts involved in that custom tri-coupler to rigid attachment mode and with auto-struts (I think you need advanced tweakables turned on for this). With that problem solved I can make the core more complex and finally add the proper radial decouplers in, though they'll have to have crossfeed activated.

I'm still learning new things about lawn construction, but I'm getting a bit impatient. After topaz I'll probably skip right to nano-diamond. With most of the settings the same across those, they'll have a very similar feel. I've found that in my current game I need a relay network at Minmus to continue exploration (sun and Kerbin opposite each-other), and I've decided I'll be better served just dropping a lander on Mun. Most games I start with Mun for the sake of travel time, and I now have the construction techniques to support that with basic facilities.

I was kinda hoping for the 'complete everything' badge, but I'll settle for nano-diamond if I finish that. Out of curiosity, what's the "This level coming soon" after nano-diamond about? Just a placeholder? It would feel silly to start nano if there is something more challenging.


Edit: Topaz complete! 

Edited by Stevie The Crusher
completed a work in progress challenge submission
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13 hours ago, Stevie The Crusher said:

Out of curiosity, what's the "This level coming soon" after nano-diamond about? Just a placeholder? It would feel silly to start nano if there is something more challenging.

I'm currently working on the badge for that. "This level coming soon" will be the order of the trilobite, awarded to cavemen for going above and beyond. This badge will be awarded to cavemen who visit other planets, complete nano-diamond, or who I deem worthy of it. It will be the second most prestigious award after the badge of honor. Hope that answers you question. Edit: Order of the Trilobite has been added!

Edited by The Dunatian
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Topaz is done, and I've started my Nanocrystalline Diamond WIP with slightly different settings than Physics Student, in order to force good comm-sat coverage. It is very slow, like others have found, but I think it will pick up a bit when I unlock survivability and gain access to drogue chutes. That will let me deal with the common sub-orbital tourism contracts, even though I'd prefer to just hammer away at surface part testing. I don't think I'll be able to afford Aviation before finishing KSC Tours with Baro and Mat Bay, so I'll probably end up just rolling around the craft itself until it's time to start voltron assembly projects. I've found using an alternate sandbox save for prototyping is useful to keep your kerbals alive, and impatience is very bad for them. Generally using smaller and more stages allows more in-flight flexibility, at least until you can use liquid engines and throttle.

My general strategy is to make enough credits and science to put together two docked craft, one for the runway and one for the water, that have all the parts that can be tested docked on them. Switching focus to one of these craft completes testing for any already-tested parts that are present (repeat contracts), as was discovered by players in one of the previous caveman iterations. Once I have that kind of steady income, I'm probably going to go setup the overkill comm-sat constellation, and start building temperature survey satellites for Mun (orbiting at 12km and 8km for high and low). With relays fully covering Mun and Minmus, I'll be free to start landing. I'm still debating my surface science strategy, but I think it will be necessary to figure out a kerbal cage and send Bob with a big refuel-able lander in order to get enough. If that isn't enough for full completion, I'm probably gonna do the math on long range relays (they will be big) and then go interplanetary.


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  • 3 weeks later...

Normal difficulty mission #2. High orbital science. Val piloted this mission while Jeb recovered from last mission.

hQ7NOk0KldXA.jpg  OhPk7A0.jpg

cRlQEqkhV7gd.jpg  tXlGOw0kh9re.jpg 

LpsX0FFUCImt.jpg  iuP80Z1JR9ue.jpg  

rPOsCrlAxCYi.jpg   p6bj2ZTFJRzX.jpg  

It's hard to see in the screenshots but the tiny capsule was crammed with science equipment.

Science earned: 123.7  Contracts completed: Orbit Kerbin, Explore Kerbin (return from orbit) Next I am going to collect flying and landed kerbin biome science before heading to Mun and Minmus. :)


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Mission #3 Contract, Biome Hopping. I managed to put together this aircraft capable of all my biome hopping needs and a little extra. It is very maneuverable and responsive but prone to stall at low speeds due to low thrust from the single juno. I managed to collect science from all of the KSC biomes and accessible nearby biomes. (Highlands, Shores, and Grasslands)

iGDF8dV.jpg   BeOS5Hp.png

mc5KkrA.png   OtRARCO.png

nP03r4Z.png   FeuL26S.png

Science Earned: 100.9   Contracts Completed: Conduct a focused observational survey of Kerbin


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