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ShadowDragon8685

What are the most important things you've learned about playing KSP to pass on?

Question

KSP is a great, fun game, but it has a difficulty curve like, well, a rocket. I figure there's some critical "lessons" to get yourself over to achieve competence. Here are the ones I've learned, so far.

1: MechJeb. I find KSP to be just about unplayable without it. I know that there are surely some purists who will disagree, but without an autopilot and MechJeb's VAB calculations, I'd likely still be considering myself lucky to so much as make Kerbin orbit, let alone be gearing up for my second shot at a Munar landing. I'd also likely have no idea of what to do without having seen MechJeb do things, but I've watched MechJeb in action enough to have an idea what on Kerbin it's doing and how to do it myself.

2: When in doubt, radialize! I've experienced nothing but bitter, hilarious disaster trying to build vertically, barely able to get ridiculous expanding stacks into Kerbin orbit. Instead, I figured out that I have to build outward; the same fuel tank+engine design, in a serial decoupler arrangement, is vastly less useful and powerful than two/three/four/six of the same fuel tank + engine design arranged radially around another of that same engine design.

3: SRBs, and how to use them. Specifically, SRBs are good for an initial bump to get your rocket engines up to speed and to let them carry some or all of the lowest-altitude work alone, with MechJeb on the limit to terminal velocity setting to save fuel, but it's not really worth it to use them for more than that. Radial liquid fuel engines are so much more useful, I'm pretty sure I could get a radial SSTO going.

4: The KW RockoMaverick engine, for when you don't yet have the Mainsail. This could work with the LV-T30 stock engine and I think it would still be superior, but KW Rocketry is what really sells it. Get a big old 2.5m Rockomax fuel tank stage going, however much is appropriate to the payload you intend to use, and stick one of those KW LFTA 2-1 conical 1.25-2.5 adapter-fuel tanks on the bottom, inverted. Stick on a tricoupler (or a quadcoupler, if you have it - those will definitely make it better,) and attach three KW Maverick D-1 engines. Gives you massively more thrust than the Rockomax Skipper (350*3 = 1050 thrust > 600 Thrust,) with better ISP at sea level and no worse ISP in vacuum and far more alternator output, not that that will matter on your ascent stage. It is heavier by 2 tons, true, but the far greater TWR means you'll ultimately save a lot in getting into orbit, and the RockoMaverick has been consistently lifting payloads into orbit for me that the Skipper can't. Not to mention it looks boss as heck, especially if you have six or twelve of them radially arranged around a central.. :cool:

5: Less is more when it comes to payload, more is more when it comes to engines. If engines are your payload, you're going to have some tricky balancing work to do, and your ascent stage will probably wind up being approximately the radius of the Death Star.

6: Navigation lights. I'm pretty sure they came from B9 Aerospace since they were manufactured by "Tetragon Projects." Use the red lights on the left side of the craft and the green on the right, and I like to put the white lights strictly down the "top" - that is, with the craft as a whole (that is, the first command part) not rotated, the white lights go straight down the middle when facing out of the VAB. This helps so much when you're in space and looking at your ship trying to work out which side is which. (Not to mention it makes your ship look boss as heck. :cool: )

7: Don't forget batteries and power generation! You don't want to SSTO a 45-ton payload and be about ready to embark on a Mun shot only to realize that your entire power supply is the tiny supply in the lander strapped to the top of your transfer stage!

That's what I've figured out, anyway. Some of it may be wrong, but it's what I've got and it's what's worked for me. If it's stupid, but it works consistantly, was it really stupid?

There is one thing I want to know, though...

Is there any practical point to installing fairings without FAR? I haven't got it installed and don't intend to. Fairings look boss as all heck and watching them pop in orbit is great, but without FAR, are they just adding mass and (paradoxically,) drag? Or do they actually shield the drag of their payload and replace it all with their own drag in stock, because that would probably justify the weight several times over on the ascent stage.

Edited by ShadowDragon8685
Lesson 7...

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What can go wrong will go wrong - Murphy's Law

If you keep this in mind then your that much closer to keeping your Kerbals alive

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It's not necessary to go in orbit for reach mun. Just wait untill the mun is approximately 90 degrees to the right of KSC and burn to the zenith directly from the launchpad untill encounter. Easy, fast and cheap. It's simply a suborbital trajectory, just very high. 

Probably it works with minmus too, i didn't try it yet, but only when minmus in in line with ascending/descending node.

Edited by tab

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I've learnt that when you start it's hard.....very hard to just do what you want, ie. Build a rocket, land on the moon and build a Base. .....on your first design! The one piece of advice I could give anyone about KSP is in this 3 part formula :

1...try. If your rocket fails and crashes within 10 seconds then welcome to the "we've all been there club" :)

2...research. This forum has been and still is the best wealth of information about KSP. Youtube is also a great place to learn.

3...goto 1. Now armed with a little more knowledge simply try again. After 2 years of playing I still use this formula as there still is so much yet to do In KSP!

What I'm saying is never give up if things don't seem to work for you when you first set out in this stunningly addictive game....practice makes perfect and failure in KSP is as normal as breathing the air around you :)

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  1. Use "Locked"' view to drive behind your craft while docking to get better perspective while closing in on the target. This is especially good when needing to achieve a specific angle to the docked target. 
  2. The scroll wheel on your mouse can be used to fine tune maneuver nodes. Hover the pointer over node adjustment handles and scroll.. slow speeds on the wheel are very fine adjustments.
  3. Docking does get easier, with practice.
  4. Create a library of KSP versions as they are released in case you want to look at an earlier one.
  5. Map the throttle up/down to <RightShift> and <RightCtrl> and unbind from the left keys. This puts throttle controls on the right side of the keyboard freeing up left hand for attitude control. Also allows using <LeftShift><Tab> in map view to change focus to the previous target.
  6. You can almost always find a way to gravity assist entering Jool orbit by making a mid course adjustment and pulling around beside Tylo, Laythe, Vall.
  7. Debris slows down your game as it accumulates (at least it used to). Set it to '0' unless you're trying to be 'realistic'.
  8. Asteroids can be aero-braked into orbit and work as a heat shield for the piloting vessel.
  9. The Launch Window Planner is very useful, especially when planning missions with life-support mods installed.
  10. Getting to Minmus without a plane change can be done by burning at one of either Ascending Node or Descending Node (often makes for a longer flight).

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On 1/13/2017 at 6:49 AM, Death Engineering said:
  1. The Launch Window Planner is very useful, especially when planning missions with life-support mods installed.

This...I've just completed a crewed mission to another planet and Launch Window Planner along with KAC made it possible for me to plan the departure, time away and return portions of the mission with great accuracy including planning for life support.

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Things I learner in my first time through the career, currently working through the 2nd.

1. Science! Get it through crew reports, EVA reports, and using your science instruments. Unlocking science instruments early makes going through the tech tree faster.

2. Storing science! You can take your experiments and store them in the capsule, giving you room to do more science on a single mission.

3. I used excel to calculate Thrust to Weight ratios and dVs for each stage I had. This was a good way to learn. Now I'm using Kerbal Engineer in my second pass through.

4. Learn how to gravity turn.

5. Don't do observation missions. Seemed like a waste of time mostly.

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On my first mission to Gilly I ran out of fuel (320m/s left on an elliptical orbit around Eve just within the SOI) - that is when i learned how much fuel you can save when using the atmosphere of a planet for a Handbrake turn... by using RCS to lower my PE to 87km i was able to lower the AP without the use of an engine and was able to land on Gilly with still 50m/s left.

As it was my first ever mission outside of Kerbin area (only MInmus and Mun before), this was just mindblowing!

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Learn the equations for calculating dV, if nothing else. Also get a good quality dV map that you can use to see how much fuel you need. Rely on past experience to make your new designs. 

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If the quicksave is your best friend (and it is), then the strut connector is your 2nd best friend. Once I learned to use them, rocket flipping became a thing of the past. And a docking port on every vessel. Jr and Sr if you can. Complete as many contracts as possible with a single vessel, especially if you can use existing equipment. Bang for your buck is the key. I really love mining ore contracts. They pay big and I can use my existing infrastructure to complete them. Doesn't cost a dime. Aside from that? Never give up. I've had dozens of missions that seemed completely un-salvageable. I kept trying and ended up with rescues worthy of an Apollo 13-style movie. I'm sure you guys have done the same. There's always a way.

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These are not the most important things I have learned, but with 626 answers to this thread i'll try to give some advice hoping it hasn't been written already. 

1) If you plan to launch a solar powered spacecraft in polar orbit, launch at sunrise or sunset. You will enter orbit along the terminator and the Sun will not be covered by the body you are orbiting. 

2) If you enter orbit on an atmospheric planet you can stop your engines as soon as you enter orbit and once you reach the apoapsis, you can lower a bit the periapsis in order to reach only the upper part of the atmosphere and use it for aerobraking (see Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter). This way you will lower your apoapsis without using fuel. 

3) If you are approaching a planet with a moon big enough (Duna, Jool or Kerbin if you are coming back), you may want to flyby this moon with a retrograde inclination (as close as possible to 180 degrees towards the equator). The moon will "steal" some speed from you and lower your orbital speed.. it may even put you into orbit if the gravity of the moon is strong enough and if you flyby it at the right time. 

 

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Set an Alarm Clock when playing.  I don't mean Kerbal Alarm Clock, I mean an actual Alarm Clock, like on your watch or smart phone.  Otherwise, you'll spend way too much time on the game and not get enough sleep.

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Mark 2 Fuselage parts are a "newbie trap" for would-be SSTOs.

Almost every problem SSTO you see on the questions subforum relates to a mk2 design,  and I too struggled with mk2s that could barely do more than orbit,  until I tried my first mk1 and mk3 designs.

These parts have 2 or 3 times the drag of mk1, but hold no more fuel.   Yet, given the information available in-game, it is understandable why almost everyone attempting to build their first SSTO ends up using the parts hardest to SSTO successfully with.

  1. they look sleeker than mk1 or mk3.    They strongly resemble the fastest jet built, the SR71 blackbird, with the Chines.
  2. much higher temperature tolerance than mk1, without the apparent bulkiness of mk3.
  3. mention of the "extra lift" in the description, makes those blended wing / body chines look like a great deal.  In practice they produce about as much lift as the smallest modular wing segment, for over 100x the drag...

For first time spaceplaners - just build a mk1 and use an inline cockpit , with the crewed bits mounted as far back as possible to keep them away from the heat.  

Mk2s can be made, but require advanced construction techniques like built in wing incidence to reduce fuselage drag (even with that, they still perform worse than mk1s without wing incidence) .  On mk2s,  the extra drag means there is a very narrow window between  not enough engine (can't break mach 1)  and too much engine (too much dry mass to have the delta v to reach orbit)

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Use some "backup" solar panels in cause you forgot (non retractable ones) or reactors

Edited by Numerlor

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On 2/23/2017 at 10:34 PM, Numerlor said:

Use some "backup" solar panels in cause you forgot (non retractable ones) or reactors

Use a RTG. Much lighter and one is enough for what you are looking for(also, Kerbal can open up solar panel while on EVA, even if there is no electricity left)

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11 hours ago, Blaarkies said:

Use a RTG. Much lighter and one is enough for what you are looking for(also, Kerbal can open up solar panel while on EVA, even if there is no electricity left)

Well that is the thing I reffered to as reactor, but in early career or while low on funds you simply cannot use it for probes

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12 hours ago, Numerlor said:

Well that is the thing I reffered to as reactor, but in early career or while low on funds you simply cannot use it for probes

If price is a worrying factor, you will never gather enough funds to buy reactors if you keep sticking "backup" solar panels on every probe :wink:

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Have a general idea of what you want to do, but try to be flexible and don't worry if it looks "weird".  If it works, it works, look at you, you made something that works! :)

 

- Andy

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RCS thrusters placed on the outside of maintenance bays require you to open the doors before they will work!

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Asparagus Stage.

 

That is: until they change the rules on us and it becomes a lot less viable. (I play sandbox for fun right now, not a full career.)

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On 3/10/2017 at 4:28 PM, LordCorwin said:

Keep always a battery fully loaded and cut their usage. So if by any chance you get out of fluid and with panels closed, you could use it to open the panels and reload all your batteries.

No, since KSP 1.1 that doesn't work anymore. Now if a probe is dead, there is nothing the player can activate on the craft (neither functions nor fuels lock)

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Possibly been mentioned before on the previous 25 pages but...

If playing the Steam version and using the standard key mappings... Do not - under any circumstances although especially when trying to get an encounter deep between planets - press shift-tab to bring up the Steam overlay and talk to friends!!

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On 3/13/2017 at 5:10 AM, Blaarkies said:

No, since KSP 1.1 that doesn't work anymore. Now if a probe is dead, there is nothing the player can activate on the craft (neither functions nor fuels lock)

I've tested it and works... 

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