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


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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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16 hours ago, Kim Hanson said:

It's not enough to know your ΔV, you must also know how much ΔV you need.  As a noob this is my current stumbling block.  I feel I'm fumbling around trying to make a good guess.  Needless to say, it doesn't work too often.

Have you discovered the dV maps players have made? Example: 

 

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On 1/27/2014 at 2:44 AM, ShadowDragon8685 said:

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.

Fairings absolutely alter the drag of the payload. I've launched a space station that was too big for a fairing, and a washing machine lander without a fairing as a stunt. In both cases I had to compensate for the ridiculous drag by building more ridiculous fins to compensate, plus extra engines to shove everything through the atmosphere.

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On 3/11/2014 at 6:56 PM, celem said:

Shift makes your Kerbal run on EVA, this can never be mentioned often enough.

it's true that it's not mentioned in the in-game toturial, but:

1: the toturial was located on the Mun, and kerbals are unable to run there (due to the low G there)

2: many game featuring moving characters use this control (example: minecraft)

Still, I wish Squand can add this to the toturial.

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On 5/6/2020 at 10:39 AM, Lanley Kerman said:

Press F3 after a part explodes.

 

This way, you know when just a science part or an intake has exploded.

Yes, or maybe after 42 parts explode. You can also press f3 to see how much G-force you may have got if it is above 15 G.

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before launching a vehicle that is ever slighly different from everything you have launched before, save the game. then use the cheat console to test your vehicle on all conditions that you may encounter during the mission, perform all the tasks you may want to perform. no matter how routine, perform them anyway. then launch the mission, and run it all the way to the end. don't worry about anything else, you're going to reload afterwards. only after you succesfully ended the mission, you can go back, reload the previous save, and do the mission for real.

i don't remember it ever happened that i didn't discover any fatal design flaw the first time i launched something new or tried a new mission. from a docking port installed backwards, to a rescue vehicle missing a parachute, to the thing not having enough reaction wheels, to an ore extractor capsizing upon attempting to pierce the ground because it wasn't properly secured. something will always go wrong at first. always.

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That while it's important to know the total Delta-V of your craft, it's equally (if not more) important to know the Delta-V of each stage, as well as the function of that stage, so that your rocket can perform its intended task appropriately.

Bigger doesn't always mean better (although, bigger is almost always more awesome).  I have, at times, reengineered some of my more monstrous crafts into something more refined and ended up having more Delta-V as a result.

Have a contingency plan!  A recent manned round trip to Dres was almost less than successful due to the buggy nature of maneuver node trajectories to drastically change upon crossing over a sphere of influence.  Even though the numbers said it was possible, if I hadn't topped the tanks off before leaving LKO, I would be planning a mission to rescue 19 Kerbals from a solar orbit.

If, for some reason, you are unable to directly target an object in the map mode, click on the orbit line of the object in question, and it will bring up the same context menu, allowing you to set target and/or focus.

Lastly, and this is something that I still struggle with at times.  Don't use someone else's accomplishments in-game as the metric by which you judge your own successes and failures.  Every time I get discouraged by not being able to do some amazing feat that I saw in a YouTube video, I take a look back at all the things I have personally accomplished in the game, and realize that I'm a lot better at KSP than I give myself credit for.

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6 hours ago, s_gamer101 said:

Rovers should have a low CoM, then they don‘t flip over and are fun until you get bored.

It also helps if you adjust the wheel settings. The specifics vary depending on your design, but in general you want low spring, higher damper (although still usually lower than default), front wheel steering only, and reduced traction on the front wheels. If you have Breaking Ground you can also build a suspension with the robotic parts.

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Here are some things I find also very useful in KSP:

  • Fins at the bottom of a rocket are helpful against "rocket flipping".
  • Avoid building tall and skinny landers if you can, they are likely to have trouble with terrain.
  • When you do an interplanetar mission, test your lander by cheating it in a orbit around your destination, landing it, fly it back to orbit again and press "Revert flight"
  • Always quicksafe. Always. Make named quicksafes too. That's actually the most important thing in KSP.
  • Make sure that you always have at least 10% more delta V than you would need (unless you are doing something like a low mass challenge).
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The camera is by default focused on the CoM during flight. This is helpful to find out where your CoM is. And if you have a spaceplane, you can attach an antenna where the CoL is, then you recognize when your CoM is behind the CoL and safe the day with fuel transfer.

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I learned that engines function pretty well as heat shields.  I've gotten into the habit of not staging the last engine/fuel tank upon reentry until they start to overheat.  They were designed to handle heat, so I've been using them to draw most of the heat, and then staging them away about halfway through reentry.  The heat shield picks up at that point, and i dont really worry about stuff overheating and blowing up.

This may be, of course, just my experience.  Could also be i havent built anything that would mean far more heat than I have been seeing.  YMMV.

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10 hours ago, Popestar said:

I learned that engines function pretty well as heat shields.  I've gotten into the habit of not staging the last engine/fuel tank upon reentry until they start to overheat.  They were designed to handle heat, so I've been using them to draw most of the heat, and then staging them away about halfway through reentry.  The heat shield picks up at that point, and i dont really worry about stuff overheating and blowing up.

This may be, of course, just my experience.  Could also be i havent built anything that would mean far more heat than I have been seeing.  YMMV.

 

Mind you, there is more to this than just heat resistance.

If you are heavier you slow down less at the same height but you got to lower altitudes in less time where you slow down more. End result is that ou take heat at a high rate but stop in a lower time, before reaching the critical amount. You could get similar result in a lighter craft entering in a steeper angle.

Another point is that the heat will flow to the part behind the part doing the aerobraking. The tank behind the engine probably have more heat capacity than whatever you have behind the heatshield.

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9 hours ago, Spricigo said:

 

Mind you, there is more to this than just heat resistance.

If you are heavier you slow down less at the same height but you got to lower altitudes in less time where you slow down more. End result is that ou take heat at a high rate but stop in a lower time, before reaching the critical amount. You could get similar result in a lighter craft entering in a steeper angle.

Another point is that the heat will flow to the part behind the part doing the aerobraking. The tank behind the engine probably have more heat capacity than whatever you have behind the heatshield.

There is another potential problem though. Depending on the design of your return craft, leaving the engine attached during reentry can throw your balance off and cause you to tumble uncontrollably or even descend nose first, which you definitely don't want.

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I've learned that shuttle dosent have any economical sens. It is cheaper to land a "drop pod" and it is not difficoult to pinpoint landing on KSC property. On the other hand there is no reason to take wing to space.

Comsats on invaded planets (if I send there swarm of kerbonauts, outposts, rovers, landers, and plant flag to state that its mine, my own it looks like an invasion) are not necessary - there be so much scrap with antena on the orbit that there is no need for three additional comsats.

Do not try to cheat Your customer building an ordered outpost from older vessels - if they want a new one thay mean it.

Take more fuel not for manouvers but to refuel someone flying to the next celestial body. When the job is done we can reuse vehicles because there is nothing like technical problem of using same engine or whatever again and again without refubrishing.

One engine for one ship and boosters to the edge of space (just because on plain game there is no reasonable way to reuse them) - decoupling fuel from the top of the rocket.

20monoprop is more than enoug for docking.

Simplest solar panels are best solution - just cover Your vesel in reasonable amount.

Antena and extended solar panel helps eyeball docking.

More air inlet helps engine work on altitude, more wings bring it there. Bigger wings - easier landing.

Helicopters with tail rotor without controller works, it just take a time to learn controls for pinpoint landing.

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On 11/16/2020 at 11:47 AM, vv3k70r said:

Antena and extended solar panel helps eyeball docking.

 

If you have pilot of sufficient skill or proper probe core that can do target tracking then docking is easy mode "set as target" on docking port command given to each space craft together with "control from here" option on respective docking ports if the docking port is offset allows you to dock easy mode. NAVBALL and speed diff gives you all the info you need...

On 11/16/2020 at 11:47 AM, vv3k70r said:

Simplest solar panels are best solution - just cover Your vesel in reasonable amount.

 

 

Unless in Jool and Eeloo - than fuel cell has it use if you have high energy demand (your way works too there to a point but parts count...)

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2 hours ago, IncompetentSpacer said:

If you have pilot of sufficient skill or proper probe core that can do target tracking then docking is easy mode "set as target"

Target is where target is now. Not where it will be when You get there.

If You are folowing craft manouver should cover prograde with target. If target folow You - retrograde. Then meeting is imminent.

2 hours ago, IncompetentSpacer said:

option on respective docking ports if the docking port is offset allows you to dock easy mode. NAVBALL and speed diff gives you all the info you need...

Yes. But tu build something to meet mission subject there are monstrosities to be build.

EAF0DE133D50AD48868044521CB206CAABDC1714

I\m already docking on engines, without monoprops.

D1842838DE25F87DE790C424003F4F2264FF68E1

So it helps me with orientation if I have some points like antena or other extension. Specialy when swithcing between vessels If there is some axis to be kept to align furthe conections.

2 hours ago, IncompetentSpacer said:

Unless in Jool and Eeloo - than fuel cell has it use if you have high energy demand (your way works too there to a point but parts count...)

Asteroid is a fuel tank.

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After about 150 hours in game in just two weeks, my advice (if I am entitled to have one) is to know when to stop for the day. As soon as you have your first thought of "let's skip checking this, it'll be ok, I just want to get to Mun quicker" it's time to save and quit. The next day you'll have less frustration, more enjoyment and an actual chance at success at your mission.

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What I have learn from KSP

  • Orbital mechanics, from reaching orbit to slingshot maneuvers
  • The Kraken hides in every part of the game
  • Advanced Tweakables are a very nice feature
  • But most of all, the biggest lesson is that failure is part of any design process.
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On 9/13/2020 at 5:45 AM, Reinhart Mk.1 said:

DO NOT under any circumstances visit Eve or Dres (especially out of boredom)

When visiting Dres have a rescue mission ready to launch.

When visiting Eve plan to stay.

Rovers are too much of a PITA to be worth building.

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