Kerbal Space Program chronicle — part one: achieving orbit for science

Ian Birnbaum at

Kerbal Space Program is an open-world universe simulator that specializes in modeling orbits, atmosphere, gravity, and rocket physics. With nothing but your wits and a hangar full of space vehicle parts, your task is to explore. Look up at the night sky. See a planet? See a moon? Go there. There's nothing stopping you except the relentless hostility of physics.

Our home planet is Kerbin, land of the Kerbals. The best and brightest Kerbal pilots from around the world will embark on this program to serve as our rocket test dummies, our astronauts, our lemmings, and our national heroes. They are green and a little top-heavy, like over-saturated Smurfs without the silly hats, but they handle controls reliably and don't eat much.

In this chronicle, I will be recording the first missions of the PCGSA, PC Gamer's ambitious new space program. By being the first PC games magazine to make a home in the stars, we hope to use advanced satellites to gain exclusive news leads and maybe sort out when Half-Life 3 might be showing up.

The plan is simple. First, we’ll build and launch a satellite and achieve orbit. Then, we’ll put the first Kerbal into space and bring him home again. Then, we’ll establish a space station to serve as a fueling depot for longer trips. Finally, we'll plant our flag safely on the Mün, Kerbin's closest celestial neighbor, and come home again.

A note about mods: KSP is still early in its development, and is enjoying a long development cycle with an active modding community. Some mods add features that will eventually be included in the game, while others simplify gameplay by adding autopilots or new spacecraft parts. One of my favorite mods, MechJeb, is one I’ll be using for its excellent information readouts. While MechJeb does include autopilot features, I won’t be using them. All of these missions will be flown entirely by hand.

On with the first mission...