Space is all the rage nowadays. We have nice cars on Mars, and the eye on Jupiter has been winking coquettishly and telling me to open my pod bay doors. There’s never been a better time to get back into Kerbal Space Program, the cute game that hides a ridiculously complicated space program underneath its charming facade.
Since the small bang of Kerbal’s release, there have been modders in its orbit. The committed community has done wondrous things with the base game, and I’ve had so much fun returning to build port and launchpad, boosting out of Kerbin and beyond., Here’s how to do it.
How to install Kerbal Space Program Mods
The Comprehensive Kerbal Archive Network, CKAN, is the handiest tool in your space garage. It’s a complete mod installer that searches, downloads, and updates almost all of the mods on this page. It’ll even grab any dependencies you need and suggest other add-ons to ensure you have the complete experience. It’s one of the best ever made. All you need to do is search and click.
That being said, all the mods will still have external download links, and a few will require them as they’re not covered by CKAN’s repository.
These are generally from Curseforge, as the game links directly to there on its main menu. Some are from Github. To install most mods, you drag the downloaded files into the “GameData” folder within the main Kerbal Space Program folder.
Best Kerbal Space Program mods
MechJeb 2 by Sarbian
You might say that MechJeb2 is “instrumental” to KSP. It helps to automate a lot of the processes that’ll get you from Kerbin and off into space, with nice read-outs and easier ways to connect and control your ship. It’s an autopilot, cruise control, and space calculator, though you need some KSP knowledge to understand how to work it all.
Progress through the addons is gated as your career progresses, but ultimately you’ll be given access to things like “Maneuver Planner”, which’ll plot the transfer nodes according to your instructions (and do, like, 12 other things). Another module, “Smart A.S.S”, lets you more easily orient to the various orbits as you pluckily plunge through space. Many of these modules are best used if you’re a seasoned pro and want to just hop into a ship and flyyyyyyy.
It sounds cheaty, which is a constant argument that undermines a lot of the community’s discussion about it, but I always viewed MechJeb as the mission control to my ship’s crew. A comforting voice amidst the chaos of sitting atop a controlled explosion.
KSP Interstellar Extended by Freethinker
Not everything in Kerbal needs to feel like it’s held together by glue and hope. Space has plenty of room for expansion, and KSP Interstellar Extended’s additional technologies should see any committed player rise up beyond the days of rockets, through to nuclear propulsion, and into more speculative space technology. Yes, we’re talking about antimatter.
But before you start imagining yourself on the bridge of the Jebterprise, know that Interstellar Expanded is bound by realism. The new tech tree leads you into the future, but to get there, you need to work through them all, researching and building new reactors, finding all the rare new materials to build and power the new technologies. You have a long and intense road to travel before you’re collecting solar particles and charging warp drives with them. Here’s a look at what I just described.
Kerbal Attachment System by Ihsoft
We all get attached to our Kerbals, but this isn’t about that. Kerbal Attachment System is an addon that lets you physically connect vehicles, enabling anything from resource transfer to tethering vessels together.
This is handy. The tethers come in many forms, including refuelling hoses that you can use to pump fuel to your vessel, tow cables that let you drag ships in space or hook buggies together on planets, or powerful cables to help keep space stations together in orbit.
Kerbal Inventory System by Ihsoft
Kerbal Inventory System works nicely in tandem with Kerbal Attachment System, enabling your lil ‘nauts to wear their own backpacks. There are larger containers, too, and a proper inventory when accessing them, but when paired with KAS above, this enables you to build things with going EVA.
The scenario: you launch into space, but stored in your containers are a plethora of spare parts that you can use to alter your ship. With both mods together, you’d be able to leave the ship, open a container, grab a few more solar panels, and affix them. As a failsafe, it’s perfectly in tune with the game.
Restock by Nertea
Restock is a cheekily named mod that reskins hundreds of parts of the original game. The models remain the same, but the parts now have lots and lots of detail.
It’s partly a philosophical change: as KSP has lived its life out in the open as an early access game, a number of the stock parts have been redone by the developers. The modders felt they weren’t in keeping with the aesthetics and made their own.
Beyond Home by Gameslinx
Beyond Home is set billions of years into the future. Kerbol is dead, and you’ve pushed out into the universe, finding a new home. The new system adds beautiful, seemingly abandoned planets for you to explore.
So if you just love seeing sights, this is an incredible mod. The Tempus System has binary stars, and each of the planets has procedurally generated structures to explore. There are cities, bases, and crashed ships to help you uncover what happened to the predecessors. A lot of what they’ve put into the mod they claim is a first for Kerbal.
It’s also a great test for everything you’ve learned in the game up to this point. You’re not out there to learn how to do this but to explore and survive.
Also: “Upon starting the game, you must go to settings and enable terrain scatters and turn the density up to 100% for key features of the mod to work.”
Tweakscale by Lisiast
A great little addition to your builder’s tool chest, Tweakscale lets you change the size of a ship part. It’s not a cheat, though. Increasing or decreasing the scale of a part will also scale their values accordingly - even things like engines. If you scale one up, the power output will change, but so will the fuel requirements.
Chatterer by Athlonic
What’s space without the comforting, crunchy noise of mission control and other beeps and boops? Chatterer adds immersive noises to the game.
You don’t realise how much this adds to KSP until you forget to install it, then you’re left without the EVA breathing, the clicks and clacks as you prepare your ship. It envelops everything. You have control over the noise you get, so if you’re not into hearing the NASA noise over the headset, you can mute them.
Scatterer by LGhassen
Hey, that rhymes! If you’ve watched a Kerbal video anytime in the past decade and wondered why your game doesn’t quite look like the one in the video, it was probably running Scatterer. This is a shader mod that mimics atmospheric scattering, creating lovely ship trails as your Kerbals burn in the atmosphere land safely.
Kerbal Alarm Clock by Triggerau
A lot of KSP relies on timing, and we’ve had clocks and alarms for hundreds of years now. Kerbal Alarm Clock adds a pile of bespoke timers into the game, letting you set alerts and alarms for moments along the flight path.
Whatever plan you’ve set out, there’s an alarm that corresponds to it. Need to know when to pull off a specific manoeuvre according to your trip’s nodes? Buzz! Want to know when you’re at the closest approach? Boom! You’re alerted. It really should be part of the main game.