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How to build your first successful rocket in Kerbal Space Program 2

Advice on how to assemble your first space-worthy rocket in the sequel to the hit space flight sim

How do you get to space in Kerbal Space Program 2? In Kerbal Space Program 2, almost any combination of components counts as a rocket, inasmuch as the game will totally let you take it out onto the launchpad to see what happens. However, failure is not only an ever-present possibility in KSP2, it's actually rather likely, especially when you're new to the game.

Really wrapping your head around what makes a successful rocket launch in KSP2 takes a lot of time and practice. However, if you're like me, you want to at least see Kerbin from space for the first time without putting dozens of hours into builds. So I've put together a crib sheet to help you build a rocket that will at least reach the outer atmosphere on the first try.

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Kerbal Space Program 2: How to build your first rocket

There are four essential components to any spaceworthy rocket in Kerbal Space Program 2:

  • A command module.
  • At least one fuel tank.
  • At least one engine.
  • A parachute.

The command module is where the Kerbal crew operate the vessel, and is the part that you want to get back down to Kerbin, ideally. The fuel tank and engine are, I think, fairly self-explanatory. Finally, the parachute is used at the very end of a mission, to help the command module get back to earth in one piece

Most of these components can be cobbled together into something that will achieve launch — just keep an eye on the Engineer's Report to ensure that your thrust/weight ratio doesn't fall below 1, and you should in theory have a rocket that can get you to orbit and back.

The VAB in Kerbal Space Program 2, with a ready-to-fly engineer's report displayed.

However, the main challenge when it comes to designing your first successful rocket is the choice of engine you want to use.

Choosing your engine in Kerbal Space Program 2

There are four engine types in KSP2: launcher, sustainer, orbital, and deepspace. The otherwise excellent tutorial doesn't actually dedicate a lot of time to explaining the differences between these engines or how you can tell which one you're attaching to your rocket, though, so here's a quick run-down to help you out:

  • Launcher engines are one of the two lightest and most basic models. If you're planning a staged launch in which you jettison a large part of your rocket's weight not long after take-off, a launcher engine might be the one to put on the module you want to shed quickly.
  • Sustainer engines are the second basic model of engine. They're not super powerful but, as the name suggests, they're capable of both getting your rocket launched and keeping it going for a fair while. Early on in the game, I find it helps to think of them as a hybrid launcher/orbit engine for mid-range flights, and I highly recommend one as your go-to for your first rocket launch.
  • Orbital engines are suitable for mid-range missions, like return trips and, yes, orbiting. It won't do you any harm to use one for your first flight, but a sustainer would probably still be a better choice.
  • Deepspace engines are — you guessed it — optimised for trips that take you further afield, into the outer solar system and even beyond. At the stage of the game where you're building your first rocket, you can basically ignore deepspace engines for the time being.

Somewhat frustratingly, the Engine tab of the parts picker in VAB doesn't separate them out into these categories. However, most engines will indicate their classification somewhere in their name.

The VAB in Kerbal Space Program 2, with the engine picker open on the left side of the build screen and a rather pessimistic flight plan projection on the right.

Decouplers and staging in Kerbal Space Program 2

While you don't technically need to include decouplers in a successful KSP2 rocket build, they're incredibly useful for ensuring that your launch goes to plan. In particular, if you're using multiple engines, installing a decoupler above each allows you to jettison the excess weight once an engine stage runs out of fuel.

During flight, you activate the next stage of your rocket by pressing the green "Go" button. This is in the lower right hand corner of the screen, and replaces the "Launch" button once you have lift-off. Stages are listed from bottom-to-top just above the button and can be edited even on the launchpad, so you have a lot of control over when you want to use them.

Decouplers are optional for first-time launches in KSP2, but if you're feeling ambitious, they can help ensure a smoother landing for your command module and crew.

By following these basic guidelines, you should be able to achieve your first successful rocket launch in Kerbal Space Program 2 with the minimum of trial and error experimentation! Of course, building a rocket is only half the battle; you also have to be able to pilot it. We've got some advice on where to start in our Kerbal Space Program 2 tips and tricks guide.

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