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Kerbal Space Program


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I do not often recommend games, as I don't consider myself much of a gamer. However, if you are at all interested in both flight sims such as MS Flight Simulator and spaceflight sims such as Orbiter, I cannot more highly recommend Kerbal Space Program.


Like any popular simulator, it isn't quite exactly realistic, however the game seems to me to strive to maintain a level of realism while working within their constraints. It is a game that would be enjoyable for both a ten year old and a sixty year old interested in aerodynamics and space flight. It's currently in alpha stages of development, but the sandbox version of the game alone is rather enjoyable and they are beginning to unroll more typical narrative style gameplay mechanics.


For gameplay's sake, the home world and star system has been adjusted to contain much higher density worlds, so instead of weeks to get to Luna, you have only a few days to get to "Mun", and instead of multiple body Newtonian physics, they use "spheres of influence". While these fudge factors detract from the realism, they allow the creators to construct an enjoyable game that helps to make real the oddities of orbital mechanics and rocketry.


If you are interested in the game, I'd recommend going through some of the Youtube videos of Scott Manley. I've been following the game for the last six months or so, and it's progressed so far that any video prior to then is probably not worth watching.


Below I've linked his latest video, which covers the design considerations for creating an aircraft that can both take off easily from the runway and remain controllable after takeoff.


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  • 3 years later...

I promise I'm not being paid to shill for this game.  It's been more than 3 years since I've mentioned it and the improvements are astounding.  Here's a video of Scott Manley simulating a flight of the Virgin Galactic spacecraft.  If you are at all interested in the mechanics of flight and orbital dynamics, Kerbal Space Program is a time sink that just happens to be quite educational.


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My son was given this for a birthday present when he was 10. It was a "time sink" all right! I'm not sure he ever really got the hang of it, but perhaps he was too young for it - or too impatient to think it through. But he enjoyed it, certainly.

Edited by exchemist
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It's been more than 3 years since I've mentioned it and the improvements are astounding.

I was hoping one of the improvements was gravity with more than single primary body. Alas, KSP is still using its original “patched 2-body approximation” approach. :(


While it’s great that there’s a game with realistic physics (it may not model libration points and the like, but at least it’s not just treating spacecraft like cars that can turn in 3 dimensions, like most popular space video games), it’s still essentially a game, not a real simulator.


I’m sticking with my own old, text-based simulators, or maybe trying Orbiter. Unless I unexpectedly need a fun time sink, in which case I doubt I’ll be able to resist trying KSP. :)

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