Kerbal Space Program (KSP) is a game about going to space… you might even call it a space game. It’s a space (game) where you plan, design, and fly the bold explorers, scientists, and engineers of Planet Kerbin up towards the final (and only) frontier. It’s also a great game for mods, and KSP mods represent some of the most creative community creations around.
In KSP (and upcoming sequel Kerbal Space Program 2), you must assemble all of the craft and machines, plan out the missions, and you even do the piloting while pushing ever further into the unknown. Realistic physics, particularly when it comes to issues of literal rocket science and transfer orbits, thrust/weight ratios, are going to become your close and hated friends.
There are a range of needs when it comes to modding Kerbal Space Program. Some of you may just want more parts to build your rockets. Some of you may not actually like being a literal rocket scientist and need some utility mods to make the experience easier. Some of you, apparently, have trouble telling the time and so need an in-game alarm clock. There’s a mod for every need, and we’ve tried to pull together a collection of top mods that suite a range of these requests.
the best Kerbal Space Program Mods
The best KSP mods are:
- MechJeb (Essential)
- kOS (Essential)
- Kerbal Engineer Redux (Essential)
- Kerbal Interstellar Extended (Essential)
- Kerbal Attachment System (Quality of Life)
- Kerbal Alarm Clock (Quality of Life)
- Docking Port Alignment Indicator (Quality of Life)
- Environmental Visual Enhancements (Quality of Life)
- B9 Aerospece (Parts & Misc.)
- Telemachus (Parts & Misc.)
- Soviet Spacecraft (Parts & Misc.)
- BD Armory (Parts & Misc.)
At the time of writing the latest patch is Version 1.11. Make sure you check the compatibility of your favourite mods.
How To Mod Kerbal Space Program
From the beginning, KSP had an active modding community. Easy-to-access models, a simplified aesthetic, and a community already inclined to be interested in building and making saw it kicked into high gear almost immediately. At first, distributing and finding those mods was quite the challenge but tools have grown up to make things simpler.
The Steam Workshop
While not the first stop for the old-timers, the Steam Workshop was one of the most welcome additions from integration with the platform. Through it you can download other peoples’ vessels, bases, rovers, and stations to be added to your own libraries. Unfortunately, Steam doesn’t distribute more mechanically-aggressive content. If you’re looking for designs, the Workshop is exactly the place to look, but if you want more game-changing mods, keep going.
Curse is probably better known as one of the biggest World of Warcraft and Minecraft mod managers out there, but their management of KSP mods is quite nicely done, and there’s a good chance you already have the desktop client installed already, integrated into the desktop Twitch app. The system works well and the library is generally up to date, so it’s a good call. Curse is the official mod hosting service associated with KSP.
If you’re not on Windows or want to avoid the Twitch desktop, you can go with the most old-school of the bunch: CKAN. It’s also quite up to date (due to integration with Spacedock), has its own stand-alone GUI, and works on all the non-console platforms.
There are older mods that, when introduced, created quite a furore in the community. MechJeb is certainly one of those. In-game, it’s a mechanical copy of our hero, Jebidiah Kerman’s, neural patterns — such as they are. In practice, it’s a massless device which opens up an entire suite of monitors and controls, from better staging analysis for delta-V and TWR in the construction buildings to the eventually unlockable ability to effectively pilot a ship to orbit entirely by itself from launch.
The catch is that these wonderous abilities aren’t unlocked at the start; you need to unlock them along the way by way of investing Science in the R&D facility. As you grow, MJ takes over more of the mundane tasks and lets you focus on the bits you haven’t done a thousand times.
You can grab MechJeb from Curse, although the full details are on the KSP forum thread linked to above.
If you’re looking for something that gives you a bit more control, kOS is waiting for you. Like MJ, kOS is an autopilot control system, but unlike MJ, you must write the control code for anything you want to happen in kerboscript, a language with a suspicious similarity to a number of others used in the early days of flight system design. If the idea of determining the dot product of multiple vectors to compose the direction to steer the ship is a little bit exciting, this may be an absolute must-have. If it scares you a little, it’s still a must-have because you can do amazing things without getting into the deep math and maybe you’ll accidentally stumble into an astrophysics degree along the way.
Kerbal Engineer Redux
If you think MJ is just a little too much help, but still want the analytics and analysis, there’s Kerbal Engineer Redux. Tonnes of feedback and delta-V calculations you want to make getting up in the air less harrowing. Slightly. Being able to add entire custom sections to your HUD can have a serious impact on your situational awareness.
KSP Interstellar Extended
Breaking Ground adds a lot of fun, deployable science-tools to the cargo bays but KSP Interstellar Extended (KSPIE) pushes that up to 11 without necessarily going all full-bore Star Trek on things. To start. KSPIE almost doubles the size of the tech tree, expanding your options while adding complicated production chains of materials which are needed to leverage the newest technologies.
If you’re looking for that long-term, extended sense of pushing the boundaries of science all the way from sounding rockets right up to FTL (and who isn’t?), this is an absolute must-have. You can only really grab this one from CKAN, as it’s fully integrated with that platform.
Kerbal Attachment System
Not quite something you always need in the toolbox, the Kerbal Attachment System (KAS) adds a certain dynamicism to building things, especially in orbit. Want to have a Kerbal jump out and lash ships together with spit, baling wire, and rigid struts? Go ahead! Building a refuelling base on a planet and just need a hose to pull fuel out of the fuel miner? It’s right here! While not essential, it’s ridiculously handy.
Kerbal Alarm Clock
One of the things that makes KSP such a fun model of space exploration is the fact that you can, and will, have multiple missions under way at once — because it takes a long, long time to go places in space. Unmanned probes to other planets can take years just to get there, and once they do you can have minutes to execute the mission. How do you track all this? Kerbal Alarm Clock (KAC)! Set your manoeuvre, pop KAC, and when the time rolls around, you’ll know and can do what needs to be done to keep from burning up in the atmosphere or awkwardly lithobrake.
Docking Port Alignment Indicator
Once you’re up there in the black, there’ll come a time that you want to do the dance of mating. That is, put two docking ports really, really close together having started hundreds of kilometres apart hurtling toward one another at thousands of klicks an hour. The Docking Port Alignment Indicator (DPAI) is what you’ll need. Rather than roughly eyeballing it based on mounted lights you can use a tool that’ll save you untold suffering.
Environmental Visual Enhancements
The stock visuals from KSP are stunning, especially for a 7 year old game, modders have been tweaking how it looks since day one. While there are a lot of visual mods for the game, Environmental Visual Enhancements (EVE) gets my vote as the one that really kicks things up another notch. Adding volumetric clouds for the planets, city light clusters for Kerbin, and generally tweaking things just pumps up the immersion. Combine with things like Scatterer and you’ll be eye-popping, but nothing comes without a cost. If you don’t have the graphical grunt to push the polys, you’ll find that the physics simulation suffers.
While the bulk of KSP is dedicated to a focus on rockets and the like, spaceplanes are definitely supported in the core game. They just don’t have a lot of bits and bobs specific to them. Enter B9 Aerospace, adding entirely new parts for engines, cockpits, fuselages, and all number of mad things. So mad that they’re deliberately interoperable with the Procedural Wings mod, just so you can shape your own in shape and lift. This is serious juju for those serious about their spaceplanes.
Sometimes it’s just not enough to run your own flight centre, build your own rockets, and drive your own space program. You want to bring your friends over, set up a bunch of computer screens, and have your own mission control display sprawling across multiple web-browsers. That’s what Telemachus does, brings the whole mission control experience to your living room. Throw in Houston and I guarantee you a party experience no one else has ever provided. Go to space today — with your friends!
Some people have a straight-up love affair with old school Soviet spacecraft, and why not? Rugged, hard-working, and a real deep part of the actual history of space exploration. You can capture some of that lightning in a bottle with whole collections of models and parts in Soviet Parts and Rockets. Do you need it? Do you want it, just a little, to recreate the first Proton missions? Maybe.
Some people just can’t enjoy a gentle, relaxing (if nail-biting) game about exploration and science without some things that blow up real good intentionally. For them we have BD Armory, a fine selection of Grade-A boom-boom, from MLRS artillery to autocannons, to full-bore turrets. Want to not only explore the fringes of space but orbit-drop tanks to dominate the surface? Here’s your hammer, slammer.
If we’ve overlooked your favourite mod, let us know! In a world of ten-thousand cool things, there’s always room for more.