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Kerbal Space Program - How to Launch a Space Shuttle

Written by mtgudger   /   Jun 17, 2020    

In this guide I will teach you how to launch a space shuttle. Includes how a tower works (if you are using my space shuttle), how to launch, and obital procedures. This guide does not cover how to re-enter or land.

Launching Space Shuttle Guide

Getting Your Hands on a Space Shuttle

First step: Getting your hands on a Space Shuttle. You can build your own, or download ones from the Steam Workshop. I have tutorials on how to do both.

Using the Space Shuttle's Tower (Optional)

If you are going to be using the Space Shuttle I built (search "Space Shuttle with Launch Pad and Tower" on the Workshop), you will need to know how to work the tower. Skip this section if you are using another shuttle.

Action group 1 retracts/attracts the Orbiter Access Arm. Action group 2 lifts/puts down the Beanie Cap. Action group 3 retracts/attracts the Oxygen Vent Arm. The 1st stage that will be activated will be the Firing Chain (made up of Sepretrons). Remember this.

Ignition and Liftoff

Now for the actual ignition and liftoff. With most space shuttles, the 1st stage will activate both the SSMEs and the SRBs. Some have the SSME ignition before the SRB ignition, just like real life. If you are using my Space Shuttle, the 1st stage will actually be the firing chain, then the SSME ignition, then the SRB ignition. When the SRBs ignite, the launch clamps should detach, and you will be on your way to space.

Low Atmosphere Flight

Once you have liftoff, the shuttle will most likely start moving forwards, when you want it to move back. You will have to pitch over a bit to correct this. When you have that corrected, you will want to continue to slowly pitch over, hitting a 45 degree angle when the boosters separate.

High Atmosphere Flight

After the boosters separate you want to start pitching over even slower. When your apoapsis hits the target altitude, you will want to start pitching down towards radial out (I think its radial out, please correct me if I am wrong) to start adding to the periapsis. When you finally get a periapsis, you want to cut the main engines. Don't forget to roll into a heads up position!


Once you have cut off the SSMEs, you will want to enable the RCS, jettison the External Tank, shutdown and lock the gimbals of the SSMEs (action group 4 if you are using my shuttle), and activate the OMS engines. Then coast to apoapsis, burn until the periapsis is at desired height, then cut throttle. Now you will want to open the payload bay doors and start generating power (action group 5). When your mission is done and you are ready to de-orbit, make a maneuver, aim for a runway, burn retrograde at maneuver, close the payload bay doors (action group 5), and begin the re-entry. Congratulations, you have made it to space in a Space Shuttle!

Written by mtgudger.