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To Boldly Go, Pt. 1: The Basics of Kerbal Space Program for Active Learning

Written by Jacob Moffitt | Find me on: LinkedIn


Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space. -Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Space is still big news, that much hasn't changed. SpaceX recently experienced a string of high-publicity successes with their Falcon reuseable booster, and NASA has recently begun testing Bigelow Aerospace's BEAM inflatable habitats on the International Space Station. Commander Scott Kelly, along with his identical twin brother, Commander Mark Kelly, have both participated in the first experiment to test the effects of long-term space travel on humans, with Scott staying on board the ISS for a year to discover what kinds of hurdles that humanity must jump over to live among the stars.

What has changed, though, is that Kerbal Space Program, the planet's favorite space program simulator, has experienced several updates since its release in 2015. Just recently, version 1.1 of KSP was released, featuring various bug fixes and additional improvements to the KSP we know and love.  More importantly, the KSP engine was completely overhauled and upgraded to Unity 5, allowing users to run the game on a 64-bit binary. Simply put, this means better performance, an improved ability to mod the game (and run more mods at once), and improved stability. As a side effect, many of the mods described in our previous KSP guide were out of date, so we've not only updated the links, but expanded the content here to better show KSP in action on the wePresent.

In this first entry of To Boldly Go, we'll go over the basics of KSP, installing Telemachus, and displaying KSP on your wePresent wireless presentation system, as well as some additional mods you might want to consider playing with. If you've already given yourself the crash course before, or you're a KSP pro, our next blog in this series will give you ideas on how to create KSP missions your class can use.

Now, there’s a lot meat to this subject. Rocket science isn’t something that can be taught in a day. Luckily, spaceflight in Kerbal Space Program isn’t incredibly difficult. There’s a lot of room for error, so when mistakes are made, the worst case scenario is a spectacular crash.

Things You'll Need:

  • A wePresent wireless presentation gateway. (We recommend the WiPG-2000, or the WiPG-1600)
  • One copy of Kerbal Space Program*, as well as one Wi-Fi-enabled computer capable of playing it. (Available on the KSP website, Steam, and GOG.com)
    • In the absence of a Wi-Fi-enabled computer, consider the SharePod as a way of mirroring the display from your Pilot machine.
  • A copy of the free Telemachus mod for KSP, by nebakenezer*.
  • Enough tablets, laptops, phones, and other Wi-Fi devices capable of navigating a simple web browser for your different stations of mission control.

Everything always looks calm from the inside.

The Nuts and Bolts

First of all, let's get some common terminology going for the devices we'll be using.

  • Pilot - This will be the computer that runs Kerbal Space Program and Telemachus. Below, we'll make sure that all the other devices are capable of connecting to it. If you choose to display the Pilot machine on your wePresent, it will either need to be Wi-Fi-enabled, or use a SharePod.
  • Command Stations - Each of the various command stations will fulfill a different function, according to what the mission requires. These stations are configurable through the web client for Telemachus, and able to be named for easy reference. We recommend using shortened, NASA-style names (CAPCOM, FIDO, BOOSTER, RETRO, FLIGHTCOM), since longer names can often make clicking certain options impossible in Telemachus.
  • Mission Control - This will be the display your devices will all be mirrored to, but we'll also use it to refer to the computer running the Conference Control panel.

Now it's time to open up the hood of our virtual rocket ship and start tinkering with the things we find underneath. We'll need to install the Telemachus mod, then make sure our network is capable. Let's get started...

Install the Telemachus Mod

Once you've downloaded the Telemachus mod, installation is pretty easy. What you'll need to do is navigate to your Kerbal Space Program folder where your game is installed. You'll find these locations below, so either copy/paste the location into your file browser, or navigate through the necessary folders to get there.

  • Windows 32-bit: C:\Program Files\Steam\SteamApps\common\Kerbal Space Program
  • Windows 64-bit: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\Kerbal Space Program
  • Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/Steam/SteamApps/common/Kerbal Space Program
  • Linux**: ~/Steam/ or ~/.local/share/Steam/SteamApps/common/Kerbal Space Program

If you installed Kerbal Space Program via Steam, you can also follow the below directions to find your installation folder. The following instructions will work on either the PC or Mac Steam Clients.

  1. Go to your Steam Library.
  2. Scroll down until you see the entry for Kerbal Space Program. Right-click the title of the game.
  3. On the pop-up menu, select "Properties".
  4. Select the tab named "Local Files".
  5. Click the button marked "Browse Local Files".

Once you've navigated to the folder, simply extract the .ZIP file you downloaded into the main directory. This should copy Telemachus directly to your Game Data directory. To confirm the mod is installed, navigate to the Game Data directory and verify you have a folder named "Telemachus". It may be necessary to move the Telemachus folder into the Game Data folder after you unzip it, but you shouldn't have to do anything more difficult than that.

Making it to the Mun is the first step toward conquering the rest of the Kerbin system.

Let Telemachus Talk to the Outside World

This part of using the Telemachus mod can get a little tricky for enterprise networks, or those with many security protocols. If you're an educator, we recommend talking to your campus IT office if you have any problems opening the Telemachus interface from other machines. While using KSP with the wePresent is as easy as mirroring your screen, setting up Telemachus can be a little tricker. Basically, Telemachus is going to set up a small server that runs the webpage where the telemetry data is set. You may need to forward port 8085 at the router, in order to route any requests to the machine, or you may see about setting up a small internal redirect page.

A station in orbit is truly an achievment in KSP...docking a Single-Stage-To-Orbit craft is doubly so...

That said, Telemachus can be tricky to get working, but follow this list and you can at least rule out the common causes.

  • Windows Firewall setup to allow Kerbal Space Program through port 8085.
  • External firewall setup to allow KSP through port 8085 on the internal network.
  • Port 8085 forwarded from access point to computer running Telemachus.

Please note that in order to get a signal from Telemachus, you have to open the antenna that is attached to your ship in KSP and select "Open Link". You'll substitute the "" with whatever your IP is on the internal network when giving the link to others, though. If you don't know your IP on the internal network, follow the insructions below to find it.

Finding Pilot's IP on Windows 10, 8.1, and 7

1) Navigate to your Control Panel and open the Network and Sharing Center.
2) In the left-hand menu, click "Change adapter settings".
3) You will see a window listing all your network connections currently active on your Windows machine. Double-click the adapter (Wireless or Ethernet) that connects to the same network as your Mission Control and Command Station devices.
4) Click the Details button.
5) Your IP will be listed under IPv4 Address in the menu.

Here are 4 ways to find your IP on a Windows machine if that didn't work for you.

Finding Pilot's IP on MacOS 10.x

1) Click the System Preferences icon in the toolbar. It will look like a gear in a square box. Alternately, click the Apple icon in the top left corner, then select System Prefences from the drop-down.
2) Click Network.
3) Your IP will be listed next to IP Address.

Once you have your IP, make sure and keep it safe. It may be necessary to set up a static IP on some networks to make sure that your Pilot machine doesn't get booted off between sessions.

Telemachus may work across subnets, depending on how they're configured, but it is also possible to set up a simple redirect page and forward Telemachus data to it. This is a bit beyond the scope of this tutorial, but your friendly IT professional might be able to help you forward the Telemachus control panel to a more accessible spot.

What goes up real fast must also come down real fast...an explosion followed this record-setting suborbital flight.

Command Stations: A Brief Overview and Guide

Now it's time to connect the Pilot with the Command Stations, and this is where Telemachus really makes Kerbal Space Program a lot of fun in groups. Before you do this, it might be a good idea to set up your Command Station pages with all the relevant data they'll be monitoring and rename them. In my opinion, the stock pages relay a lot of good data, but are intended for a single player using multiple devices. You'll be able to specialize the pages a little better for your various Command Stations by taking some time to look them over beforehand, which will also let you work out any kinks in your network setup as well.

1) Open Kerbal Space Program, and build a rocket with the Telemachus antenna part attached. It's not necessary to start a new game or anything, the easiest way to do this is to start a new sandbox game by clicking "Start Game", then "Start New", and then making sure the "Sandbox" option is checked and clicking "Start".

Once you're in the game, just go to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)...

...click the Open icon at the top right corner...

...and select one of the stock ships to attach the antenna to.

The Telemachus Antenna part will be in the Science tab. There's two different Telemachus antenna, the only real difference being that one folds up during launch...

while the other just kinda juts out (and makes it look like the Kerbal in the cockpit might be watching an old 1950's CRT television while they await liftoff).

Just attach either antenna to the ship...

...and then hit the "Launchpad" button.

Make sure you attach it to the command pod or cockpit of the vehicle you'll be launching. If you attach it to a stage, and then jettison that stage, you'll lose the data-link. This can be a bit scary when you're in the middle of talking to ORBCOM about the de-orbit you're currently attempting, which you now have to do blind.

2) Right-click the Telemachus antenna while the vehicle is sitting on the launchpad. This will open a small contextual window that will enable you to turn on/off the Telemachus data feed, as well as open a link to the Telemachus control panel.

3) Click "Open Link". The game will minimize and open your default browser to the main Telemachus page.

We'll go over all of those briefly next, but the readouts you'll need to change/rename will be under Graphs and Tables. Simply click the arrow next to the menu, then click the Open button.

From here, you'll be able to change any graph with a menu bar icon next to it...

...and you can change the numerical telemetry data readouts on the right by using the drop-down menus underneath the data.

Once you've made your data readouts a bit more navigable, Click "Save Layout", put in the new name, and you're ready to fly!

Repeat as many times as you need to in order to make individual Command Stations. You may want to have each student in charge of an individual Command Station, or you may want to put groups in charge of each one. Frankly, we recommend groups, as it helps when one student can interpret the data, one can relay messages to the Pilot, and one can do any research, math, or other relevant activities required.

Connecting the Pilot, Command Stations, and Mission Control

Alright, so you've got Telemachus installed, checked to make sure it's running, and then added the necessary command stations. Now we can connect each Command Station device 

First, you'll need to make sure Kerbal Space Program is running, and then open the Telemachus page in a browser on each Command Station. To do this, you'll need the IP of the Pilot machine (which we found in the first step, after we installed the Telemachus mod), which we'll input into the browser, directed to port 8085. For example, if the IP of your Pilot machine was, you'd enter "" into the address bar of your browser, which should open the main Telemachus page. If you're seeing the page, everything is working as it should! If not, make sure you're entering "http" instead of "https" in the address bar. Most times, this will resolve the problem.

It's also possible that Telemachus is addressing a different port than 8085. In this case, all you need to do is click the "Open Link" button from the Telemachus Antenna contextual menu again, and then note the IP that the Telemachus control panel defaults to. Make sure all your attached machines are still connecting to the Pilot via that port.

Now, it's time to give each Command Station a job. There are a lot of different data displays you can use in the Graphs and Tables section, and we'll talk more about splitting jobs between your Command Stations using that section in a later blog. By default, though, you've got plenty to choose from.

Kerbal Maps uses a Google Maps-type API to display the location of your ship on Kerbin (and possibly other planets in the future). The Telemachus API actually outputs mapping data that you can use to display maps using other programs...but we'll get to that in a later blog.

D-Pad gives you a very basic way to use a tablet, phone, or other touchscreen as a control. Note: In order for Telemachus to be compatible with a UoIP touchscreen, the connected device must be a PC or Mac. Mobile devices won't interpret touch input from your SMART Board or other multi-touch displays. But it is possible!

Touchball Pitch, Yaw, and Roll will allow more touch input for controlling your vehicle, though it's limited to those axes. While it works on tablets and phones, the same caveat about touchscreens from above applies.

Basic Flight Control gives you simple button controls for your throttle, staging, action groups, and other functions.

Smart A.S.S. gives you limited ability to feed data into a MechJeb device, available through a separate mod. MechJeb allows you to automate your vehicle, to some extent.

Speech Commands is currently in testing, but supports a few very basic commands to show the capabilities of the API. You likely won't be using this in front of a classroom, but it's cool to have.

Now that you've got your individual command stations pulled up, it's time to stream the data to the wePresent. The way I like to do it (to make it feel like a real Mission Control Room) is to use QuadScreen Display and show four devices at a time, but if that's not practical for you, feel free to mirror one device at a time, or to stick with the Pilot machine on the main display.

On a PC or Mac, mirroring a device is super easy. Simply open your MirrorOp app and find your Mission Control wePresent...

...press the Connect button next to it and enter the code...


...Select whether you'd like a quadrant or a full screen...



...and then mirror your screen to the wePresent.

On an iOS or Android device, you'll need to use the MirrorOp Presenter's browser. Open MirrorOp Presenter, then tap "Browser"...

...tap the address bar, and put in the address of the pilot machine. The Telemachus page will pull up...

...allowing you to enter whatever Telemachus menu you'd like to use. On tablets and phones, thought, the Basic Flight Control menu can be a little wonky, and the Touchball Pitch, Yaw, and Roll menue takes a bit of getting used to.

A note on AirPlay: Currently, with the way AirPlay works, you can use the Safari browser while streaming to a wePresent with AirPlay. However, this will not allow the device to be conference controlled, and it cannot be show in QuadScreen Display mode.

And that's it! You're ready to go! The wePresent itself should stream at about 30 FPS, depending on what kind of traffic your internal network is seeing, which means you'll get to command launches in real time while you're watching them. Here's all our quadrants set up to monitor an orbital manuever to rendezvous with the moon.

Clockwise, starting from left: Windows 7 PC running KSP, iPad 2, iPhone 5s, and MacBook Pro.
(Note how the "Guidance, Navigation, and Control" page glitches, making it unable to switch back and forth. You can avoid this bug by renaming the page.)

With wePresent set up in conference mode, a moderator (such as the teacher or a mission commander) can set the main display up however they'd like, putting the main screen from relevant teams on the projector, as in the previous image, or using the built-in annotation and whiteboard functions.


This is always handy at the end of a mission, when you can put the pilot's view on the main screen, and the entire ground crew can revel in their moment of victory. 


We're not quite done yet, but we've already given you a lot to digest, haven't we? Don't worry. We'll talk a bit more about the ways you can use Kerbal Space Program in the classroom, including a look at Kerbal EDU, the education-centered version of the program, how to use scenarios to teach lessons about different concepts in spaceflight and physics, and other mods you might look into to broaden the depth of your Kerbal Space Program experience in the classroom.

In the mean time, fly high, and don't forget to pack a parachute!

No, really, don't forget.

Additional Information

Kerbal Space Program Wiki - All the information about KSP you could ask for, including links to mods.

Curse - Home of a few mods that might make your education experience a little more fun, eye-pleasing, or, you know, educational. A few examples are

  • MechJeb (Curse) - If your pilot is inexperienced, or you would rather more time be given to specific orbital manuevers, MechJeb is a programmable autopilot that can literally get you into orbit at the press of a button.
  • Kerbal Engineer (Curse) - Displays relevant information such as specific impulse, thrust-weight ratio, and other numbers you didn't yet know you needed.
  • Raster Prop Monitor (Curse) - This mod will give your pilot a lot more instrumentation, as well as external cameras. If you're playing with an isolated or remote pilot who is locked into IVA view, like these guys did, this mod will give your pilot a bit more to do.
  • Interstellar Extended (Curse)  - Adds interstellar travel, complete with a new tech tree for FTL travel.

YouTube - Two notable YouTubers who produce a lot of educational KSP content are DasValdez of Kerbal Space Academy and Scott Manley. While DasValdez approaches the subject as an educator, Scott Manley tends toward "what happens when you press this button?" Both make excellent companion viewing for a space-themed teaching with Kerbal Space Program. I highly recommend watching DasValdez's bootcamp on KSP.

 What would you like to see next as we explore the world of educational games and software? Let us know via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

Join the Conversation on Social Media!

*Note: Telemachus' official version hasn't yet been updated to run with KSP 1.1.x, but the modder who created this awesome addition to KSP was kind enough to share the newest WIP build. If the latest release of Telemachus isn't working on your fully-updated KSP install, please send us a tweet @wepresentwifi or email jacob@wepresentwifi.com so we can change the information presented here.
**If you are using KSP on a Linux machine, remember that no native Linux app exists, and therefore a SharePod would be necessary.

Topics: Smart Classrooms , Interactive classrooms , Interactive learning , Classroom technology , wePresent Features , whiteboard , virtual whiteboard , collaboration

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