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My KSP career has stagnated. I can't get enough income from contracts to cover my launch costs. My per launch costs to LKO and back are 20-30k depending on payload size. Is there any way to get income other than through contracts?

Here's what I have to work with:

  • 39k in cash
  • Flight Control (and everything before it plus Advanced Rocketry)
  • EVAs from an astronaut training complex
  • Have never returned or transmitted EVA data from space
  • 37 research

I have very few contracts that will pay for a launch. I have more contract slots available, but no lucrative contracts available.

  • 64k to recover Herdun Kerman from a 100km circular orbit of Kerbin.
  • 124k to explore the Mun
  • 27k to transmit or recover science data from space around Kerbin.

A series of small catastrophes have depleted my surplus resources. An experimental orbiter left Jeb stranded in Kerbin orbit with no means to return. I recruited two more pilots who suffered similar fates. I dispatched first Camley Kerbin then Billy-Bobdrin Kerman to recover Herdun Kerman. Camley got within a couple kilometers multiple times before depleting his fuel reserves; he had to deorbit. While Camley was deorbiting, Billy-Bobdrin launched a follow-up mission to recover Herdun. Billy overshot his prograde burn at periapsis and couldn't match Herdun's orbit. In an effort to salvage Billy's launch, mission control directed him into a polar orbit to survey new biomes. Billy overcooked that burn as well and is stranded in an eternal Kerbin orbit serving as a warning to new pilots. This warning is apparently too severe; no new pilots are willing to sign on. When mission control was done with Billy they turned their attention back to Camley, but couldn't find him on tracking; it's presumed that Camley began his deorbit but never deployed his parachutes. In another serious blow, the contractor offering to pay for science data from space around Kerbin wouldn't pay for a recovered mystery goo observation made in LKO by engineer-turned-pilot Bill Kerman.

Is there any way to get income from a launch other than through contracts?

  • I seem to recall there is an emergency cash injection available as one of the "strategies". I think you spend some reputation and/or science for money. Then, keep quicksaving during missions, and if a mission really goes to bits - "revert to launch"! (And take note of things that stop you reverting - for example switching to a different vessel, I think.) – Grimm The Opiner Nov 7 '17 at 16:57
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Contracts are currently your only source of income in KSP*.

When you don't have any contracts you find profitable, you can reject any contracts you haven't accepted yet without a penalty. You should do so until you get some which are lucrative and easy to do.

Your best bet are "Test [part] in flight over Kerbin" contracts, which have a low height requirements. It is often possible to build a single vessel which can complete multiple of them with a single flight and then land near the KSC in one piece. When you recover the vessel at the KSC, you get a refund for almost the complete launch cost.

To secure your financial future in the long term, you should get a capsule with solar panels and an antenna into the orbit. When you have one, you can fulfill the "Return science data from Kerbin orbit" just by switching to the vessel, making a crew report (even when it is only worth 0.0 science) and transmitting it. The contract is repeatable indefinitely, so you can do this again and again to get unlimited money with zero effort.

*) Edit: OK, I lied. Contracts are not really the only one. You can also use the "Patent Licensing" strategy in the administration building to convert some of the science points you get into cash. But the transfer rate is so bad and the number of science points you need to pay to activate it is so high, that it is not a viable option to make lots of money, especially in the beginning. The only useful application for this strategy is when you already unlocked all parts and want at least some use for additional science points you make.

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    It's good to hear that the 0 science crew report will count. I've already figured out that solar panels (Electrics - 90 research) is the most important thing for me to get next. – Cirdec Dec 18 '14 at 18:42
  • Another method (I've heard, not tried this myself) is to deploy an empty fuel tank, ore container and ISRU converter to Kerbin. Drill, convert to fuel, then recover the vessel once it's full. Since you get more money for recovering closer to the launch facility, and money for the fuel, you may end up with more money than the vessel cost to launch. I might try this if I ever go back to playing Career mode again. (Once I maximized the science tree, I manually converted the game to sandbox.) – Tim S. May 31 '17 at 15:40
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I realize this is an older thread, but there is another cheaper, yet more time consuming (maybe) solution -- that is to accept only the "landed" contracts. I did this for quite a while until I had enough money to build a plane that could do the visual survey missions (then I made millions on those over time).

Just cancel (don't accept then cancel, because there's a penalty) but you can reject contracts you don't want, and I noticed that if you keep rejecting the same one, you often get a repeat, so bounce around and reject different contracts, and eventually you'll get a "test X while landed at kerbin" contract. Because you don't launch, you get 100% of the funds back.

Also, if you're testing an engine, you can right click on the engine and set the fuel amount to 0, so it costs less and you don't have to worry about accidentally launching your likely-no-parachute rocket into the air.

Once you have enough to build a stable spaceplane, I'd recommend the visual survey missions. As I said I made millions on them in just an hour or so, and if I recall correctly, they usually grant a small amount of science too. Just plan them out so that they're relatively close together so you can complete two contracts in one mission. If you suck at landing them, just put a couple radial parachutes near your center of mass and viola... recover the plane when complete.

Update There is now a default of -1 reputation penalty for declining a contract (which is what I suggested above in order to refresh the contract list to get new contracts). When creating a new game, I disabled this functionality so it resembles the original circumstances.

  • I was under the distinct impression that there is no penalty for canceling a contract before its due date. The penalty only applies if the date lapses and you have failed to complete the contract. – Adam Smith Sep 1 '15 at 23:37
  • There's also a penalty for cancelling an accepted contract. There is no penalty for declining a contract that's offered to you that you don't want to even attempt though. – Tim S. Sep 2 '15 at 2:08
  • Ah maybe that was my confusion – Adam Smith Sep 4 '15 at 16:29
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    In a recent update -- this is no longer the case. There is now, by default, a -1 reputation penalty for declining a contract (so a new one would surface). I turned this off on my game, the only custom setting. – Tim S. Apr 1 '16 at 0:40
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With 1.0 there is another method of making money. I like to call it...

Drilling for Oil

Warning, this is much more boring than building and flying spaceships for money.

Requires

  • Enough science to unlock
    • Ore drill
    • Ore storage tank
    • Ore converter
  • Venture Capital - can be acquired from a long to complete mission that gives you lots of money up front and hopefully you make enough money to offset the failure costs

To Implement

Build a ship with the 3 above items (it is good to put many drills on in order to keep the converter running at 100%) also put on an incredible amount of solar panels and monopropellant storage tank(s) - make sure you empty the monopropellant tank(s) before launching. Also it will need a probe core or a Kerbal in a capsule to control it.

After launching, deploy the drills and solar panels, start ore harvesting and start converting to monopropellant.

Now that you are drilling, hit the fast forward button until your monopropellant tanks are full.

After they are full hit the recovery button for your ship annnnnd Voila extra cash without leaving the launch pad.

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