The game provides you with a station “Core.” The Core has the following capabilities:
-It can house one crewperson
-It can store food
-It can store water
-It can store oxygen
-It can generate electricity
It also has 8 “nodes” to which you can affix other structures (fore and aft, top and bottom, two port and two starboard).
You will start with no crew, which is fine, because you also start with nothing for any crew to do. You will be given an initial budget of 7500 million space buckaroos. That seems like a lot, but building in space is expensive.
For your station to start making income, you will need to get some crew aboard. This is done by building a Shuttle Dock. That crew will need a lab to do science in for space buckaroos to be generated. Each “Active” session in a lab will yield 10M space buckaroos.
Before you build a lab and a dock, though, beware: all structures are (with two exceptions) dead ends. You cannot connect a lab to a lab or a hab to a hab or a hab to a lab or anything else. So before you block all 8 nodes on your station Core, stop and think.
The two exceptions are Trusses and Nodes. Both of these have 6 docking nodes, though you’ll immediately use one of them to connect with the source node. You can build these out as far as needed. Both allow for the transfer of resources, but only Nodes allow for the transfer of crew.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
It is tempting in the early game to go big on solar arrays. Don’t do this! It’s easy in the later game to jettison small solar arrays and upgrade, but if you spend all your space buckaroos on medium arrays at the start of the game, you may find yourself with a well powered but otherwise useless station.
A note on crew capabilities
Crew members all demand their own bunk (no hot bunking), and will not EVA. There needs to be a route of nodes from A to B if you expect crew to get from A to B.