Rockets & Launch Vehicles - Selection & Design

Course length:

4 Days



Course dates

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This four-day course provides an overview of rockets and missiles, including a fourth day covering advanced selection and design processes. The course provides a wide practical knowledge in rocket and missile issues and technologies. The seminar is designed for engineers, supporting disciplines, decision makers and managers of current and future projects needing a more complete understanding of the complex issues of rocket and missile technology. The seminar provides a foundation for understanding the issues that must be decided in the design, use, regulation, selection, and development of rocket systems of the future. You will learn a wide spectrum of problems, solutions, and choices in the technology of rockets and missile used for both military and civil purposes. The seminar is taught to the point-of-view of a decision maker needing the technical knowledge to make better informed choices in the multi-discipline world of rockets and missiles. The class provides what you need to know about how rockets and missiles work, why they are build the way they are, what they are used for and how they differ from use to use. You will learn how rockets and missiles differ when used as weapons, as launch vehicles, and in spacecraft or satellites. The objective is to give the decision maker all the tools needed to understand the available choices, and to manage or work with other technical experts of different specialized disciplines. Attendees will receive a complete set of notes used during the class. These notes will be an excellent future reference for anyone in the aerospace business.


What You Will Learn:

  • Fundamentals of rocket and missile systems, functions, and disciplines
  • The full spectrum of rocket systems, uses and technologies
  • Optimum Selection and Design strategies
  • Fundamentals and uses of solid, liquid and hybrid rocket systems
  • Differences between weapons systems and those built for commerce

Who Should Attend:

  • Engineers, Managers, and Specialists in all aspects of Rocket Design, Fabrication, Operation and Selection.
  • Government and Aerospace decision makers
  • Those working with, or supporting, Rocket projects and Programs

Course Outline:

  1. Introduction to Rockets and Missiles– The student is introduced to the historic context and practical applications of various types of rocket systems.
  2. Classifications of Rockets and Missiles– The classifications, terminology, and uses for various types of rocket systems are presented.
  3. Rocket Propulsion Fundamentals– The chemistry and physics of all rockets and rocket nozzles operate to achieve thrust is explained. Rocket performance modeling is introduced.
  4. Rocket Environments– The flight environments of rockets, such as acceleration, aero/plume heating, mechanical shock, and vibration are presented. The imposed ground handling loads and pre-launch environmental hazards are also discussed.
  5. Aerodynamics and Winds– The effect of winds, atmospheric density, and flight velocity on lift, drag, and dynamic pressure is explained. Rocket shape, stability and venting are discussed.
  6. Performance Analysis and Staging– The use of performance modeling and loss factors are defined. Staging theory for multi-stage rockets are explained.
  7. Mass Properties and Propellant Selection– The relative importance of specific impulse, density, temperature, storability, ignition properties, stability, toxicity, material compatibility, and ullage are explained. Monopropellant and cold gas propellants are introduced.
  8. Introduction to Solid Rocket Motors– The historical and technological aspects of Solid Rocket Motors is explored. Solid rocket materials, propellants, thrust-profiles, construction, cost advantages and special applications are explained.
  9. Fundamentals of Hybrid Rockets– The characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages of solid-liquid hybrid rocket systems are discussed.
  10. Liquid Rocket Engines– Pressure and pump-fed liquid rocket engines are explained, including injectors, cooling, chamber construction, pump cycles, ignition and thrust vector control.
  11. Introducing the Liquid Rocket Stage – Liquid rocket stages are introduced, including tank systems, pressurization, cryogenics, and other structures
  12. Thrust Vector Control– Thrust Vector Control system types, characteristics, and practical considerations for keeping a rocket vehicle on a desired trajectory are explained.
  13. Basic Rocket Avionics– Flight electronics elements of Guidance, Navigation, Control, Communications, Telemetry, Range Safety, and Payloads are defined.
  14. Modern Expendable Launch Vehicles– Good expendable launch vehicle design characteristics are identified, with examples of alternative design features.
  15. Rockets in Spacecraft Propulsion– The differences between systems on spacecraft, satellites and transfer stages, operating in microgravity, are examined.
  16. Launch Sites and Operations– The role and purpose of launch sites, and the choices available for a launch operations infrastructure, is explored.
  17. Useful Orbits & Trajectories Made Simple– A simplified presentation of orbital mechanics, for the understanding rocket propulsion in orbital trajectories and maneuvers, is provided.
  18. Safety of Rocket Systems– The hazards, risks, and practical mitigation measures in rocket launch operations are examined.
  19. Reliability of Rocket Systems– Reliability, and strategies to improve reliability, are discussed, including random and systematic failures, reliability environments, quality, robustness, and redundancy.
  20. Reusable Launch Vehicle Theory– Fully and partially Reusable Launch Vehicle characteristics are introduced, with a focus on analyzing the costs of recovery and reuse of the various launch vehicle elements.
  21. Rocket Cost Principles – Cost estimation methods of modeling launch systems and strategies for cost reduction. Integrated modeling and the role of incentives are introduced.
  22. Chemical Rocket Propulsion Alternatives– Alternatives to chemical rocket propulsion includes air breathing, nuclear, thermal, cannons, and tethers are explored.
  23. Proliferation of Missile Technology– Foreign missile threat assessment, and issues surrounding the proliferation of enabling missile technologies.
  24. The Future of Rockets and Missiles– The current trends and potential direction of rocket technology, usage, and regulations.
  25. Selecting and Designing Launch Vehicles.– The launch vehicle optimization processes for both the designing and selecting a launch vehicles for a given space mission. Design/selection rationale includes time and circumstances of launch requirements, and other reasons for choosing a particular launch system.
  26. The Goals and Incentives of Launch Vehicle Design– Setting goals and incentives for a success project. Goals and incentives of the past explain future successes and failures


Daniel J. Moser, Founder, President and Chief Technical Officer of an engineering consultant firm has a B.S. in Physics, and M.E. in Mechanical Engineering, University of Utah. Mr. Moser has been an engineer, innovator, and entrepreneur in the aerospace industry for over 35 years. Previously employed by Beal Aerospace Technologies (Director of Engineering), Raytheon-Electronic Systems (Chief Composites Engineer), ALCOA-FiberTek (Project Engineer), and EDO-Fiber Science (Project/Test Engineer), he has also founded and operated two composites-based businesses: Utah Rocketry (1993-1997), and Compositex, Inc. (2000-present). He has extensive experience in designing and developing launch vehicles, liquid rocket propulsion systems, ablatively-cooled thrust chambers/nozzles, filament-wound composite vessels (liquid propellant tanks, high-pressure gas storage vessels, solid rocket motorcases, and crash-worthy external aircraft fuel tanks), wings, control surfaces, fuselages, radomes, spars, missile tail fins, bulkheads, reentry heat shields, and landing gear. Compositex, Inc. customers include NASA-Marshall, NASA-Ames, NASA-Johnson, Air Force Research Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University-Applied Physics Laboratory, Air Launch LLC, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, KT Engineering, Rocketdyne, DARPA, Exxon-Mobil, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin.


Edward L. Keith is a multi-discipline Launch Vehicle System Engineer, specializing in integration of launch vehicle technology, design, modeling and business strategies. He is currently an independent consultant, writer and teacher of rocket system and space mission technology. He is experienced in launch vehicle operations, design, testing, business analysis, risk reduction, modeling, safety and reliability. Mr. Keith’s experience extends to both reusable and expendable launch vehicles, as well as to solid, liquid and hybrid rocket systems. Mr. Keith has designed complete rocket engines, rocket vehicles, small propulsion systems, and composite propellant tank systems, especially designed for low cost. His travels have taken him to Russia, China, Australia and other launch operations centers throughout the world. Mr. Keith has worked the Space Launch Initiative and the Liquid Fly-Back Booster programs for Boeing, originated the Scorpius Program for Microcosm, worked on the Brilliant Eyes and the Advanced Solid Rocket Motor Programs for Rockwell and worked on the Aerojet Launch Detection Satellite program. He also has 13-years of government experience including five years working launch operations at Vandenberg AFB. Mr. Keith has written 22 technical papers and two textbooks on various aspects of space transportation over the last three decades.


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