Design of Space Launch Vehicles – Online Short Course (Starts March 6, 2023) 6 March - 12 April 2023 Online

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Instructor: Don Edberg, Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Cal Poly Pomona & Adjunct Lecturer, Astronautical Engineering, University of Southern California (USC)

  • From March 6 – April 12, 2023 (6 Weeks, 12 Lectures, 30 Hours)
  • Every Monday and Wednesday at 1100-1330 (11:00am-1:30pm) Eastern Time; 0800-1030 Pacific Time (all sessions will be recorded and available for replay; course notes will be available for download)
  • This comprehensive course focuses on the application of numerous engineering disciplines to the design and analysis of launch vehicles, including many practical applications not found elsewhere
  • Course includes over 1500 pages of course notes, many illustrative application examples of existing or heritage hardware, and optional practice exercises to enhance the learning experience
  • Includes an eBook copy of the instructor’s 1000+ page AIAA textbook “Design of Rockets and Space Launch Vehicles.” for all registrants
  • All students will receive an AIAA Certificate of Completion at the end of the course

This course presents a coherent and comprehensive treatment of the fundamental principles involved with the interdisciplinary design of launch vehicles. It is recommended for anyone who is interested in a comprehensive introduction to all of the principles and aspects of launch vehicle design and development, including engineers of all types – systems, aerodynamics, controls, structures, dynamics, thermal analysis, propulsion, reliability, manufacturing, as well as researchers, mission designers, technical managers, and both undergraduate and graduate students. This course provides a survey of the material in the instructor’s AIAA textbook “Design of Rockets and Space Launch Vehicles (2020), with additional materials on current topics such as vehicle reusability and small launch vehicles.

What You Will Learn:  Key Course Topics

  • Technical history of launch vehicles (LVs)
  • Current LVs and new developments
  • Mission requirements and top-level performance analysis for LVs
  • Velocity calculation including gravity, drag, and other losses
  • Propulsion systems: liquid, solid, and hybrid. Engine cycles, system performance, critical parameters
  • LV performance estimation including series & parallel staging, vehicle trade-off ratios
  • Vehicle equations of motion with aerodynamic loads, including trajectory simulations; launch optimization including lofting and other techniques
  • LV structure types and materials including aluminum, Al-Li, composites
  • LV internal layouts, tank and vehicle sizing, and mass properties including center of mass and inertias
  • Vehicle aerodynamics, ground and ascent loads including example Saturn V loads analysis
  • LV stress calculations related to wind loads, internal pressurization, strength, and structural stability
  • Vibration, shock, acoustic, and thermal environments
  • Vehicle stability and control
  • Instabilities including flexible body effects, Pogo, propellant sloshing; structural, and propulsion instabilities
  • Manufacturing processes for both metallic and composite structures, vehicle assembly
  • On-board LV systems including propellant delivery and conditioning, power, control, telemetry, and launch pad facilities, lightning protection, vehicle restraint systems
  • Testing: wind tunnel, structural, vibration, acoustics, propulsion, and more
  • A sampling of LV failures and lessons learned
  • Reliability of LVs and range safety
  • LV development and operations cost estimation

See Detailed Outline Below

Who Should Attend
This course is intended for engineers of all types – aerodynamics, controls, structures, propulsion, reliability, manufacturing, systems, as well as researchers, mission designers, technical managers, and both undergraduate and graduate students, who want to enhance their understanding of the fundamental principles of the design and operation of space launch vehicles. This introductory course focuses on the basic physical concepts and mathematics utilized in the preliminary design and analysis of launch vehicles including many practical aspects not found elsewhere.

Course Fees
AIAA Member Price: $1,295 USD
Non-Member Price: $1,495 USD
AIAA Student Member Price: $695 USD

Classroom hours / CEUs: 30 classroom hours / 3.0 CEU

Cancellation Policy: A refund less a $50.00 cancellation fee will be assessed for all cancellations made in writing prior to 10 days before the start of the event. After that time, no refunds will be provided.

Contact: Please contact Lisa Le or Customer Service if you have questions about the course or group discounts (for 5+ participants).


Course Outline (Timeline is approximate):



(numbers) refer to chapter number in the book “Design of Rockets and Space Launch Vehicles”



(1) Launch vehicle (LV) introduction: anatomy of a LV, launch & ascent phases. Launch sites & space industry. Market & need for LVs.
(2) Technical history of rocketry & LVs: early events, WWII, the Cold War, ICBMs.



(2) History of LVs (cont.): moon race, space shuttle, oddities. Current & future LVs.

(3) Requirements and missions. Orbits & trajectories: due east, direct orbits, polar, sun-synch, Molniya. Launch energy, launch azimuth angle calculation, launch windows, orbit injection & shutdown conditions.



(4) Propulsion. Exhaust speed, mass flow, calculation of thrust & ∆v. Solid motors: grain, thrust profiles. Liquid engines: room-temp vs. cryogenic propellants. Hypergolics. Mixture ratios, performance, specific impulse. Engine thrust-to-weight ratio. Aerospike engines, hybrid rockets.



(5) Launch vehicle parameters & performance. The three categories of LV mass. SSTO & benefits of staging. Four types of staging, including series & parallel. Optimal staging with losses. All hydrogen-fuel Saturn V? Propellant crossfeeding? LV design sensitivities: where is the best place to improve performance?



(6) Powered flight through atmosphere. LV aerodynamics. Moving vehicle coordinate system, local horizon frame, launch site motion. Buoyancy! Gravity & drag loss. The gravity-turn trajectory. Other types of guidance. Numerical integration to trajectory analysis.



(6 cont.) LV trajectory optimization: Newton & first optimization problem. Conflict between gravity & drag/thermal loads. Lofting. LV trajectory examples: Delta, Saturn, Shuttle, Ariane, others.

(7) LV structure examples: Thor evolution to Delta, Saturns, Space Shuttle. Payload accommodations, fairing, attach fitting. Structure types: skin & stringer, sandwich, isogrid/orthogrid. Materials: metallics (Al, Al-Li, Ti, Steel) & composites (Gr-epoxy, fiberglass, aramid). Property variations with temperature.



(8) LV inboard profile. Initial sizing by ∆v & specific impulse including “real-life” additions for startup, ullage, thermal contraction. Tank geometry: diameter & dome shape. Engine selection. Mass estimation. Calculation of Center of Mass and mass moments of inertia. Two-stage to orbit detailed example.



(9) Loads: transportation (handling/road/rail/ship/plane), effective load from distributed loads, ground winds on pad, in-flight aerodynamic & inertial forces during trimmed flight at max-q. Graph of normal loads. Calculation of distribution of moments, shears, axial loads. Detailed Saturn V example. Load curve rules-of-thumb. Measuring atmospheric winds, Jimsphere. Load relief during launch.

(10) Stress terminology. Cylinder analysis. Stress due to axial & bending loads. Allowable stress based on stability/buckling. 7 ways to improve stability. Internal stresses due to aero loads. Benefits of internal pressure, thermal effects.



(10 cont.) Hydrostatic head, geysering. Overall stress state & required thickness calculation for tanks, skirts, adapters, interstage.

(11) Launch environment: vibration, shock, acoustics, thermal loading. Startups, cutoffs. Explosive/ordnance & non-explosive separations. Payload fairing separation dynamics. Payload separation via clamp bands. The payload’s environment, pyro shocks. Acoustics: ignition overpressure, liftoff and max-air acoustics, acoustic suppression. Thermal environment from aero heating, plume radiation. Thermal protection systems. Spacecraft structural design verification, coupled-loads analysis. Payload isolation, acoustics, thermal.



(12) Guidance, stability & control. Guidance & navigation vs. attitude control. Attitude determination. Stability & control: how to stabilize unstable vehicle. Flight control system elements. Thrust-vector controlled (TVC) vehicle equations of motion. Vehicle tank positioning. LV block diagrams, transfer functions. Intro to complex variables & root locus diagrams. Wind gust response. Instabilities from LV flexibility, “tail-wags-dog,” sloshing, pogo, resonant burn.



(13) Manufacturing. Conventional & friction-stir welding. Fabrication of tanks, connecting structure. Composite layups, fabrication techniques. The future: 3D/additive printing. Stacking.

(14) LV systems: propellant loading & conditioning. Pressurization systems, hydraulics, thrust-vector control. Avionics, data systems, electrical, telemetry basics. Ordnance & separation systems. Launch pad facilities: umbilicals, swing arms, propellant loading, lightning protection, vehicle hold-downs. Acoustic suppression.



(15) Testing: ground & flight wind tunnel, structure, vibration, acoustic testing. Radio-frequency/RF & software testing. Hot gas & plume testing. Redundancy, reliability, k-out-of-n systems.

(16) Failure examples & lessons learned. Most common failures, case studies. Five mistakes to look for. Flight termination systems, range safety. Best practices to avoid failures.

(17) LV Financial analysis, project management, cost estimation. Design decision-making, cost engineering, cost-estimating relationships, inflation. Recommendations & Atlas V cost example. Software cost. Fallacy of “cost per pound” or “per kg”. Propellant costs.


Course Delivery and Materials

  • Includes an eBook copy of the instructor’s AIAA textbook “Design of Rockets and Space Launch Vehicles” for all registrants. Note that, as part of the AIAA Education Series, the book can be read online or offline but cannot be downloaded.
  • The course classes will be delivered via Zoom. You can test your connection here:
  • Access to the Zoom classroom will be provided to registrants near the course start date.
  • All slides will be available for download. No part of these materials may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted, unless for course participants. All rights reserved.
  • Between lectures during the course, the instructors will be available via email for technical questions and comments.

AIAA Associate Fellow and former Boeing Technical Fellow Don Edberg has been teaching aerospace vehicle design since 2001 at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (CPP); he also holds part-time positions at USC and UCLA. He is co-author of the course textbook Design of Rockets and Space Launch Vehicles, published in 2020.CPP student design teams he has advised have placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd over 20 times in AIAA student design competitions in Missile Systems, Space Transportation Systems, Spacecraft Design, and Aircraft Design. At CPP, he has received the Provost’s Excellence in Teaching award, College of Engineering’s Outstanding Teaching and Outstanding Advisor awards, and the Northrop Grumman Faculty Teaching award. He has presented short courses in launch vehicle and spacecraft design to several NASA centers, the National Transportation Safety Board, Northrop Grumman, Boeing Satellite Systems, and several smaller aerospace businesses. He was a Technical Fellow at Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, where he authored or co-authored ten US patents, and received the Silver Eagle award from McDonnell Douglas as Chief Engineer on the STABLE active microgravity vibration isolation system that successfully flew on STS-73 shuttle mission. He has also worked at Convair, AeroVironment (where he was the chief engineer on the electric-powered, back-packable FQM-151 Pointer UAV), JPL, NASA Ames, NASA MSFC, and US Air Force Research Lab. He received a B.A. in Applied Mechanics from the UC San Diego, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Aeronautical and Astronautical Sciences from Stanford. He is an Eminent Engineer in Tau Beta Pi and was Engineer of the Year of the AIAA Orange County, CA section.


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