5070 Launch Vehicle Systems Design and Engineering

COURSE NO.: 5070

This course offers a detailed look at basic expendable launch vehicle design and engineering requirements. All launch vehicle types are included, with emphasis on highly volatile issues such as small launchers, new systems and market demand. You will get a realistic comparison of the newest contenders and their failures, including the Ariane 5 and Delta IV. The course addresses what is hype and what is real. You will be exposed to current developments throughout the launch vehicle world and given a survey of the international inventory of large and small launcher systems. There are special briefings on NASA’s Ares I and other vehicles. Numerous case studies and examples are used to illustrate important aspects for users and designers. Projections of launch vehicle developments for the next several years are included. Subjects include an explanation of the rocket equation, classification of vehicle types, descriptions of subsystems, payload penalties, ascent design and simulation and other limitations on the vehicle.

Each attendee will receive a printed copy of the PowerPoint presentation.

Space mission designers and operations managers, low earth orbit satellite systems planners, payload systems engineers and integrators. Launch vehicle engineers, analysts, and users. Aerospace industry and government consultants. Technologists involved in the future of space

Key launch vehicle rules of thumb and sanity checks. Fundamental performance trade-offs for users and designers. Design impacts of the launch environment. How launchers stack up on a cost-per-pound basis. Launch vehicle subsystems and their important interactions. Launcher trends including new NASA and commercial vehicles.


Elementary Definitions and Principles of Launching Objects into Orbit.

  • Principles of staging and the rocket equation. Types of missions. Worldwide survey of launch vehicles and their characteristics. Launch sites and resulting limitations on missions.

Fundamental Technologies for Launch Vehicle Design.

  • Historical overview. Basic definitions. Physics and the laws of Newton. Coordinate definitions and geometry. Analytical and software tools for designers and users.

Launch Vehicle Components and Subsystems.

  • Minimum elements which make up a launch vehicle. Survey of subsystems and their fundamental interactions. Fundamental trade-off parameters in the design process. Availability of components and subsystems.

Subsystem Technologies in the Design Process.

  • Launch loads and events. Structural design and stress analysis. Thermal system design. Determination of aerodynamic properties and heating. Avionics and ascent guidance subsystems. Navigation systems, including inertial and GPS-assisted. Ordnance systems for ignition and flight termination. Range safety requirements and constraints.

Propulsion Subsystems for Launch Vehicles.

  • Solid rocket motors versus liquid rocket engines. Off-the-shelf motors and engines. New developments in propulsion. Performance parameters and how to use them. Availability of propulsion systems and subsystems.

Ascent Trajectory Design.

  • Equations of ascent dynamics. Energy losses due to gravitational attraction and aerodynamic drag. Survey of parameters affecting the ascent trajectory, including max-Q and max Q-alpha. Subtleties of launch site selection.

Launch Environments for the Payload.

  • Definitions of the acceleration, shock, acoustic and vibration environment during ascent. Impact of launch environment on the payload and its design.

User Defined Launch Vehicle Requirements.

  • Mission launch needs and objectives that drive the payload envelope, performance, trajectory design and environmental limitations. Allocation of fundamental interfaces between launch vehicle and payload (e.g., guidance, navigation, control, propulsion and telemetry) based on cost, reliability and risk.

Systems Engineering Practices and Considerations.

  • Systems requirements and specifications. Testing philosophy. Assembly and launch site considerations. Impact of range safety requirements. Keys to reducing launch costs. Areas of future improvement.

Low-Orbit and Future Satellite Launch Systems.

  • Comparison of the new generation of launch vehicles and what they have to offer. In depth review of Conestoga, Taurus, Pegasus and LLV. The McDonnell Douglas DC-X and other single-stage-to-orbit concepts. Trends in small satellite launchers and future reusable systems.

Instructor: Marshall H. Kaplan, Ph.D.

Marshall H. Kaplan, Ph.D., is a recognized expert in launch vehicle systems design and engineering. He has participated in a number of new launch vehicle developments and has served as Chief Engineer on a fully-reusable and an expendable launch system. Dr. Kaplan is a member of the National Research Council’s Committee on Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology and Test Program, and has trained organizations that have won launch system contracts for military and commercial applications. He has over 35 years of academic and industrial experience, served as Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University, was the executive Director of a Space Research Institute, and has presented launch vehicle courses in the U.S., Europe and South America. In addition to publishing some 100 papers, reports, and articles on aerospace technologies, he is the author of several books, including the internationally used text, Modern Spacecraft Dynamics and Control. Dr. Kaplan is a member of the AIAA Technical Committee on Space Transportation and holds advanced degrees from MIT and Stanford University.

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