UCLA Extension

Space Launch Vehicle Design

Understand the “big picture” of space launch vehicle design by exploring the history of manned and unmanned launch vehicles, along with current designs and future concepts. Learn all the design drivers such as required acceleration performance, trajectory and orbit/escape injections. Lectures present orbital mechanics in a manner that provides an easy understanding of underlying principles including launch vehicle performance requirements and launch windows. Instruction defines the systems engineering aspects of space launch vehicle design, including the integration of the payload and the various launch vehicle subsystems and components. Instruction details design considerations, such as launch optimization, structures and mechanisms, attitude control, thermal effects, propulsion systems, range safety, and operational aspects. Review practical aspects of launch vehicles, such as fabrication and testing, including several examples of, and the lessons learned from, launch vehicle failures. The course concludes with an overview of cost estimation for the development and operation of space launch vehicles.

The oral presentation is supplemented with a set of printed class notes. Students receive a DVD containing an extensive set of design data, videos illustrating different concepts that are shown in, a trajectory optimization code, and a sample vehicle optimization input file.

This course benefits both engineers with a particular specialty or any specialist who needs to obtain a solid background of space launch vehicle design and how these vehicles must work together with spacecraft payloads. Managers who want to understand the many aspects of space launch vehicle design that affect their work, tasks, and scheduling also benefit from this course.

Course Materials

Lecture notes and a design data DVD are distributed on the first day of the course. The notes are for participants only and are not otherwise available for sale or unauthorized distribution.

Coordinator and Lecturer

Donald L. Edberg, PhD , Professor of Aerospace Engineering, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Dr. Edberg has over 24 years of experience in the aerospace industry and has been employed at General Dynamics, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, AeroVironment, Air Force Research Laboratory, McDonnell Douglas, and the Boeing Company, where he was a technical fellow. He currently teaches astronautics and aerospace vehicle design full-time at Cal Poly Pomona and is Director of its Astronautics Laboratory and Uninhabited Aerospace Vehicle Laboratory. He also has taught aircraft, spacecraft, and structural design courses at UCLA, UC San Diego, and UC Irvine, and has consulted for a number of small companies.

During his career, Dr. Edberg has worked on launch vehicle and on-orbit space environments, aerodynamic testing of launch vehicles at high angles of attack, experimental modal and dynamic analysis, launch vehicle load mitigation, reduction of on-orbit mechanical vibrations, and microgravity isolation systems, as well as the development of an electric-powered, backpackable UAV in service as the FQM-151 Pointer. He holds 10 U.S. patents in aerospace and related fields, and was the inventor of and chief engineer for the patented McDonnell Douglas STABLE (Suppression of Transient Acceleration by Levitation Evaluation) vibration isolation system. STABLE was successfully demonstrated during the flight of Space Shuttle flight STS-73 carrying USML-2 in October 1995. Dr. Edberg is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and an active UAV pilot.

Course Outline


Engineering Design References

Space Launch Vehicle History

  • Early developments
  • Post-WWI research
  • WWII rocket development
  • The Cold War and early ballistic missiles
  • The Space Race
  • Use of ballistic missiles to launch spacecraft
  • Inhabited launch vehicles
  • Reusable launch vehicles
  • Current and future space launch vehicles

Missions, Orbits, and Energy Requirements

  • Types of orbits and necessary orbital parameters (orbital “elements”)
  • Special orbits (geostationary, Molniya, sun-synchronous, others)
  • Benefits/penalties from launch site location. Current & future launch sites.
  • Estimation of gravity, drag, propulsion, and steering losses
  • Necessary injection speed and azimuth angle for orbits and escape trajectories
  • Direct vs. indirect vs. “dogleg” launches
  • Ground vs. air launch systems
  • Vehicle performance curves; payload mass vs. velocity delivered (∆v or delta-v)
  • “Pork chop” plots for interplanetary missions
    Launch windows

Propulsion Systems

  • Rocket engine terminology and definitions
  • ∆v and the rocket equation
  • Predicting rocket performance: thrust, mass flow, burnout speed
  • Types of propulsion systems: solid, liquid, hybrid. Conventional & aerospike nozzles.
  • Types and performance of propellants
  • Liquid engine propulsion cycles
  • Propulsion system performance data

Space Vehicle Performance

  • Performance parameters & definitions
  • The rocket equation and mass prediction
  • Staging to improve ∆v delivered
  • Series & parallel staging
  • Calculation of staged vehicle performance
  • Single-stage-to-orbit vehicles: dream or reality?
  • Optimal staging
  • Design sensitivities & trade-off ratios: what’s the best location to add fuel for more performance?

Powered Flight Performance

  • Introduction to ascent trajectories, design drivers, launch vehicle performance
  • Vertical launch (sounding rockets)
  • Staging and performance optimization for single- and multistage rockets

Trajectory Analysis

  • Vertical & inclined flight in gravity
  • Vehicle coordinates, moving coordinate system. The local horizon frame.
  • Forces & moments on a rocket
  • Powered flight & gravity loss calculation
  • Atmospheric ascent. Drag & thrust loss.
  • Ascent trajectory simulation
  • Gravity turn, constant acceleration, constant thrust trajectories

Orbital Mechanics

  • Introduction to optimization: Newton and the Brachistrochrone problem
  • The SLV optimization problem: min gravity loss vs. min drag loss vs. aero loads
  • 3 DoF Trajectory optimization techniques
  • Examples of optimized launch trajectories for different vehicles
  • GPOPS public-domain optimization code & input formats

Vehicle Structures

  • Anatomy of a LV ( Delta II , Saturn V )
  • General arrangement and design drivers
  • LV structure types
  • Metals and composite materials
  • Fabrication and assembly
  • Structural details and examples: thrust structure, interstage
  • Payload attach fitting/launch vehicle adapter and spacecraft/launch vehicle integration
  • Vehicle assembly process

Vehicle Sizing

  • Inboard profile: where does everything fit?
  • Engine(s) and thrust structure
  • Tanks and tank domes: tank volume calculation
  • Intertank structure
  • Ground attachment
  • Payload fairing
  • Mass estimation

The Loads Environment

  • Transportation loads, ground handling, ground winds
  • Flight loads: quasi-static acceleration, transient loads
  • Liftoff, max air, max q, wind shear, staging, fairing separation
  • The Saturn V as a case study in ground & flight loads

Thermal Environment

  • Pre-launch thermal environment
  • Internal cryogenics & ascent heating
  • Aerodynamic heating
  • Exhaust plumes, gas recirculation, & base heating
  • Thermal control, including seals, coatings, insulation
  • Payload thermal protection via payload fairing (PLF)

Acoustic & Pressure Environment

  • Acoustic loads and decibels (dB)
  • Ignition/liftoff overpressure; water acoustic suppression
  • In-flight environment: boundary-layer & buffeting noise
  • PLF acoustic attenuation systems
  • Pressure change during launch

Structural Analysis

  • Strength & stiffness constraints, design load factors
  • Finite-element modeling
  • Quasi-static loads
  • Dynamics, random vibration, acoustics
  • Static & dynamic stress calculations and load factors
  • Coupled loads analysis (CLA) for non-rocket scientists
  • Payload vibration isolation to reduce loads & CLA

Pressure Change during Launch

  • Stability, Attitude Sensing & Control
  • Navigation vs. attitude control
  • Rigid-body launch vehicles
  • Aerodynamic stability: center of pressure vs. CG
  • Aerodynamic side loads & moments
  • Trimmed flight & lateral acceleration
  • Attitude sensing, angular position, and rate/velocity.
  • Stable platforms, inertial guidance, inertial measurement units (IMUs)
  • Attitude control system block diagrams, pointing accuracy, coordinate systems
  • Introduction to stability analysis and the s-plane
  • Steering: thrust vectoring, aerodynamic controls, jet vanes, jet injection
  • Actuation: hydraulics & pneumatics

Vehicle Instability

  • Flexible body dynamics, including sensor location & “tail wags dog”
  • Liquid propellant slosh
  • “Pogo” & resonant burn

Vehicle Details: Manufacturing, Pad Design

  • Fuel & oxidizer systems, pressurization
  • Electrical system, fluid power system
  • Staging, separation systems, & ordnance devices
  • Examples of manufacturing: Saturn, others
  • Pad details: stacking, lightning protection, vehicle hold-downs, umbilicals

Testing, Failures, and Lessons Learned

  • Ground testing: wind tunnel, structural, vibration, shock, acoustic
  • Range safety considerations & destruct system operation
  • Failure case studies and statistics
  • Independent checks: The Five Questions to ask
  • Reliability & redundancy

Cost Estimation

  • Available cost estimation software
  • Elements of cost: development, testing, production, ground & flight operations
  • Development costs for propulsion systems
  • Case study: Ariane 5 development
  • Cost data for different vehicles

For more information contact the Short Course Program Office:
shortcourses@uclaextension.edu | (310) 825-3344 | fax (310) 206-2815