AAE 43900

Rocket Propulsion

Credits:     3

Contact hours:     3

Instructor:     Professor Anderson and Professor Heister

Text:     For Fall 2017 - Rocket Propulsion by Heister, Anderson, and Pourpoint. Pre-release copy will be available at Copymat Printing in the Chauncey Mall.

Course Description:     The course is intended to serve as an introduction to rocket propulsion systems. Students are exposed to ideal rocket propulsion system performance prediction and a brief discussion of various efficiencies associated with deviations from ideal behavior. Basic propulsion system design is stressed with a brief discussion of mission requirements and trajectory analysis included to enable complete sizing studies. A class project involving analysis, thrust and drag measurements, and parachute behavior provides background in actual issues associated with operation of these systems.

Offered:    Fall

Pre-requisite:    None

Co-requisite:    AAE 33400

Required:    No

Student Learning Outcomes:
On completing this course the student shall be able to:

  1. Determine the thrust and fuel consumption of gas turbine and turboprop engines
  2. Understand advantages/disadvantages of turbojet, turboprop, turbofan, and ramjet airbreathing propulsion systems
  3. Understand the thermodynamics of the Brayton cycle and how they contribute to overall propulsion system performance
  4. Understand the role and fundamental performance of gas turbine components
  5. Determine the basic performance and/or design of axial turbines and compressors
  6. Determine the basic performance of airbreathing combustors

Relationship of Course to Program Outcomes

    Program Learning Outcomes Included?
a An ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering Yes
b An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data No
c An ability to design an aerospace system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health, and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability Yes
d An ability to function on multidisciplinary teams No
e An ability to identify, formulate, and solve aerospace engineering problems Yes
f An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility No
g An ability to communicate effectively No
h An understanding of the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context Yes
i A recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning No
j A knowledge of contemporary issues in aerospace engineering Yes
k An ability to use the techniques, skills and modern engineering tools necessary for aerospace engineering practice Yes


  1. Introduction: Brief history of rocketry, classification of rocket propulsion systems. (2 lectures)
  2. Ideal Rocket Nozzle Performance: Review of 1-D compressible flow, rocket performance fundamentals, nozzle design, deviations from ideal performance. (8 lectures)
  3. Rocket Design Fundamentals: Mission requirements for launch vehicles, upper stages, ballistic missiles, and interceptors. (5 lectures)
  4. Trajectory Analysis: The rocket equation, vertical trajectories, multistage rockets, generalized 2-D trajectories. (5 lectures)
  5. Combustion and Thermochemistry: Perfect gas law and thermodynamics review, chemical equilibrium, adiabatic flame temperature calculations, rocket nozzle thermochemistry. (7 lectures)
  6. Solid Rocket Motors: General description, interior ballistics, component design techniques. (6 lectures)
  7. Liquid Rocket Engines: General description, engine cycles, power balance calculations, component design fundamentals. (6 lectures)
  8. Electric Propulsion (time permitting): Classification of electric propulsion systems, performance analysis. (3 lectures)
  9. Tests and Rocket Launch Project. (3 lectures)

Revision History:
Prepared by: Stephen D. Heister
Date: February 6, 2001
Revised: April 4, 2006
Updated Pre-Requisites on March 3, 2011
Updated Format in October, 2011
Updated Required on June 1, 2015