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2010/1 Module Catalogue
 Module Code: EEEM012 Module Title: LAUNCH VEHICLES & PROPULSION
Module Provider: Electronic Engineering Short Name: EEM.LVP
Level: M Module Co-ordinator: LAPPAS V Dr (Elec Eng)
Number of credits: 15 Number of ECTS credits: 7.5
Module Availability

Spring Semester

Assessment Pattern

Unit(s) of Assessment


Weighting Towards Module Mark( %)


2-hour closed book examination paper; 2 sections – answer at least one question from each section, total of three questions.






Part-time Students: As Above




Module Overview
Through a series of lectures, exercises and coursework, the module aims to give an understanding on the fundamentals of Launch Vehicle design and propulsion techniques for spacecraft travel.


Module Aims

To develop an understanding of the issues of launching a satellite from the surface of a planet, and the guidance and control techniques and the principles of spacecraft propulsion.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students will


  • have a well developed understanding of the physics of passage through an atmosphere, lift and drag forces, angle of attack with an introduction to re-entry. 


  • understand the reasons for rocket staging and review latest technologies. 


build an understanding of the principles of spacecraft propulsion – fluid dynamics, performance prediction, energy storage, design drivers.

Module Content

Launch methods


Rocket staging and launch scenarios. Review of launch vehicles and their engines – Saturn V and the F-1 and J-2 engines, Delta rockets and the RS-27 liquid engines, Atlas launchers, Space Shuttle and SSME. Drive to reduce launch costs: reusable vehicles, SSTO, suborbital demonstrators, the aerospace plane.

Principles of Space Propulsion


Basic fluid equations – conservation laws, thermodynamics and specific heats. Steady 1-D flows in nozzles – entropy and shock fronts. Boundary layers and heat flow. Laminar and turbulent regimes. 


Performance of Rocket engines


The rocket equation, Isp, propulsion system trade-offs. Chemical rocket thrust chambers and nozzles. Solid rocket fundamentals – burn rates, grain size, hazards. Hybrid engines – pancakes. Electric propulsion – ion thrusters, Hall effect.


Non standard propulsion


Solar Sails, tethers, ion thrusters, nuclear, solar thermal propulsion.


Launch dynamics


Launch windows and orbit insertion. Guidance laws for thrust vector control, angle of attack. Stability.


Steep ballistic re-entry, ballistic orbital re-entry, skip re-entry, double dip re-entry, aero-braking, lifting body re-entry.

Methods of Teaching/Learning

Teaching is by lectures and tutorials. Learning takes place through lectures, tutorials, and exercises. 3 hours lectures/tutorials per week for 10 weeks.

Selected Texts/Journals

G. Sutton & O. Biblarz, Rocket Propulsion Elements, Wiley, 2001.
P. Hill & C. Peterson Mechanics and Thermodynamics of Propulsion, Addison Wesley, 1992.
W. Weisel Spaceflight Dynamics, McGraw-Hill, 1997.

Last Updated

19 July 2007