Model rocket projects for aerospace engineering course: Simulation of flight trajectories

Thomas A. Campbell, Spencer T. Seufert, Ronaldo Chavez Reis, John C. Brewer, Ronaldo Limberger Tomiozzo, Courtney E. Whelan, Masataka Okutsu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

9 Scopus citations


Over the years model rockets have been employed as student projects in engineering courses. But there are very few academic papers that concisely summarize analyses and experiments associated with model rocket projects. In this paper we present our project as representative of what could be adopted in a university-level engineering course. Our model rockets (i.e., hobby rockets) would reach some 500 m (approximately 1640 ft) in altitude, deploy a parachute, and spend 23 minutes descending to the ground. Once launched, these rockets cannot be controlled. Targeting a landing location would thus mean tilting the launch rail to the correct angle. To calculate that launch angle students would estimate the wind-velocity profile, and update their trajectory code on site. Other input parameters for the simulation, such as the thrust profile and drag coefficients, were measured experimentally in advance. Also discussed in this paper is the difficulty of profiling the wind velocity as a function of altitude, which represents the largest source of uncertainty in the predicted landing location.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication54th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA
ISBN (Print)9781624103933
StatePublished - 2016
Event54th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, 2016 - San Diego, United States
Duration: Jan 4 2016Jan 8 2016

Publication series

Name54th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting


Other54th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering


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