Rocket Dynamics

In this chapter we will take a closer look at the rocket dynamics, and especially at satellite launchers. What forces act on the launchers, why and in which direction. Then we will discuss how one can do simple simulations of a small rocket launch. Finally, a case example of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle is presented.

Smaller rockets, from model rockets you can balance on a finger and rockets up to a few meters in length typically has only one motor, which is most often attached to the rest of the rocket during the launch. This is simple and inexpensive.

However, if you want to go higher, modern rocket motors are still not efficient enough to reach high altitudes with only a single rocket motor stage.

While the hunt for a ‘single-stage to orbit’ launch vehicle continues, today’s launch vehicles is multi-staged, meaning that the rocket consist of several stages, both in parallel and in serial configuration. The rocket detaches burned-out stages and continues without them to lower the overall weight.

Ariane 5 consists of two solid boosters working in parallel with the first-stage core motors, and a smaller upper stage which is ignited after the first stage core separation. A scientific sounding rocket launched from Andøya Space typically has between two to four motor stages, all with solid state motors.

ESA has an excellent video of the Soyuz launch sequence, the same launcher as is used at the European launch site of Kourou in French Guiana:

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This article is part of a pre-course program used by Andøya Space Education in Fly a Rocket! and similar programs.