Advanced Topics in Launch Vehicle Design

Course Length:



This three-day course provides an examination of the most important topics of modern launch vehicle design, analysis and optimization. It offers a focus on critical topics that lead to optimization of a launch vehicle design through such issues as staging optimization. The seminar provides a wealth of new material about the essential issues that have caused so many costly projects to fail. You will learn a wide spectrum of new solutions to problems in modern launch vehicle design. Revolutionary new techniques and concepts will be taught, with all material subject to strict application of modern science.

What you will learn:

The most advanced topics of launch vehicle optimization, design and analysis.
Advanced concepts in Modeling Launch Vehicle Projects.
Modern rocket science applications.
New techniques in launch vehicle design, optimization and analysis.
Popular theories of rocket design not supported by scientific evidence.

Course Outline:

  1. The current state of Rocket Science. Objective and metrics of optimization.Need for improvement in optimization.
  2. Advanced Topics of Mass Properties, Scaling Issues and High-Tech Materials. Essential parameters of analysis. Theory of mass properties. Accurate mass properties as starting point and critical parameter.
  3. Advanced Topics in Propellant Volume Theory. The theory that propellant volume is the most significant mass driver of launch vehicle design. Bulk density of propellants in the “rocket equation.”
  4. Advanced Topics in Stage Mass Properties. Separating engine mass properties from stage mass properties. Volume theory and propellant bulk density. Stages without engines. Implications of propellant volume scale, bulk density, and physical properties. Advanced modeling algorithms for top-down analysis.
  5. Advanced Topics in Engine Mass Properties. Selected rocket engines ranked for thrust-to-weight ratio to hypothesize engine mass property relationships to specific impulse, engine cycle, cryogenic nature and bulk density of propellants, and engine design era.
  6. Advanced Topics in ELV Stage Mass Properties. Expendable Launch Vehicle (ELV) theory. Simplification theory. Big Dumb Booster concept. Evaluation of mass suboptimization. Solid and hybrid propulsion.
  7. Advanced Topics in RLV Mass Properties. Popular RLV theory. Fatal flaws. Classification of RLV systems. Theory for mass relationships to convenience of recovery. RLV and ELV alternatives.
  8. Current and Advanced Topics in Cost Model Theory. Modern cost models as science. Use and abuse of cost analysis. Cost Models as self-fulfilling prophecies. Advanced relationships.
  9. Current Topics in Performance Model Theory. Utility and value of current performance modeling. Problems with the models. Simplifying assumptions as an introduction to optimization searches.
  10. Advanced Topics in Optimization and Modeling Theory. Virtual development exploration. Relationships and algorithms for advanced optimization by computer modeling.
  11. Staging Optimization Theory and Practical Procedure. Current procedures and theories. Using computer programs. Determining optimum staging.
  12. Learning Curve Theory and Advanced Optimization. Production and Launch Operations. The relationship with Economies of Scale.
  13. Advanced Topics in Engine Cluster Reliability Theory. Modeling to optimize the number of engines/stage. Learning curve effects. Life Cycle costs and DDT&E Cost implications. The Russian paradigm of engine clusters. NASA employment of moderate engine clusters.
  14. Advanced Reliability Design & Analysis Integration for Launch Vehicles. The reliability of rocket systems, particularly engine clusters. The optimization of engine numbers as a function of Catastrophic Fraction to achieve maximum reliability.
  15. Advanced Integration of Safety into Launch Vehicle Design and Analysis.Integrating safety into optimization, with identifiable common denominators. The relationships between safety and cost.
  16. Integrated Modeling. Specialty models to an integrated, high-fidelity, multidiscipline, comprehensive model. Advancing from analysis to gaming to analyze the reacting strategies of competitors.
  17. Deterministic Optimization. Sweep optimization. Sample computer programs. Applications and requirements for sweep modeling. Determining the optimum payload scale for an RLV Point Design.
  18. Advanced Topics in Strategy in the Optimization Process. The use of strategy to achieve superior results with inferior optimization. Clean sheet vs. existing building blocks. The strategy of evolution. Modularity as a strategy. Alternate strategies. Alternatives that reduce the costs of DDT&E, Production and Operations. Inferred relationships.


REGISTRATION:  There is no obligation or payment required to enter the Registration for an actively scheduled course.   We understand that you may need approvals but please register as early as possible or contact us so we know of your interest in this course offering.

SCHEDULING:  If this course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses and you are interested in attending this or another course as an open enrollment, please contact us at (410)956-8805 or Please indicate the course name, number of students who wish to participate. and a preferred time frame. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a 3-5 month lead-time.   To express your interest in an open enrollment course not on our current schedule, please email us at

For on-site pricing, you can use the request an on-site quote form, call us at (410)956-8805, or email us at


  • Daniel J. Moser, Founder, President and Chief Technical Officer of an engineering consultant firm has a B.S. in Physics, and M.E. in Mechanical Engineering, University of Utah. Mr. Moser has been an engineer, innovator, and entrepreneur in the aerospace industry for over 35 years. Previously employed by Beal Aerospace Technologies (Director of Engineering), Raytheon-Electronic Systems (Chief Composites Engineer), ALCOA-FiberTek (Project Engineer), and EDO-Fiber Science (Project/Test Engineer), he has also founded and operated two composites-based businesses: Utah Rocketry (1993-1997), and Compositex, Inc. (2000-present). He has extensive experience in designing and developing launch vehicles, liquid rocket propulsion systems, ablatively-cooled thrust chambers/nozzles, filament-wound composite vessels (liquid propellant tanks, high-pressure gas storage vessels, solid rocket motorcases, and crash-worthy external aircraft fuel tanks), wings, control surfaces, fuselages, radomes, spars, missile tail fins, bulkheads, reentry heat shields, and landing gear. Compositex, Inc. customers include NASA-Marshall, NASA-Ames, NASA-Johnson, Air Force Research Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University-Applied Physics Laboratory, Air Launch LLC, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, KT Engineering, Rocketdyne, DARPA, Exxon-Mobil, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin.

  • Edward L. Keith is a multi-discipline Launch Vehicle System Engineer and Rocket Scientist, specializing in launch vehicle design optimization, modeling and technology. He is currently an independent consultant, writer and teacher of rocket system design and technology. He is experienced in launch vehicle operations, design, testing, optimization, research, business analysis, risk reduction, modeling, safety and reliability. Mr. Keith’s experience extends to both reusable and expendable launch vehicles, as well as to solid liquid and hybrid rocket systems. Mr. Keith has designed complete rocket engines, rocket vehicles, small propulsion systems, and composite propellant tank systems, especially designed for low cost, as a propulsion and launch vehicle engineer. Mr. Keith worked the Rascal Launch Vehicle Program and Launch Vehicle design lead, the Space Launch Initiative and the Liquid Fly- Back Booster programs for Boeing, originated the Scorpius Program for Microcosm, worked on the Brilliant Eyes and the Advanced Solid Rocket Motor Programs for Rockwell and worked on the Aerojet DSP Satellite program. He also has 13-years of government experience including five years working launch operations at Vandenberg AFB. Mr. Keith has written 22 technical papers on various aspects of low cost space transportation over the last decade. Advance.

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