Rocket Propulsion 101

Course Length:



This three-day course is based on the popular text Rocket Propulsion Elements by Sutton and Biblarz. The course provides practical knowledge in rocket propulsion engineering and design technology issues. It is designed for those needing a more complete understanding of the complex issues. The objective is to give the engineer or manager the tools needed to understand the available choices in rocket propulsion and/or to manage technical experts with greater in-depth knowledge of rocket systems. Attendees will receive a copy of the book Rocket Propulsion Elements, a disk with practical rocket equations in Excel, and a set of printed notes covering advanced additional material.

Who should attend:

  • Engineers of all disciplines supporting rocket design projects.
  • Aerospace Industry Managers.
  • Government Regulators, Administrators and sponsors of rocket or missile projects.
  • Contractors or investors involved in rocket propulsion development projects.

Course Outline:

  • Classification of Rocket Propulsion. Introduction to the types and classification of rocket propulsion, including chemical, solid, liquid, hybrid, electric, nuclear and solar-thermal systems.
  • Fundaments and Definitions. Introduction to mass ratios, momentum thrust, pressure balances in rocket engines, specific impulse, energy efficiencies and performance values.
  • Nozzle Theory. Understanding the acceleration of gasses in a nozzle to exchange chemical thermal energy into kinetic energy, pressure and momentum thrust, thermodynamic relationships, area ratios, and the ratio of specific heats. Issues of subsonic, sonic and supersonic nozzles. Equations for coefficient of thrust, and the effects of under and over expanded nozzles. Examination of cone&bell nozzles, and evaluation of nozzle losses.
  • Performance. Evaluation of performance of rocket stages & vehicles. Introduction to coefficient of drag, aerodynamic losses, steering losses and gravity losses. Examination of spaceflight and orbital velocity, elliptical orbits, transfer orbits, staging theory. Discussion of launch vehicles and flight stability.
  • Propellant Performance and Density Implications. Introduction to thermal chemical analysis, exhaust species shift with mixture ratio, and the concepts of frozen and shifting equilibrium. The effects of propellant density on mass properties & performance of rocket systems for advanced design decisions.
  • Liquid Rocket Engines. Liquid rocket engine fundamentals, introduction to practical propellants, propellant feed systems, gas pressure feed systems, propellant tanks, turbo-pump feed systems, flow and pressure balance, RCS and OMS, valves, pipe lines, and engine supporting structure.
  • Liquid Propellants. A survey of the spectrum of practical liquid and gaseous rocket propellants is conducted, including properties, performance, advantages and disadvantages.
  • Thrust Chambers. The examination of injectors, combustion chamber and nozzle and other major engine elements is conducted in-depth. The issues of heat transfer, cooling, film cooling, ablative cooling and radiation cooling are explored. Ignition and engine start problems and solutions are examined.
  • Combustion. Examination of combustion zones, combustion instability and control of instabilities in the design and analysis of rocket engines.
  • Turbopumps. Close examination of the issues of turbo-pumps, the gas generation, turbines, and pumps. Parameters and properties of a good turbo-pump design.
  • Solid Rocket Motors. Introduction to propellant grain design, alternative motor configurations and burning rate issues. Burning rates, and the effects of hot or cold motors. Propellant grain configuration with regressive, neutral and progressive burn motors. Issues of motor case, nozzle, and thrust termination design. Solid propellant formulations, binders, fuels and oxidizers.
  • Hybrid Rockets. Applications and propellants used in hybrid rocket systems. The advantages and disadvantages of hybrid rocket motors. Hybrid rocket grain configurations/combustion instability.
  • Thrust Vector Control. Thrust Vector Control mechanisms and strategies. Issues of hydraulic actuation, gimbals and steering mechanisms. Solid rocket motor flex-bearings. Liquid and gas injection thrust vector control. The use of vanes and rings for steering..
  • Rocket System Design. Integration of rocket system design and selection processes with the lessons of rocket propulsion. How to design rocket systems.
  • Applications and Conclusions. Now that you have an education in rocket propulsion, what else is needed to design rocket systems? A discussion regarding the future of rocket engine and system design.


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. 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, specializing in integration of launch vehicle technology, design, modeling and business strategies. He is an independent consultant, writer and teacher of rocket system technology, experienced in launch vehicle operations, design, testing, business analysis, risk reduction, modeling, safety and reliability. Mr. Keith’s experience includes reusable & expendable launch vehicles as well as solid & liquid rocket systems.

    Contact these instructors (please mention course name in the subject line)

Request On-Site Quote