SD2816 Rocket Science 7.5 credits

Rocket Science

In this course you will learn about fundamental aspects of spaceflight dynamics. Two main topics are embraced: rocket dynamics and orbital mechanics, respectively. Emphasis is put on conceptual understanding of the fundamentals, but you will also face more challenging tasks in project work. The course also aims at improving some of your personal and interpersonal skills, such as your ability to learn in a team and to communicate results and conclusions effectively.

Offering and execution

Course offering missing for current semester as well as for previous and coming semesters

Course information

Content and learning outcomes

Course contents *

In order to create a natural and creative learning environment, a peer learning approach is used in the course. You will therefore belong to a student team that meets on a regular basis to discuss around  various topics and to perform project work. You will treat topics like rocket propulsion and performance, two-body orbital mechanics, geocentric orbits and trajectories, and interplanetary transfers. The technical work in the course mainly consists of two project assignments – one on rocket dynamics and one on space mission planning, respectively.

Intended learning outcomes *

The overall objectives of the course are that you should be able to

  • derive and explain fundamentals of rocket propulsion, including the thrust equation, the specific impulse of a rocket engine, the rocket equation for burnout velocity and rocket staging,
  • formulate appropriate equations of motion of a rocket vehicle, and perform a preliminary trajectory analysis based on these,
  • derive and explain fundamentals of  orbital mechanics, including Newton's law of universal gravitation, the equations of motion for the two-body problem, and the properties that are conserved along their orbital orbital and trajectory solutions, and 
  • on a conceptual level, plan a geocentric or interplanetary space mission, including the determination of suitable trajectories, the number of stages required, and the approximate energy and mass budget.

Besides from the aims related to your knowledge and skills in rocket science, the course also aims at improving your ability to

  • work effectively in a culturally mixed group,
  • learn with and from other students,
  • approach and solve a complex engineering task,
  • present your results and conclusions effectively, and
  • review and give constructive feedback on work.

Course Disposition

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Literature and preparations

Specific prerequisites *

The course is primarily intended for students in the Aerospace Engineering program (including exchange students). For as long as room is available, other students are also welcome to participate.

Recommended prerequisites

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William E. Wiesel, Spaceflight Dynamics, 3rd ed., Aphelion Press, 2010.

The book can be purchased in KTH Aeronautical and Vehicle Engineering's student expedition, 3rd floor, Teknikringen 8

Examination and completion

Grading scale *

A, B, C, D, E, FX, F

Examination *

  • PRO1 - Project, 3.0 credits, Grading scale: P, F
  • PRO2 - Project, 3.0 credits, Grading scale: P, F
  • TEN1 - Examination, 1.5 credits, Grading scale: P, F

Based on recommendation from KTH’s coordinator for disabilities, the examiner will decide how to adapt an examination for students with documented disability.

The examiner may apply another examination format when re-examining individual students.

Other requirements for final grade *

Project assignment (PRO1; 3 university credits)
Project assignment (PRO2; 3 university credits)
Oral exam (TEN1; 1.5 university credits)

Opportunity to complete the requirements via supplementary examination

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Opportunity to raise an approved grade via renewed examination

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Dan Borglund

Further information

Course web

Further information about the course can be found on the Course web at the link below. Information on the Course web will later be moved to this site.

Course web SD2816

Offered by

SCI/Aeronautical and Vehicle Engineering

Main field of study *

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Education cycle *

Second cycle

Add-on studies

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Ethical approach *

  • All members of a group are responsible for the group's work.
  • In any assessment, every student shall honestly disclose any help received and sources used.
  • In an oral assessment, every student shall be able to present and answer questions about the entire assignment and solution.

Supplementary information

Replaced by SD2900.