Spacecraft Propulsion

Course #AE3851

Est.imated Completion Time: 3 months


Introduces concepts and devices in spacecraft propulsion. It reviews fundamental compressible fluid mechanics, thermodynamics with combustion analysis, and cycle analysis for liquid rocket engines. Conventional monopropellants, bipropellants, and solid propellants are discussed. Electric propulsion schemes (resistojets, arcjets, ion, magneto-plasma-dynamic, etc.) are introduced and their performances contrasted with chemical schemes. Characteristics of more advanced concepts (laser, solar, nuclear, etc.) are also considered.


  • MA2121

Learning Outcomes

  1. Categorize spacecraft propulsion systems by propellant type, thermodynamic cycle, power source, and mission application. 
  2. Calculate chemical engine performance given propellant composition, combustion chamber conditions and nozzle configuration.
  3. Evaluate the effect of fuel/oxidizer combinations on chemical engine performance.
  4. Select and size appropriate engine type given mission requirements (Chemical liquid or solid fuel, or electric propulsion).
  5. Differentiate strengths and weaknesses of electric and electromagnetic space propulsion systems.
  6. Analyze the effect of staging on chemical space vehicle design.
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Academic Calendar

  •  06 Jun 2023

    Spring quarter pre-graduation awards ceremony

  •  09 Jun 2023

    Spring quarter last day of classes

  •  13 Jun 2023

    Spring quarter final examinations begin