Date of Award


Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Chair

Birce Dikici, Ph.D.

Committee Co-Chair

Pedro Llanos, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Sathya Gangadharan, Ph.D., P.E.

Second Committee Member

Fardin Khalili, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Victor Huayamave, Ph.D.

Fourth Committee Member

Mandar Kulkarni, Ph.D.


With recent advances in the commercial space industry, suborbital payload launches have become more common and accessible to researchers actively seeking solutions for problems involving prolonged space travel and future missions to Moon and Mars. Suborbital payload missions compared to orbital launches are less expensive and offer faster turnaround times; however, the novelty of this domain provides unique challenges. This multidisciplinary research effort aims to tackle some of these challenges by detailing the design, development, and testing techniques followed in the successful launch and recovery of payload experiments in currently active and upcoming suborbital launch vehicles. The research methodology involves collecting payload requirements, CAD design, computational analysis, mass optimization, 3D printing, vibration, and load testing, model rocketry development, simulation, and launch operations. Structural analysis using FEA and vibration testing on a shaker table shows the compliance of the payload prototypes in the maximum predicted flight environments. Multiphase CFD analysis is used as benchmarking technique to characterize the behavior of payloads containing liquids in microgravity. Hands-on model rocketry has proven as a valuable research platform for subsequent payload deliveries.