Date of Award

Winter 2021

Document Type

Dissertation - Permanent Embargo

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering Physics


Physical Sciences

Committee Chair

Dr. Sergey V. Drakunov

First Committee Member

Dr. Matthew D. Zettergren

Second Committee Member

Dr. William MacKunis

Third Committee Member

Dr. John Cramer


Characterizing, modelling, and simulating performance of liquid propellant rocket engines and launch vehicles is immensely complex and spans analyses across multiple fields of physics. Current methods either develop highly sophisticated tools that focus on singular components and physical phenomena or develop representations of smaller systems or disciplines with high losses in fidelity. Several of these smaller system tools are have few limitations and work well for their respective field; however, they fail to capture the entire launch vehicle environment. This study develops a modelling tool and architecture to simulate the performance of launch vehicle designs. Engine models are constructed from a library of components and linked through a series of thermal, mechanical, and fluids networks and expanded to define full vehicle stages. Once a complete model of the launch vehicle is developed the software simulates vehicle trajectory and mission performance within the constraints of loads, dynamics, and aerodynamic environments. The software additionally provides a capability to simulate return to launch control schemes for first stage boostback maneuvers. The work performed in this study takes a significant step forward to addressing the real-life, modern needs of NewSpace launch vehicle development to evaluate designs, characterize performance, and generate predictions for engines and missions.