Rockets are the backbone of space exploration. They are our gateway to space, giving us access to the universe outside of the little bubble of our planet. A successful space program is in this age the hallmark of technological advancement, of cutting edge engineering and innovation, and there’s a reason for that. Rockets are some of the most marvellous machines ever built by humans, and yet their design, construction and operation is the most complicated of any single system in history. There’s reason why rocket science is held to such high regard everywhere.

This has unfortunately led to the perception that rocket science is about high level math and physics, about complicated equations, formulae and number crunching. While this is true to some extent – math is extremely important in predicting and modelling the behaviour of various factors while developing any complex system – you’d be surprised how intuitive all of this can be once you understand the basic principles behind why something happens. And with the right tools to help you apply these basic principles, you can understand rocketry better than many graduates.

In this module, you will learn what goes into building and flying an orbital rocket, the mechanisms behind the various factors that affect the design and functioning of rockets and a how you can build and launch your own rocket in Kerbal Space Program. You will need some basic understanding of middle to high school level physics – this is rocket science after all – but I promise that you will not find a single equation anywhere in this entire document. With that said, get ready to learn some rocket science!

Concepts covered:

Orbits: how they work, how to get there; Aerodynamics: effects of air on rockets, re-entry heating and protection; Propulsion: basics of rocket engines, related factors for launching

Prerequisites:

Good grasp of middle-high school physics (force, pressure, gravity, heat etc); Computer able to run Kerbal Space Program

Contents

  1. Orbits and Getting to Orbit
  2. Aerodynamics in Aerospace
  3. Rockets and Propulsion