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General Rocket Propulsion book

  1. Nov 27, 2014 #1
    I've always been interested in space and space flights and have often wondered how rockets are lunched into space, how their trajectories are defined, how they are sped up (like gravity assist), how they are slowed down (like the complicated trajectory of the Rosetta mission etc . . .
    I have a BENG in electrical engineering but I'm not interested in expending too much time delving deeply into the mathematics. I took a first year dynamics course in college so I'm familiar with Newton's equations up to that level. I remember we derived Kepler's laws from Newton's laws by solving a 2nd order differential equation which showed that indeed the orbits of planets should be elliptical. But in introductory dynamics, everything is simplistic and I'd like to gain some understanding on rocket science or aerodynamics, orbit maneuvers without the necessary intricate mathematical details because I won't be using them anyway.
    So, in short, I'd like a rocket science/aerodynamics book that I can read in a week or two. If such a book exists, I'll be happy if you can refer me to it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 27, 2014 #2


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  4. Dec 1, 2014 #3


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    Launching from a planet or moon, i.e., within a gravity field takes a lot of energy, and that is different than launching from an orbit.

    There are books on propulsion of large rockets, which are typically done in stages, depending on the payload mass, and the total mass of the system. For example, the booster rockets on the US space shuttle are simply there to lift the large propellant tank, while the shuttle uses the liquid hydrogen and oxygen from the propellant tank for propulsion. At same altitude in the upper atmosphere where the drag is low, the boosters separate and fall away, then the shuttle uses the remaining propellant to get to orbit. Some coasting is used, after the propellant tank falls away and burns up in the atmosphere. On orbit, the shuttle uses small chemical maneuvering rockets to maneuver up or down, or faster or slower - and that is only low earth orbit (LEO).

    For travel to the moon, or to Mars, larger rockets would be needed, and requirements would be different. Usually, one designs a trajectory based on minimal mass and/or energy to achieve the desired destination. The energy available depends on the specific energy of the system. The greater the specific energy, the faster one can travel, and the sooner one can get to a destination, and then turn around and decelerate.

    Some books -

    There are other books on specific topics mentioned.
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