Don Edberg's Launch Vehicle Design & Systems Engineering Class


The lecturer for this class is Donald Edberg, PhD, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA.  Formerly a Boeing Technical Fellow at Boeing Information, Space, and Defense Systems, Huntington Beach, CA, Dr. Edberg has 20+ years of experience in the aerospace industry and has been employed at General Dynamics, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, AeroVironment, McDonnell Douglas, and the Boeing Company in addition to his position at Cal Poly Pomona.  Dr. Edberg has also taught aircraft, spacecraft, and structural design courses at UCLA, UC San Diego, and UC Irvine, and has consulted for a number of small companies.  He teaches full-time at Cal Poly Pomona, and was a Technical Fellow at Boeing’s Phantom Works until June 2009.


During his career, Dr. Edberg has worked on launch vehicle and on-orbit space environments, aerodynamic testing of launch vehicles at high angles of attack, experimental modal and dynamic analysis, smart structures and materials, launch vehicle load mitigation, reduction of on-orbit mechanical vibrations, and microgravity isolation systems as well as the development of an electric-powered, back-packable UAV now in service as the FQM-151 Pointer.  Dr. Edberg holds ten U.S. patents in aerospace and related fields and was the inventor of and chief engineer for the patented McDonnell Douglas STABLE (Suppression of Transient Acceleration by Levitation Evaluation) vibration isolation system.  STABLE was successfully demonstrated during flight on space shuttle flight STS-73 carrying USML-2 during Oct. 1995.  Dr. Edberg is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and an active UAV pilot.


Don has put together a comprehensive introductory class on Launch Vehicle Design and Systems Engineering.  The class is offered by UCLA Extension and Taksha University, and can be taken on the UCLA campus or can be presented on-site (so far the class has been given at UCLA and at Moog Inc., Aurora, NY).


This course presents an overview of all the factors that affect the design and operation of launch vehicles. It begins with an historical review of unmanned and manned launch vehicles and spacecraft, including current designs and future concepts. All the design drivers, including transportation and ground loads, liftoff and launch, on-orbit environment, and atmospheric entry are discussed, including launch vehicle engineering and its effect on the spacecraft design. Orbital mechanics is presented in a manner that provides an easy understanding of underlying principles as well as applications. Launch vehicle trajectory optimization is discussed, and students are provided with an actual optimization code along with an input file from an actual launch vehicle. Considerable time is spent defining the systems engineering aspects of launch vehicle design, such as structural layout & design, attitude sensing and control, thermal effects, propulsion systems, range safety, and telecommunications are detailed. Practical aspects, such as fabrication, cost estimation, testing, and range safety also are discussed. The course concludes with several examples of and the lessons learned from launch vehicle failures.

The class is enhanced by the presentation of over 20 videos showing different aspects of launch vehicle design and engineering. Each student is provided with a set of printed notes and also a DVD containing all the videos and a vast collection of reference materials in PDF format.


This course is ideal for an engineer with a particular specialty, as well as a scientist or instrument specialist, who needs to obtain a solid background in the "big picture" of launch vehicle design and how the pieces of the puzzle have to fit together. Managers who want to understand the many aspects of launch vehicle design that affect their work, tasks, and scheduling should also benefit from this course. Note that the course may be presented over two contiguous days (see schedule below) or can be presented over four weeknights, each four hours long (Los Angeles area only).



"The course was overall very interesting.  The physical model of the Saturn V and the lecture videos were very helpful." P.M., Northrop-Grumman Corp.

"This was a good overall review of SLV design and systems engineering. This is a tough subject because of the many facets of SLV design." A.H., Scitor Corp.

"Thanks again for the seminar. It was very informative and hopefully useful in our future efforts with Launch Vehicles Programs. " M.E., Staff Design Engineer, Moog Corp.

(Samples from Don’s spacecraft design class attendees)

“I again wanted to say that I really enjoyed your class and recommended to my management that all of our new hires should take such a class.  It is certainly very useful to see your own area in the context of the entire space picture.” C.S., Senior Engineering Specialist, Aerospace Corp.

"Excellent course for people like me who wish to go into program management." M.R., Engineer, Boeing Houston

"This course was great. Instructor was able to simplify but not talk down to audience. He explained all terms likely not to be understood." Anonymous.

"Thanks! This was a great course. I especially liked the launch vehicle section and some of the communication and CDHS stuff." Anonymous.

"The course was both enjoyable and very thorough. Having the slides available for additional notes was very helpful. Great course!" Anonymous.

"Would recommend. As a non-technical person some content was beyond my job scope, but explained well and gives me a reference for later." N.P., Contract Administrator, Boeing

"Great lectures. Interesting. Not boring at all. Great notes, references for further investigation and research." V.B., Engineer, Boeing




Daily Schedule (Two-Day Class)

Day 1

Introduction & references

·      Space Project elements.

Launch Vehicle (LV) Overview

·      History, current vehicles, future

·      Launch sites around the world.

Rocket Propulsion

·      Definitions

·      Engine types: solid, liquid, & hybrid propellants & performance.

Launch vehicle parameters and performance

·      The rocket equation

·      Staging

·      Optimal performance

·      Design sensitivities & trade-off ratios.

Energy needed to orbit

·      Gravity, drag, steering, propulsion losses

·      Launch azimuth & windows. Effects of launch site latitude.

Powered flight & Trajectory simulation

·      Vertical & non-vertical ascent trajectories

·      Detailed loss calculation

·      Motion in moving vehicle coordinate system, local horizon frame

·      Gravity turn, constant acceleration, constant thrust ascent trajectories

Trajectory optimization

·      Optimization software, proprietary and public domain. Example files of data input.

·      Optimization results; actual trajectories.

LV structure

·      Materials

·      Fabrication

·      Details (thrust structure, interstage, payload attach).

Day 2

LV sizing

·      Layout

·      Tank volumes

·      Mass estimation

·      Propellant layout

·      Controllability

LV load cases

·      Aerodynamic, inertial forces & moments

·      Axial, shear, bending loads from ground winds

·      Gravity & axial thrust, max aq loads

·      Trimmed flight

·      Thrust vectoring

·      Internal pressure

·      Stress calculations

LV shock, vibration, acoustic, thermal environments

·      Engine cutoffs, staging, separation

·      Thermal issues, cryogenic propellant, aerodynamic heating

·      Strength & stiffness design load factors

·      Spacecraft design process.

LV Stability & Control

·      Attitude control methods: gimbaled TVC, other schemes

·      Instabilities: flexible structure, slosh, “pogo” oscillations, resonant burn

LV details

·      Systems

·      Manufacturing & assembly

·      Pad design

LV Testing & failures

·      Testing process, including vibration, shock, acoustic, thermal

·      Range safety

·      Flight termination systems

·      Failures & lessons learned

·      Redundancy.

•LV Cost estimation

·      Parametric modeling

·      Cost models

·      ROM costing



For more information on this course and how you can have it presented at your facility, contact Dr. Edberg directly at 909-793-5958, or send an email to info_AT_dynmodel_DOT_com.

Home | Links

© 2005-2012 Dynamic Modelling and Don Edberg

Last modified: May 5, 2012