Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Space Systems


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Jonathan Black, PhD


This research effort develops a multidisciplinary design tool to optimize sounding rocket fin geometries that minimize the mass of the fins while maintaining aerodynamic performance. This research grew out of a design problem experienced by the US Air Force Academy's Falcon LAUNCH program. The Falcon LAUNCH program is a senior design capstone project during which Air Force Academy cadets design, build and fly a sounding rocket over the course of an academic year. In the Spring of 2007, the Falcon LAUNCH V vehicle experienced a catastrophic failure when three of its four fins sheared off due to flutter. When the following year's team developed the fins for Falcon LAUNCH VI, the design requirement that the fins not experience flutter led to substantially more massive fins. The Falcon LAUNCH team needs a design tool that can balance the competing needs for minimal mass sounding rocket components and aerodynamic performance. The tool developed during this research is designed to find an optimal solution for the fin geometry based on the competing needs of minimizing the fins' mass and ensuring the fins will not experience flutter. The design tool then provides for verification of the design throughout the designed flight profile.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number