Modelling launch vehicle emissions in an evolving space sector

  • Robert Garner

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The space launch sector is currently undergoing intense change, where commercial competition increasingly dominates over traditional state-sponsored launch systems and the satellite market evolves with higher numbers of a small satellites requiring launch services. This has led to new types of vehicles, including reusable vertical launch, small rockets and winged vehicles and new propellants such as methane and propane being used. In parallel, concerns about anthropogenic climate change have led to further scrutiny and concern about the environmental impacts of all industries, and increasing application of tools such as environmental life cycle assessment to minimise emissions. To be able to account for emissions of new or conceptual vehicles, an approach to estimate the emission profiles and environmental impacts is developed. This combines tools to model propulsion systems and optimise trajectories with various methods of quantifying environmental impact of emissions across the atmosphere. This approach has been applied to a set of different vehicles that represents the current state of the launch sector, as well as a number of future, conceptual vehicles (including air-launched winged vehicles, and a single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane). A new metric that combines the performance of a vehicle as well as its environmental impact is proposed, enabling the environmental impact of real and conceptual launch vehicles to be estimated and compared fairly. The advantage of this modelling approach has also been investigated with two case studies to understand how environmental impact could be reduced during conceptual design, first through choice of rocket fuel, and the second by optimising the trajectory of a rocket to minimise radiative forcing instead of maximising useful payload.
Date of Award16 May 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorChristie Maddock (Supervisor) & Kerem Akartunali (Supervisor)

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