MEng Aerospace Engineering / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Launch and Re-entry Gas Dynamics

Course unit fact file
Unit code AERO42111
Credit rating 15
Unit level Level 7
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit covers advanced spaceflight dynamics disciplines relevant to the rapidly changing space industry. It will enable students to analyse the launch and re-entry problems that would be required  for someone working in the space industry, and is therefore a key part of the aerospace programme. Real physical effects in gases become critical at high temperatures. This unit provides an introduction to key real gas models from microscopic physics to macroscopic gas dynamics. This is necessary for understanding of high-temperature flows which always appear in re-entry vehicle problems, high-speed flows and combustion. The intended learning outcomes include knowledge concerning the proper applicability of a model a specific flow regime. The course contains elements of the kinetic gas theory, statistical thermodynamics, molecular thermodynamics and chemical kinetics. The learning outcomes can be important for the analysis of high-temperature external and internal flows, hypersonic regimes and in nanotechnologies. The course is delivered as 36 hours of lectures and tutorials. Assessment is 80% exam and 20% is course work.

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates


Building on knowledge gained earlier in the programme, this unit aims to deliver a functional knowledge and skills of spaceflight dynamics relevant to the rapidly changing space industry.  Reusable launch vehicles requiring re-entry manoeuvres require a skill set for characterising the dynamics involved in this activity extends beyond that traditionally taught in undergraduate programmes.  Building on the aerodynamic theory delivered in prior units, the unit also addresses highly rarefied and hypersonic flows.  The launch and re-entry stages of satellites and other space vehicles demand appropriate technologies. These might involve but are not limited to a careful assessment and consideration of hypersonic flow, aerothemochemistry, an important skill set for those who might be involved in design and development of specific transport vehicles including single stage to orbit and variants. The unit extends student knowledge on fundamentals of hypersonic flows over spacecraft and properties of real gases. The unit also gives an introduction to rarefaction flows relevant to both aerospace applications and nanotechnologies.


The unit will cover the elements of the following subjects:

. Real and perfect gases,

. Thermodynamics of gas mixtures,

.  Introduction to kinetic gas theory,

.  Molecular thermodynamics,

.  Elements of statistical gas dynamics,

.  High temperature flows,

.  Chemical kinetics,

.  Radiation,

.  Hypersonic flows including

  1. Boltzmann Equation and Conservation Invariants
  2. Hypersonic Flight Corridors (Velocity ~ Altitude Map for Launch and Re-entry)
  3. Newtonian Flow Theory
  4. Other Surface Inclination Methods
  5. Hypersonic Expansion Wave Relations
  6. Viscous Hypersonic Flow
  7. Stagnation Point Heat Transfer
  8. Equilibrium Inviscid Flows
  9. Analysis of Non-Equilibrium Flows
  10. Thermal Protection Methods

.  Applications to re-entry vehicles. 

The unit includes an additional  laboratory component investigating the hypersonic flow over launch/re-entry vehicle to reinforce theoretical concepts an constructs provided as part of the lectures.

Practical skills

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 80%
Report 20%

Feedback methods

Exam - worked answers and typical errors within 1 month of the exam

Report - Individual feedback at time of mark release

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 27
Project supervision 30
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 83

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sergey Utyuzhnikov Unit coordinator

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