LIVESTREAM: “The BIS Von Karman Line Buster”

The West Midlands branch of the British Interplanetary Society continues its programme of space lectures via Zoom.

“The BIS Von Karman Line Buster” by Ian Johnston

Saturday 20 June 2020 between 2pm and 3.15pm, via Zoom
The trajectory a rocket takes in flight can be predicted with reasonable accuracy using various software packages. Some of these require a high level of expertise, but others can be relatively straightforward. Some of the packages, aimed at the hobby rocket market are surprisingly rigorous. You may be familiar with Apogee’s “RockSim”, but I would like to introduce you to a similar package called “OpenRocket”.
Unlike RockSim, OpenRocket is free and can be downloaded from
• The link is a Dropbox link and it implies you have to register, but you don’t need to. Just click the “No Thanks” button at the bottom!
• The link takes you to a version of the software which has some elements of Java included in the install. Other versions of the software are available but may not work on all computers!

Ian plans to take you on a tour of OpenRocket to design a vehicle (single stage, sounding rocket 10 – 15 kg Payload to 120 Km, fin stabilised, no recovery of motor) to break through the Von Karman Line. This will be a single stage vehicle, but if time permits, we can extend it to 2 stages.

If you want to join the session, we suggest you download the software (via the link above) and we can work through it together. 

Look forward to meeting you all again in cyberspace

Ian Johnston

After travelling in the Middle East for a couple of years I started working for the MoD in 1978 at what was then the Propellants, Explosives and Rocket Motor Establishment at Westcott. I was involved in the Polaris Improvement Programme (Chevaline) and later as a member of the Design and Assessment Group. Here I learned page 1 of how to design a successful solid propellant rocket motor. From Westcott I moved to Royal Ordnance Bishopton, near Glasgow where I worked on the design of charges for large calibre guns – that was a very noisy couple of years. Then after a year at BAJ, Weston Super Mare making rocket motor hardware BAJ were bought out by Meggitt and I was made redundant.

I saw out the last 25 years of my career at Summerfield at what is now Roxel. Still working on the design, analysis and modelling of solid propellant motors I like to think that after more than 40 years in the business I have reached the end of the first chapter – rocket motors are awkward little rascals.

Since taking early retirement from Roxel 6 years ago I work with the Falcon Project back at Westcott in what is now a Venture Park and also as a rocket propulsion consultant.



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