The current User's Guide is very much a work in progress, any help would be greatly appreciated!
What is OpenRocket?
OpenRocket is an open source model rocket simulation software application. It was originally developed by Sampo Niskanen in 2009 as part of his master thesis at what was then Helsinki University of Technology. If you want to have a look at his thesis you can download it from OpenRocket's technical documentation page. Written entirely in Java, OpenRocket is fully cross-platform. Have a look at the next section if you need information about how to open the program on your computer.
OpenRocket is intended to be used by rocketeers who want to test the performance of a model rocket before actually building and flying it. The software accurately computes the aerodynamic properties of rockets and simulates their flight, returning a wide range of technical results.
The program can be roughly divided into two sections:
- Rocket design, where you can design the model rocket you intend to build, choosing from a wide range of body components, trapezoidal, elliptical and free-form fins, inner components, and mass objects. During this phase you will see a 2D representation of the rocket you are building and various technical information (size, mass, apogee, max. velocity, max. acceleration, stability, centre of gravity (CG), centre of pressure (CP)) about your rocket, so you can have already a good idea of its performance even before running any simulation.
- Flight simulation, where you can run one or more simulations of your rocket's flight, choosing from one or more motor configurations. Each simulation (calculated using the Runge-Kutta 4 simulator) returns a wide range of data about the rocket's flight. Unfortunately, for the moment a graphical visualization of the rocket's flight is not available (help needed).
For more information about OpenRocket's features and a few screenshots you can have a look here.
How this guide is organized
Note: since work on the User's Guide is still currently in progress, many sections are still incomplete or empty. This subsection also explains the content of those sections, as it's meant to be a reference when the guide will be completed.
This guide presents information on how to use OpenRocket. This wiki contains a certain amount of technical information, but the Developer Wiki on GitHub has information for developers about building OpenRocket from source, packaging it, and contributing to the project.
We'll try to explain how to fully exploit all of OpenRocket's features. We'll start off at a relatively basic level and then look at more and more complicated parts of the software. Depending on your level of experience and your learning objectives, you should either start reading from a specific section, or end reading at a specific section.
You're reading Section 1, the Introduction.
The next section, Downloading & Installing, explains how to install OpenRocket. You can look for a packaged binary with everything you need, or learn how to install Java on your computer (or find out if it is already installed) and then how to launch OpenRocket. If you have already managed to launch the program, skip this section.
Getting Started gets you started. If you are an experienced user you should be able to get most of what is explained there on your own, but we recommend that everyone read it so you can fully understand how OpenRocket is organized.
From sections Basic Rocket Design and Basic Flight Simulation, you will learn how to design some basic rockets and simulate their flights, using OpenRocket. These sections are useful for both experienced and non-experienced rocketeers, since they basically show how to use most of the software.
Sections Advanced Rocket Design and Advanced Flight Simulation build on the material explained in sections 4 and 5. These sections are meant for experienced rocketeers, since they explain how to use OpenRocket to design more complicated rockets and run simulations with them.
Rocket Analysis is about analyzing the rocket you have built and optimizing its performance. It is suitable both for experienced and non-experienced users.
Custom Expressions is about Simulation listeners, i.e.; a way to monitor and interact with flight simulations while they are running. It is suitable for experienced users.
Finally, Simulation Listeners is about some extra features that have not been, until then, explained. Also, you can have a look at Component Details for a full list of rocket components available in OpenRocket and their uses.