The ability to design and test your rocket before actually building it is quite the asset for the rocket designer. Many programs exist for this. One of these programs is the Java-based open source software named OpenRocket.
OpenRocket features realistic wind modeling, clustering and staging, just to name a few. It allows for free-form and canted fins. OpenRocket is an Open Source project licensed under the GNU GPL.
This means that the software is free to download and to use for whichever purposes you desire. You do not need to purchase or register for a license code to use this software.
As well the source code is also available for studying and extending. So for those of you that are Java programmers, OpenRocket source code may be downloaded and modified to suit your purposes.
Downloading and Running the Program
As with many software programs the best way to learn it is to give it a try. You may download OpenRocket from the download page here.
OpenRocket is hosted on the SourceForge network and you may visit the website of OpenRocket by clicking here. To use the software download the latest version and double click on it. It will come as a jar file. You will need the Java runtime library installed on your computer. You may download java from the java.com website by clicking here.
You may run OpenRocket on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X or any other operating system that supports the latest Java Virtual Machine. For those of you using Mac OS X you may not need to download Java as the latest version should be installed with the Operating System.
Please note however I was not able to run OpenRocket on a G4 Mac running Leopard. I didn’t have a problem with an Intel based Mac running the same OS. This is due to the fact that the version of Java needed for OpenRocket (the latest version) is not available for non-Intel Mac computers.
As OpenRocket is an open source project there are opportunities to get involved with the development, testing and documentation of the program. As of this writing the project is currently looking for Java Developers, people to assist with aerodynamic computation methods and people to help write the documentation. Getting involved would be an excellent way to not only improve the program but to help you in your aerospace education.
For more information on OpenRocket please visit the website at: http://openrocket.sourceforge.net.
©2011 Sigma Rockets and Aerospace Inc.