Which books, journals, articles, or electronic resources are considered a must-read by scientists, engineers, etc., involved in development and design of space missions?

I'm looking for the so-called "literary canon" of space missions; The ones most praiseworthy for expanding one's knowledge on space exploration.

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Reference books:

  • Space Mission Analysis and Design. W. J. Larson and J. R. Wertz (Editors). Microcosm Press, 1999.

  • Space Mission Engineering: The New SMAD. James R. Wertz (Editor).

  • Space Vehicle Dynamics and Control. Bong Wie. AIAA, 1998.

  • Spacecraft Thermal Control Handbook: Vol.1 Fundamental Technologies. David G. Gilmore (ed.) AIAA, 2002.

  • Space Systems Failures. Harland, Shayler, Lorenz. 2005.

  • Space Debris: Models and Risk Analysis. Heinrich Klinkrad. 2006.

  • Orbit and Constellation Design and Management. J.R. Wertz. Microcosm, 2001.

  • Spacecraft-Environment Interactions. Daniel Hastings & Henry Garrett. Cambridge Univ.Press, 1996.

  • Hypersonic aerothermodynamics. John J. Bertin. AIAA, 1994.

  • Modeling and Simulation of Aerospace Vehicle Dynamics. (2nd ed.). Peter H. Zipfel. AIAA, 2007.

  • Deep Space Flight and Communications: Exploiting the Sun as a Gravitational Lens. Claudio Maccone. Springer, 2009.

  • Modern Engineering for Design of Liquid-Propellant Rocket Engines. Dieter K. Huzel and David H. Huang. AIAA, 1992.

  • Coming Home: Reentry and Recovery from Space. Roger D. Launius, Dennis R. Jenkins, NASA
    Free download in EPUB / MOBI / PDF formats via NASA e-Books page

  • Introduction to Astrodynamic Reentry. Lt.-Col. Kerry D. Hicks, 2009. (Free PDF online).

  • Mechanics and Thermodynamics of Propulsion. P. Hill, C. Peterson. Addison-Wesley, 1992

  • Rocket Propulsion Elements, 7th Ed.. G.P. Sutton & O. Biblarz. John Wiley & Sons, 2001
    Free PDF from MIT, albeit with many drawings cut away - it's better to read the 4th ed. as well

  • Liquid rocket combustion instability. NASA, 1972. SP-194. Harrje D.T., Reardon F.H.

  • Liquid rocket engine combustion instability. Progress in Aeronautics and Astronautics, vol. 169. AIAA; 1995. Yang V., Anderson W. (eds.)

  • Dynamical Systems, the Three-Body Problem and Space Mission Design, Koon, Lo, Marsden & Ross, 2006
    Free PDF form Caltech

  • Statistical Orbit Determination. B.D. Tapley, B.E. Schutz, G.H. Born. New York, Elsevier, 2004.

  • Spacecraft Operations. Thomas Uhlig, Florian Sellmaier, Michael Schmidhuber. Springer, 2014. ISBN 9783709118023

  • Deep Space Optical Communications. Ed.by Hamid Hemmati. JPL, 2005. Available online

  • Handbook for limiting orbital debris. NASA, 2008 (expired in 2013). Still Online.

  • Libration Point Orbits and Applications. J.Masdemont. 2003.

  • Fundamentals of Electric Propulsion: Ion and Hall Thrusters. Dan M. Goebel, Ira Katz. Free PDF from NASA

  • Principles of Space Instrument Design. A. M. Cruise, T. J. Patrick, J. A. Bowles, C. V. Goodall. Cambridge Univ.Press, 1998. ISBN 9780521451642.

  • Deep Space Telecommunications Systems Engineering. Joseph H. Yuen (Ed.), Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 1982, (JPL Publication 82-76) Online

  • LEO on the Cheap: Methods for Achieving Drastic Reductions in Space Launch Costs. John R. London III, Lt Col, USAF. Research Report No. AU-ARI-93-8, Air University Press, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, October 1994. Free and Available here.

  • Orbital Mechanics for Engineering Students by Howard Curtis. Rentable as an ebook, purchasable in all formats

  • An Introduction to Rocket Missile Propulsion Rocketdyne Technical Training publication that covers basic rocket equations in a simplified manner. Annoying page-at-a-time viewer but a valuable resource.

  • Glossary of Terms Used in Chemical Propulsion Systems Defines most commonly used words used in discussing chemical rocket systems.

Manned exploration references, just in case someone needs them:

Model and amateur rocketry (someone's got to start somewhere!):

  • How to Design, Build and Test Small Liquid-Fueled Rocket Engines, Leroy J. Krzycki, Rocketlab / China Lake, CA., 1967
    Online source


  • AIAA Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics
  • AIAA Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets
  • Icarus
  • Journal of the Astronautical Sciences
  • Planetary and Space Science
  • Acta Astronautica

History books and collections:
Nonfiction and activity space books for children:
  • (age 4-8) Brian Floc: Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (48 pages)

  • (age 5-7) Martha E. H. Rustad: The Exploring Space (6 x 24 pages)

  • Linda McReynolds: Eight Days Gone (48 pages, 2012) ISBN 9781580893640.

  • (age 7-11) Raman Prinja: Universe Rocks (4 x 32 pages, 2012) ISBN 9781848359345.

  • Elise Gravel: Blast off with Doodle Tom (96 pages)

  • (age 8-10) Heinemann-Raintree (publisher): Astronaut Travel Guides (8 x 48 pages)

  • (age 9+) Mark Brake, Nishant Choksi: Really, Really Big Questions about Space and Time (64 pages)

  • (age 9-13) Don Nardo: Destined for Space (64 pages)

  • (age 9-13) Enslow Publishers: The American Space Missions—Astronauts, Exploration, and Discovery (6 x 48 pages)

  • (age 10+) Ian Graham: 3D Explorer: Solar System (32 pages pop-up)

  • (age 10-13) Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, Michael Carroll: A Black Hole Is Not a Hole (48 pages)

  • (age 10+) Clive Gifford: Out of This World: All the Cool Bits About Space (128 pages)

  • (age 10+) Pamela Dell: Man on the Moon: How a Photograph Made Anything Seem Possible (64 pages)

  • Kristen McCurry, Mat Edwards: How to Draw Amazing Airplanes and Spacecraft (64 pages)

  • (age 11+) Eve Hartman, Wendy Meshbesher: Mission to Mars (56 pages)

  • Review of children's space-themed books by Emily Lakdawalla

Interdisciplinary books:
  • Harry McSween and Gary Huss, Cosmochemistry
  • Paul Schenk, Atlas of the Galilean Satellites
  • N.N.Greenwood and A. Earnshaw, Chemistry of the Elements, (1ed., Pergamon, 1984), (2ed., Butterworth-Heinemann, 1997, ISBN 978-0-7506-3365-9)

Design reference missions:

To be determined

Mirrored at GitHub.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have another link for Rocket Propulsion Elements, 7th Ed.. G.P. Sutton & O. Biblarz. John Wiley & Sons, 2001? The MIT link is dead. $\endgroup$ – T.J. Tarazevits Jun 29 '15 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ @T.J.Tarazevits - looked up at Web Archive, fixed the linky. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Jul 1 '15 at 9:46
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    $\begingroup$ Not being a book it doesn't seem to fit directly in the existing structure but the JPL Basics of Spaceflight is a good resource: www2.jpl.nasa.gov/basics/index.php $\endgroup$ – 1337joe Aug 5 '15 at 19:01

The list of (historical and current) launch vehicle user manuals

An infographic from Randall Munroe (XKCD), click for a large version:

Copyright XKCD


This stuff is more focused on earth centered orbits then interplanetary, but the math is the same.

Fundamentals of Astrodynamics by Bate Mueller & White is a great introductory to intermediate level text at a very good price.

I think probably most people working in the field have a copy of "BMW" on their bookshelf. They're coming out with a new edition this fall, more then 40 years after the original - mine is already on order.

Another good one is Methods of Orbit Determination by Escobal - I particularly like to treatment of coordinate systems.

Spacetrack Report Number 3 by Hoots and Roehrich is the foundational work on General Perturbations theory used in the SGP4 propagator for TLE (Two Line Element) data.

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Online courses and textbooks (free of charge)

  1. NASA Basics of Space Flight
  2. Khan Academy
  3. The Physics Hypertextbook
  4. Bookboon's Engineering section
  5. Engineering Mathematics: YouTube Workbook
  6. Alison Foundation Diploma in Mathematics - Science, Technology and Engineering
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Propellants - fuels and oxidizers

  • Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants. John D. Clark, 1972. Available in pdf.
  • Safety Standard for Oxygen and Oxygen Systems. NASA, 1996. Available in pdf.
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NASA Space Vehicle Design Criteria (Chemical Propulsion) series

A series of monographs from the 1970s covering many aspects of rocket propulsion system design. (There may be other entries in the series that I have not located.) All are .pdfs from NASA NTRS.

  • NASA SP-8025 Solid Rocket Motor Metal Cases

  • NASA SP-8041 Captive-fired Testing of Solid Rocket Motors

  • NASA SP-8051 Solid Rocket Motor Igniters

  • NASA SP-8052 Liquid Rocket Engine Turbopump Inducers

  • NASA SP-8080 Liquid Rocket Pressure Regulators, Relief Valves, Check Valves, Burst Disks, and Explosive Valves

  • NASA SP-8081 Liquid Propellant Gas Generators

  • NASA SP-8087 Liquid Rocket Engine Fluid-cooled Combustion Chambers

  • NASA SP-8088 Liquid Rocket Metal Tanks and Tank Components

  • NASA SP-8089 Liquid Rocket Engine Injectors

  • NASA SP-8094 Liquid Rocket Valve Components

  • NASA SP-8097 Liquid Rocket Valve Assemblies

  • NASA SP-8100 Liquid Rocket Engine Turbopump Gears

  • NASA SP-8101 Liquid Rocket Engine Turbopump Shafts and Couplings

  • NASA SP-8107 Turbopump Systems for Liquid Rocket Engines

  • NASA SP-8109 Liquid Rocket Engine Centrifugal Flow Turbopumps

  • NASA SP-8110 Liquid Rocket Engine Turbines

  • NASA SP-8112 Pressurization Systems for Liquid Rockets

  • NASA SP-8113 Liquid Rocket Engine Combustion Stabilization Devices

  • NASA SP-8119 Liquid Rocket Disconnects, Couplings, Fittings, Fixed Joints, and Seals

  • NASA SP-8120 Liquid Rocket Engine Nozzles

  • NASA SP-8121 Liquid Rocket Engine Turbopump Rotating-shaft Seals

  • NASA SP-8123 Liquid Rocket Lines, Bellows, Flexible Hoses, and Filters

  • NASA SP-8121 Liquid Rocket Engine Axial-flow Turbopumps

  • NASA SP-8126 Glossary of Terms and Table of Conversion Factors used in Design of Chemical Propulsion Systems

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