Rocket Thrust vs. Altitude

This graph shows how a rocket engine's thrust depends on the rocket's elevation.

Click "Launch" to start the animation, then drag the white elevation slider to change the elevation, ambient pressure, and rocket thrust. For example, moving the slider up increases elevation and thrust, and decreases ambient pressure. This visualization imitates a Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral.

After interacting with the graph, what are some things you notice?

Things to Notice

  • Air pressure drops rather quickly near sea level.
  • After ~30 km, the air pressure is almost negligible.
    • For context, on Falcon 9 flights,  main engine cutoff (MECO) occurs around 70km, while the fairings are deployed at > 100km altitude.
  • Thrust increases with increased elevation and decreased ambient air pressure.

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