Mechanical Engineering ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 12-16-2023


This thesis investigates nose cone dimpling for the reduction of the aerodynamic drag of a Level 3 High-Power amateur rocket. Two rocket launches were conducted. The first used a COTS nose cone with a smooth surface. A dimple distribution was created according to dimensions calculated by Sandia National Laboratories’ proprietary Right- Size Dimple Evaluator. A dimpled nose cone, designed with geometry matching the COTS component, was 3D printed. Axial acceleration and barometric pressure data, recorded by an onboard flight computer, were used to calculate and plot the drag coefficient as a function of the Reynolds number for the smooth and dimpled configurations. According to the best trajectory reconstruction model for interpreting the flight test dataset, the dimples successfully reduced the drag coefficient by about ~20% over the range of coasting upwards flight 7×105 ≤ ReD ≤ 1×106. A Monte Carlo simulation was performed to validate the model and quantify uncertainty resulting from the accelerometer sensor error.


drag reduction, engineered surfaces, aerodynamic dimpling, subsonic flight

Degree Name

Mechanical Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Mechanical Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Peter Vorobieff

Second Committee Member

Daniel Banuti

Third Committee Member

Fernando Aguilar

Fourth Committee Member

Nima Fathi

Fifth Committee Member

Salvador Rodriguez


Sandia National Laboratories

Document Type