base drag

Base drag is a component of aerodynamic drag caused by a partial vacuum in the rocket's tail area. The vacuum is the hole created by the rocket's passage through the air. Base drag changes during flight. While the motor is firing, the drag is minimal since the tremendous volume of gas generated by the motor fills this void. The drag takes a sharp jump at burnout when this gas disappears.


Base drag can be reduced by the use of a boattail to transition the main body diameter down to the motor diameter which helps direct air into the evacuated area. When properly designed, a boattail can reduce base drag below zero (i.e. actually generate a small amount of forward thrust) by making use of the "pumpkin seed" effect.