NASA Logo - Web Link to

+ Text Only Site
+ Non-Flash Version
+ Contact Glenn

NASA Meatball Image

Rocket Pitch Motion

ESMD Logo Image
Computer animation of a rocket in which the nose
 moves up and down in response to moving the nozzle.

In flight, any rocket will rotate about its center of gravity, a point which is the average location of the mass of the rocket. We can define a three dimensional coordinate system through the center of gravity with each axis of this coordinate system perpendicular to the other two axes. We can then define the orientation of the rocket by the amount of rotation of the parts of the rocket along these principal axes. The pitch axis is perpendicular to the rocket centerline. A pitch motion is an up or down movement of the nose of the rocket as shown in the animation.

The pitching motion is being caused by the deflection of the nozzle of the rocket. Such a rotation of the nozzle is called gimballing the nozzle and the motion causes the thrust vector to be inclined to the roll axis. Since the center of gravity is located on the roll axis, the thrust vector generates a torque about the center of gravity which causes the rocket to rotate. The Space Shuttle executes a pitch maneuver during its ascent into orbit.

Guided Tours
  • Button to Display Previous Page Rocket Flight: Button to Display Next Page
  • Button to Display Previous Page Rocket Rotation: Button to Display Next Page
  • Button to Display Previous Page Guidance System: Button to Display Next Page


Related Sites:
Rocket Index
Rocket Home
Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Home


     First Gov Image

+ Inspector General Hotline
+ Equal Employment Opportunity Data Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
+ Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
+ Freedom of Information Act
+ The President's Management Agenda
+ NASA Privacy Statement, Disclaimer,
and Accessibility Certification


Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: June 12, 2014 Oct 22 2015

+ Contact Glenn