Maximum Q and Dynamic Pressure

Here's another question we've received several times. We first posted an answer on the subject here.

As explained in the above link, "Q" or "q" is simply a quantity called dynamic pressure, which is a combination of air density and speed. During the launch of any rocket, the speed increases since the rocket accelerates, but air density decreases the higher the rocket goes. There is a point where the combination of increasing speed and decreasing density is a maximum, and this is the point called "max q." Rockets, aircraft, missiles, and other vehicles are all designed to withstand only a certain maximum q before they will suffer structural damage, so the term is used throughout aerospace engineering and not just by NASA.
- answer by Doug Jackson, 10 November 2002

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