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Unit information: Space Systems in 2016/17

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Space Systems
Unit code AENG22300
Credit points 10
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Lucy Berthoud
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Aerospace Engineering
Faculty Faculty of Engineering


The unit introduces spacecraft engineering from a system level perspective. First students learn about the context of space exploration through a history of space lecture. Then payloads as the drivers of mission design are examined. After this, orbital mechanics is covered in some lectures up to Hohmann transfer level. Labs are used to reinforce understanding of orbital mechanics with a short piece of coursework using the orbit modelling software to assess understanding of calculations and terminology.

Propulsion and launchers follow with calculations of delta V. Then spacecraft subsystems are covered next (including power, thermal, communications, mechanical systems, AOCS), with an emphasis on how these systems work together to deliver a specific mission. A blackboard quiz provides feedback to give students a chance to test themselves. The course finishes with two industrial satellite case studies, at least one of these is provided by industry. Example sheets, examples classes, videos and demonstrations support the learning throughout

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

LO1 - Perform simple calculations for Keplerian orbits and transfers
LO2 – Explain terminology used to describe orbits
LO3 – Perform simple calculations for rockets
LO4 – Perform simple calculations for spacecraft subsystems
LO5 – Describe the constituents and functioning of the spacecraft subsystems, including propulsion.
LO6 – Describe mission examples of subsystem design implementation.

Teaching details

Students receive two 50minute lectures for 10 weeks on Space Systems. These provide coverage of each topic, with examples, videos and/or demonstrations. Comprehensive notes for the lectures are provided online as well as paper copies of the slides for students to annotate. The following are also provided:

  • 3 example sheets (with solutions provided later in the term) on orbits, rockets and subsystems.
  • 2 x 2hrGMAT orbit modelling labs to facilitate understanding of orbits. Question sheets and instructions are provided. Solutions are provided to the first question sheet. The second question sheet is assessed.
  • 1 Blackboard multiple choice quiz where students have to achieve 8/10 to pass. This occurs half way through the TB in order to give feedback on progress. Multiple attempts are permitted.

Assessment Details

1 laboratory coursework (10%) (LO1 and LO2),
1 'must pass' quiz (LO1-LO5),
2 hr examination in January (90%) (LO1-LO6)

Reading and References

  • Spacecraft Systems Engineering by Peter Fortescue and John Stark, 3rd edition Wiley
  • Spacecraft Mission Analysis and Design by Wertz and Larson 3rd edition, Springer