The University of Southampton

ELEC3225 Space Systems Engineering

Module Overview

This module is intended for anyone interested in pursuing in more detail the space part of aerospace engineering. It looks at each of the key subsystems of a spacecraft in detail. It also introduces the overall theme of space systems engineering by emphasising the interfaces between subsystems and the iterative nature of spacecraft design and spacecraft systems engineering.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To develop an understanding of spacecraft system engineering and the role of subsystem design.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • An understanding of what space systems engineering is and what the main types of spacecraft are in terms of their functionality.
  • An understanding of the environment that a spacecraft has to operate in and some basic knowledge of how this environment can affect the spacecraft in terms of operation and reliability.
  • An understanding of the basics of orbital mechanics.
  • A basic understanding of the most important spacecraft subsystems and how these interact with each other.


Spacecraft Systems Engineering (2 lectures) - Spacecraft systems engineering - Anatomy of a spacecraft - Different types of spacecraft with examples Space Environment and its Effects on Spacecraft Design (4 lectures) - Launch environment. - Solar influence on space environments - High energy radiation environments - Low energy plasma environment - Space Particulate environment(man-made space debris) - Effects on materials - high vacuum, atomic oxygen, UV, particle radiation. Orbit Dynamics and Mission Analysis (3 lectures) - Orbit selection for different mission types, - Basic orbital mechanics and Keplerian dynamics(conic sections) - Hohmann transfer - Patched conics - interplanetary trajectories, swing-by manoeuvres - Perturbations affecting Earth orbit operations - gravity, air drag, 3rd-body gravity, solar radiation pressure Attitude Control (6 lectures) - Attitude control overview - Disturbance torque analysis - Attitude sensors (Sun, Earth horizon, Stars) - Summary of internal and external control torquers - Attitude determination strategies Spacecraft Propulsion (3 lectures) - Launch vehicles - Basics of chemical propulsion(solid, liquid and hybrid)systems. - Electric propulsion fundamentals - Secondary propulsion systems (cold gas, monopropellant, bipropellant and electric). - Propellant management in zero gravity. Spacecraft Power (4 lectures) - Solar cell arrays - Radio-isotope thermoelectric generators(RTGs) - Batteries - Fuel cells - Power regulation and distribution - EMC and EMI Thermal Control (3 lectures) - Passive and active thermal control methods, passive radiator thermal dynamics. - Comprehensive thermal mathematical model. - Thermal vacuum testing. Communications (3 lectures) - Tele-communications(techniques of radio communications and payload) - Telemetry,Tracking and Command (TT&C) On-board data handling (6 lectures) - Microprocessors - Low-level building blocks/support components - On-board computers - Mass - Remote interface units - On-board buses and Data networks Revision lectures (2 lectures)

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: - 36 lectures, including slide and video presentations, and example classes. - An industrial visit (subject to availability). Learning activities include: - Directed reading - Individual work to understand and master the course content, with the objective of successfully solving problems

Completion of assessment task2
Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Follow-up work18
Wider reading or practice66
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Fortescue, Swinerd & Stark (Editors) (2011). Spacecraft Systems Engineering (4th Edition). 

Space Mission Engineering: The New SMAD (Space Technology Library, Vol. 28). 



MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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