Engineering and the Environment

SESA6040 Spacecraft Structural Design

Module Overview

Module overview

Module Details

Title: Spacecraft Structural Design
Code: SESA6040
Year: 4
Semester: 1

CATS points: 10 ECTS points: 5
Level: Undergraduate
Co-ordinator(s): Dr Scott J I Walker

Pre-requisites and / or co-requisites

This module has the following Pre-Requisites:

Aircraft StructuresSESA20082

Aims and objectives

The aims of this module are to:
  • To provide an overview of the issues that need to be addressed in the design of spacecraft structures and mechanisms.
  • To provide students with an appreciation and understanding of the development of the whole spacecraft structural design process
Objectives (planned learning outcomes)

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

The development of the spacecraft structural design, starting from the definition of the structural requirements to the final structural test campaign. You will also gain a good understanding of the basic principles of spacecraft mechanisms design.

Intellectual skills
Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to:

  • Understand the mechanical design requirements quoted in launchers user manuals
  • Calculate loads on the spacecraft structural elements.
  • Select appropriately the structural parameters to meet the requirements.
  • Perform a spacecraft structural analysis.
  • Analyse structural test data and compare them with theoretical predictions.

Practical skills
Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to:

General transferable (key) skills
Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to:


  • The spacecraft structural design process
  • Launch vehicles
    The sources of mechanical excitation.
    Satellite's mechanical environment, QSL, random vibrations, acoustic loads etc..
    Structural design requirements
  • Vibration response
  • Typical structural component
    Honeycomb panels / inserts / bolted and bonded joints etc…
  • Typical spacecraft structural layouts
  • Secondary structures
  • Mechanisms
    Deployable structures
  • Structural analysis techniques for spacecraft structures
    FEM, SEA
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials
  • Structural verification / testing.
    Qualification program. Dynamic and static tests. Correlation FE - test results. Vibration levels for equipment units.

Learning and teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours: 18
Private study hours: 82
Total study time: 100 hours

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include
  • Lectures
  • Demonstration classes
  • Problem solving classes
Learning activities include
  • Self study
  • Problem solving

Resources and reading list

Spacecraft Structures and Mechanism, By T. P. Sarafin, ISBN 0-7923-3476-0


Assessment methods

Assessment method Number% contribution to final mark
2 hour closed book examination 1 100


Feedback and student support during module study (formative assessment)

  • Direct feedback through questions during the lectures
  • Worked examples will provide self-assessment.

Relationship between the teaching, learning and assessment methods and the planned learning outcomes

The teaching and learning methods will provide students with the necessary combination of knowledge, understanding and skills appropriate to the module.
The assessment of student knowledge, understanding and skills is performed during a standard examination.