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The University of Southampton

SESA3038 Space Environment

Module Overview

This module will provide an understanding of different aspects of the space environment, including space weather, space climate, and space debris, and how these impact on spacecraft design, human and robotic spaceflight, and terrestrial infrastructure systems. It will address the concept of space sustainability, look at ways in which humans are affecting the space environment, and what this might mean for the future of spaceflight. It will complement the topics covered in other part 3 and part 4 modules and provide an important context for spacecraft engineers and students interested in human spaceflight. As well as introducing the fundamental concepts and physical processes influencing the space environment and its subsequent impact on humans and spacecraft, case studies will enable students to explore particular topics at a deeper level.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The characteristics of the space environment, including the space debris environment
  • How measurements of the space environment can be made
  • Space weather, space climate and space debris drivers
  • How the space environment affects human and robotic systems
  • How humans can survive in the space environment
  • How humans are affecting the space environment
  • What measures are needed to ensure the long term sustainability of space activities
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe the roles of the Sun and the Earth in space weather and space climate
  • Identify and evaluate the effects that humans have on the space environment
  • Justify the need for human spaceflight
  • Explain the effects of spaceflight on humans
  • Recognise the impacts of space weather, space climate and space debris and debate the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of mitigation measures
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Study and learn independently
  • Appreciate design problems in an environmental context
  • Develop balanced arguments to justify design or operational decisions
  • Communicate effectively using written and verbal methods


The Space Environment: Space and near-Earth environment Effects on materials Spacecraft charging The thermosphere and exosphere Human Spaceflight: Discovery of post-flight health issues in astronauts Effect of spaceflight on human physiology and countermeasures Space Weather: Types of space weather Impacts of space weather Space weather scales Remote and in-situ monitoring/measurement of space weather Modelling Space Climate: Space climate drivers, solar and anthropogenic Measurement of space climate Impacts of space climate change Modelling Space Debris: Natural and artificial space debris Hazards, including re-entry Remote and in-situ measurement, space surveillance and tracking Modelling Protection Mitigation, space traffic management, remediation and space sustainability

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: Lectures, including PowerPoint and video presentations Seminars with discussions Tutorials (focused on coursework assignment) Learning activities include: Directed reading Discussions focused on challenging topics Computer-based activities (using free-to-use software)

Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Follow-up work18
Wider reading or practice62
Completion of assessment task6
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

MASTER space debris environment model.

Debris Assessment Software (DAS).

DAMAGE space debris model.



Essay/briefing plans


MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 20%
Final Assessment  80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite SESA2024


To study this module, you will need to also study the following module(s):

SESA3039Advanced Astronautics
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