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The University of Southampton

SESA3039 Advanced Astronautics

Module Overview

This module is essential for anyone interested in pursuing space in the spacecraft theme or as an individual project. It builds on the basics first introduced in Part 2 and looks at each of the key subsystems of a spacecraft in detail. The module includes orbital and trajectory theory, where two-body motion, manoeuvres and special trajectories are described. Sequence and issues during entry, descent and landing (EDL) operations are covered in detail. The module may include design practice on thermal and power sub-system.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The mechanics of Keplerian and perturbed orbits
  • The sequency of entry, descent and landing of spacecraft
  • The parameters that influence the design of power and thermal control system
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Study and learn independently
  • Demonstrate study and time management skills
  • Solve problems systematically
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Study and learn independently
  • Solve problems systematically
  • Gain an awareness of trajectory design and optimisation for space mission design
  • Critically examine the solution of numerical problems against acquired knowledge
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Perform a preliminary trajectory design for a space mission
  • Perform a conceptual design of spacecraft power and thermal control system
  • Identify technical challenges of entering/re-entering the atmosphere


Attitude Dynamics and Control: Attitude parameterisations. Features and conversions Attitude kinematics, dynamics and control Attitude determination Spacecraft attitude sensors. Working principles Actuators for spacecraft attitude control Orbital Mechanics: Kepler’s problem: solution to Keplerian motion and orbital parameterisation Orbital manoeuvres: coplanar and non-coplanar manoeuvres Orbital perturbations Mission analysis Interplanetary trajectories Restricted three-body problem Power System (Design practice may include): Power system element and basic design principles Orbital Consideration Energy sources Energy storage devices Thermal Control System (Design practice may include): Fundamental of Thermal analysis Environmental heat inputs Thermal control hardware Thermal testing Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL): Fundamental of Atmospheric entry/re-entry method Deceleration of Spacecraft Atmospheric entry/re-entry issues Design and Testing methods of EDL: ground testing facilities and computational methods

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Learning activities include directed reading, problem solving, and computer lab sessions. Teaching methods include: 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 through problem sheets Computer programming of related problems Application of course content to astronautics-based Part 3 Individual Projects

Follow-up work16
Preparation for scheduled sessions17
Wider reading or practice69
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

P.W. Fortescue, J.P.W. Stark and G.G. Swinerd (2011). Spacecraft Systems Engineering. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 80%
Quiz  (30 minutes) 4%
Quiz  (30 minutes) 4%
Quiz  (30 minutes) 4%
Quiz  (30 minutes) 4%
Quiz  (30 minutes) 4%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: SESA2024

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