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The University of Southampton

SESA6059 Spacecraft Structural Design

Module Overview

This module introduces the fundamental concepts of spacecraft structural design. It leads on from the basic static analysis of structures covered in part I and II and introduces the student to the static and dynamic analysis of satellite structures along with the design methodology.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this 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
  • Gain a good understanding of the basic principles of spacecraft
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this 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
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Study and learn independently
  • Solve problems systematically
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Gain an awareness of structural analysis approaches for spacecraft design


Introduction (1 lecture) Chapter 1 – The Spacecraft Design Process (1 lecture) - Basic definitions, design phases, key requirements, design methodology and loads. Chapter 2 – Loads (6 lectures) - Launch vehicles, the launch manual, understanding the key information and terminology in the manual. Chapter 3 – Analysis Methods (13 lectures) - Basic structural mechanics concepts, single degree of freedom systems (applied to launch vehicles), mechanics of materials overview, Flexible body dynamics, strength analysis. Chapter 4 – Design (6 lectures) - Configuration development, initial structural analysis, materials, methods of attachment, the validated satellite finite element model. Chapter 5 – Mechanisms and Deployable Structures (4 lectures) - Separation systems, deployable structures, mechanical devices, testing. Chapter 6 – Verification and Test (2 lecture) - Structural tests, static tests, dynamic tests, documentation. Summary/Revision Lectures (3 lectures)

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will include lectures. Learning activities include directed reading and problem solving.

Preparation for scheduled sessions58
Wider reading or practice28
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 30%
Final Assessment  70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: FEEG2005

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