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The University of Southampton

SESA6079 Space Systems Engineering

Module Overview

This module will provide an understanding of the processes and methods used in industry to design spacecraft. By taking a systems engineering approach, it will fit with other modules that are taking a detailed look at spacecraft subsystems, whilst emphasising the concurrent and iterative nature of spacecraft design, beginning from the definition of a space mission and the identification of a suitable payload to the final assembly, integration and verification. Students will be introduced to systems engineering, concurrent design, spacecraft design optimisation techniques, standards, and regulatory issues. In addition, seminars that discuss real space missions will demonstrate how these methods have been applied in industry. Finally, students will carry out a limited group project to put the key concepts and methods into practice.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to understand where spacecraft design drivers come from and be able to apply concepts of space systems engineering to the design of a spacecraft. You will also gain an understanding of the design lifecycle, the design approaches that are used in industry, how these are tailored to specific missions, how to perform trade-offs in a quantitative manner, how compliance with standards and regulations will impact the design, and how the design is verified. These skills will be highlighted in seminars (some from external speakers) that will provide examples from real space missions. Finally, you will put these concepts into practice in a small group design project that will provide you with the skills needed to approach more complicated space systems design projects.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Where spacecraft design drivers come from
  • How lifecycles are used to manage space projects
  • What methods can be used to produce optimal spacecraft designs
  • What impacts standards and regulations have on spacecraft design
  • How spacecraft design is verified
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Apply space project management and design methods to spacecraft design challenges
  • Incorporate standards and regulations into spacecraft design
  • Identify information requirements and sources for spacecraft design
  • Critically evaluate design options
  • Develop appropriate test procedures to verify spacecraft designs
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Study and learn independently and as part of a team
  • Solve problems systematically
  • Adopt appropriate methodologies and practices for design
  • Communicate design choices and justifications using written and verbal methods


Space mission selection and definition: Mission and payload/instrument selection Mission objectives Spacecraft Systems Engineering: Spacecraft systems engineering Project lifecycles Space project management Assembly, integration and verification Concurrent Spacecraft Design: Design methods Concurrent design Design optimisation methods Standards and Regulatory Aspects: Standards (ECSS, ISO) Regulatory aspects, including legal aspects Seminars: Examples from industry Group project: In-class project focusing on a spacecraft design problem

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: Lectures, including PowerPoint and video presentations Discussions Seminars, including speakers from industry (subject to their availability) Limited, in-class project activity with supervision Learning activities include: Directed reading Discussions focused on challenging topics Individual and group work

Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Wider reading or practice62
Project supervision6
Follow-up work18
Completion of assessment task6
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

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



Group project presentation


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment 20%
Examination  (120 minutes) 80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment 20%
Examination  (120 minutes) 80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 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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