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The University of Southampton

SESA6081 Spacecraft Instrumentation

Module Overview

This module describes the development of spacecraft instrumentation, from the definition of the requirements to the final design and operation. You will also gain a good understanding of the interaction between the instrument and the platform and the space qualification process.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe the basic physical principles involved in spacecraft instrument measurements and how these are translated into specific requirements for the instrument itself.
  • Identify how instruments are developed for spacecraft, from the definition of their requirements to the final design and operation.
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:

  • Perform calculations from first principles to allow simple first order design analyses for a range of instruments.
  • Select appropriate components to put together the design of complete instruments.


Discussion of the various different types of spacecraft instruments, including science and remote sensing. This module includes a series of lectures, which cover: • Physics of instruments: Remote sensing principles (electromagnetic spectrum, synthetic aperture and other radars, optics, spectroscopy, cameras, telescopes), in –situ measurements (planetary probes, landers and rovers, particulate/dust detectors, charged particle spectrometers). • Sensors for attitude and position sensing • The instrumentation design process in general • The space qualification process (vibration (launch vehicles, thermal and other environmental aspects) • Key performance parameters: Field of view, sensitivity, pointing, detectors, resolution • Thermal and structural design requirements • Future Developments

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • 36 lectures, including slide and video presentations and examples. Learning activities include: • directed reading • individual work to understand and master the course content, with the objective of successfully solving problems.

Follow-up work18
Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Wider reading or practice68
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list



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: SESA2024

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