The University of Southampton
Engineering and the Environment

Space Systems Engineering: course details

A Space mission is essentially a compromise. It represents the best overall solution to the user requirements of a large number of elements including the spacecraft, launch vehicle and ground segment. All of these systems interact strongly with each other but they must work in harmony.

This course of lectures gives a broad view of the space mission, and gives an insight into the working of its systems and how they interact with each other. It is aimed at users of spacecraft who wish to understand why spacecraft take the form that they do, and at the subsystem specialist who wishes to see his or her area of expertise in the context of the total vehicle. Other people who work with spacecraft and the space business will also find it of value.

Course Contents

The lectures cover the following topics:

Spacecraft Systems: The overall systems approach to spacecraft design is discussed. This includes the requirements, the design drivers and the mission objectives. Different designs of spacecraft are illustrated by a number of slides.

The Space Environment: These lectures cover environmental aspects imposed upon the spacecraft/payload by the processes of manufacture and launch, and by on-orbit effects induced by the presence of the spacecraft itself; for example 'glow', AO erosion and orbital debris.

Celestial Mechanics: This lecture discusses the perturbation effects imposed upon an Earth-orbiting spacecraft. The main influences of gravity anomalies, aerodynamic forces, third-body gravitational forces and solar radiation pressure are covered.

Mission Analysis: 

Propulsion: The basics of chemical and electric propulsion are given. These are followed by a number of examples of secondary propulsion systems used on spacecraft.

Electrical Power Raising and Supply: The elements that make up a spacecraft power subsystem are considered and illustrated with a large number of spacecraft examples. Battery and solar array cells are considered in detail and the sizing of a power subsystem is demonstrated.

Thermal Control: This lecture includes the basics of thermal control in space, passive and active systems, thermal mathematical models and the interfaces with the thermal control subsystem.

Spacecraft Structures: The importance of material selection in structure design is emphasised. Stresses and fracture mechanics are discussed and the structure design philosophy is outlined.

On-board Data Handling: European regulations regarding data handling are outlined and various protocols described. On board processing, packet telemetry and coding are included.

Software: All aspects of software onboard and on the ground are considered. Many examples and simulations are provided.

Telecommunications: Key spacecraft design drivers in the telecommunications subsystems are discussed. This includes the antenna, power requirements and the RF interference. Other important considerations that effect the overall system are the frequency band available, the modulation, polarisation and the multiplexing.

Ground Control: Both the control and operation of the spacecraft from the ground are considered. This includes the hardware, software and people required. ERS-1 is considered in detail and future developments are examined.

Assembly, Integration and Test: The procedure adopted for assembling, integrating and testing a spacecraft are described. Examples are given of different types of spacecraft.

Product Assurance: Product Assurance is the identification and control of failure, hazards and degradation in the design and manufacturing process. The lecture therefore covers reliability, quality, safety, configuration control or parts, materials and processes evaluation.

Mechanisms: Guidelines for designing mechanisms are proposed and illustrated with several examples based on the lecturer's ESTEC experience. Materials and lubricants are discussed in detail.


Practical Aspects

The course begins with registration and a welcome buffet or evening meal on the Sunday evening. Lectures take place on the main University campus. All attendees receive a comprehensive set of notes and a copy of the textbook 'Spacecraft Systems Engineering' edited by Stark, Fortescue and Swinerd. There is a course dinner held on the Thursday evening, and the course disperses mid-afternoon on the Friday.

En-suite accommodation is provided in the Highfield House Hotel or Elizabeth House Hotel, both very close to the University campus, for bed and breakfast from the Sunday evening to the Friday morning. There are several restaurants and pubs, also within walking distance, for evening meals on Monday to Wednesday. Conference lunches and daytime refreshments are provided on campus.

The Astronautics Group has established itself as a leading centre for the training of engineers in the space industry. Our courses have been running for over 25 years and we are an IEEE/Registered Provider on Continuing Professional Development.

Short Course Organiser
Dr Scott Walker
Aerospace Engineering (13/5039)
Engineering and the Environment
University of Southampton
Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK

Tel: 02380 593882 (overseas +44 2380 593882)
Fax: 02380 593058 (overseas + 44 2380 593058)

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