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The University of Southampton

Space Systems Engineering 2021: 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.


The next Space System Engineering Course will be an online course from the 12th-16th of July.

There will also be a second course to be delivered in September this year. This course will either be delivered in person or online based on the national restrictions imposed at the time.

The course will be held on the 5th-10th Sept if in person, 6th-10th Sept if online.

Registration will be online shorty. Please email if you wish to be informed when it opens.

Short Course Organiser

Dr Scott Walker
Aerospace Engineering (176/4011)
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.
University of Southampton
SO16 7QF, UK


Refunds and COVID-19

Refunds under normal circumstances:

Full refund, up to one Calendar month before the start of your chosen course. No refund after this time. However, you can swap your place to a new delegate in your organisation, or you can swap the same delegate to the other date this year (additional payment or refund as applicable) with no charge (dependent on course availability).

No changes can be made less than 1 working week before the course, although we can hold your credit for the following year in certain circumstances.

CV-19 related circumstances:

For the potential in person course in September, should the course go ahead in this format, and you are not be able to attend for a provable Covid related reason (showing symptoms, Lockdown in your area of the UK, in your country, or resultant travel restrictions) then we can hold your credit for the course next year, or, if we get this information from you more than 1 week before the course, give a full refund.

For the online course, we can only refund if you have covid and thus cannot attend. We can also swap to a new delegate in this case.

If you are registered for the in person course in September and national restrictions prevent the course going ahead in this format, the course will move online and be delivered remotely on the same dates.

Under these circumstances you will automatically be transferred to the new online course and we will refund the difference. If you are keen to attend in person and you don't wish to attend the course remotely, we will hold your credit for the following year when we hope to be able to deliver the course in person.

Obviously we have tried to cover as many circumstances as possible, but in short, we require payment in advance of the course and cannot offer refunds less than a month before the start of the course you are booked on. Even with mitigating covid related circumstances, no changes can be made within 1 week of the start of the course, except transferring your credit to our next available course.

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

Launching Vehicles

The fundamentals of launch vehicles are described in terms of performance and an overview is given of various different types of launch vehicles from the user point of view. A number of future developments are described.

Attitude Determination and Control

After discussion of some of the laws of dynamics applicable to spacecraft, the different types of spacecraft attitude stabilisation are considered. Internal and external torques are defined and demonstrated with the use of a bicycle wheel.


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.


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


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

he 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.


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.

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