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The University of Southampton

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 subsystems and how they interact with each other. This includes aspects of spacecraft systems engineering as a discipline, mission analysis, attitude control, propulsion, telecommunications, power, spacecraft structures, product assurance and assembly, integration and verification.

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.


We are delighted to confirm that our Space Systems Engineering Short Course will be taking place from 1st July to 5th July 2024 at £2400 per delegate.

Please click here to register. The last booking date to register is 17th June 2024.

Short Course Organiser

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


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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