Space Systems Fundamentals

Course length:

4 Days



Course dates

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This four-day course provides an overview of the fundamentals of concepts and technologies of modern spacecraft systems design. Satellite system and mission design is an essentially interdisciplinary sport that combines engineering, science, and external phenomena. We will concentrate on scientific and engineering foundations of spacecraft systems and interactions among various subsystems. Examples show how to quantitatively estimate various mission elements (such as velocity increments) and conditions (equilibrium temperature) and how to size major spacecraft subsystems (propellant, antennas, transmitters, solar arrays, batteries). Real examples are used to permit an understanding of the systems selection and trade-off issues in the design process. The fundamentals of subsystem technologies provide an indispensable basis for system engineering. The basic nomenclature, vocabulary, and concepts will make it possible to converse with understanding with subsystem specialists. The course is designed for engineers and managers who are involved in planning, designing, building, launching, and operating space systems and spacecraft subsystems and components. The extensive set of course notes provide a concise reference for understanding, designing, and operating modern spacecraft. The course will appeal to engineers and managers of diverse background and varying levels of experience.

What You Will Learn:

  • Common space mission and spacecraft bus configurations, requirements, and constraints.
  • Common orbits.
  • Fundamentals of spacecraft subsystems and their interactions.
  • How to calculate velocity increments for typical orbital maneuvers.
  • How to calculate required amount of propellant.
  • How to design communications link..
  • How to size solar arrays and batteries.
  • How to determine spacecraft temperature.

Course Outline:

  1. Space Missions And Applications. Science, exploration, commercial, national security. Customers.
  2. The Space Environment And Spacecraft Interaction. Universe, galaxy, solar system. Coordinate systems. Time. Solar cycle. Plasma. Geomagnetic field. Atmosphere, ionosphere, magnetosphere. Atmospheric drag. Atomic oxygen. Radiation belts and shielding.
  3. Orbital Mechanics And Mission Design. Motion in gravitational field. Elliptic orbit. Classical orbit elements. Two-line element format. Hohmann transfer. Delta-V requirements. Launch sites. Launch to geostationary orbit. Orbit perturbations. Key orbits: geostationary, sun-synchronous, Molniya.
  4. Space Mission Geometry Satellite horizon, ground track, swath. Repeating orbits.
  5. Spacecraft And Mission Design Overview. Mission design basics. Life cycle of the mission. Reviews. Requirements. Technology readiness levels. Systems engineering.
  6. Mission Support. Ground stations. Deep Space Network (DSN). STDN. SGLS. Space Laser Ranging (SLR). TDRSS.
  7. Attitude Determination And Control. Spacecraft attitude. Angular momentum. Environmental disturbance torques. Attitude sensors. Attitude control techniques (configurations). Spin axis precession. Reaction wheel analysis.
  8. Spacecraft Propulsion Propulsion requirements. Fundamentals of propulsion: thrust, specific impulse, total impulse. Rocket dynamics: rocket equation. Staging. Nozzles. Liquid propulsion systems. Solid propulsion systems. Thrust vector control. Electric propulsion.
  9. Launch Systems. Launch issues. Atlas and Delta launch families. Acoustic environment. Launch system example: Delta II.
  10. Space Communications Communications basics. Electromagnetic waves. Decibel language. Antennas. Antenna gain. TWTA and SSA. Noise. Bit rate. Communication link design. Modulation techniques. Bit error rate.
  11. Spacecraft Power Systems. Spacecraft power system elements. Orbital effects. Photovoltaic systems (solar cells and arrays). Radioisotope thermal generators (RTG). Batteries. Sizing power systems.
  12. Thermal Control. Environmental loads. Blackbody concept. Planck and Stefan-Boltzmann laws. Passive thermal control. Coatings. Active thermal control. Heat pipes.


Dr. Mike Gruntman, is Professor of Astronautics at the University of Southern California. He is a specialist in astronautics, space physics, space technology, rocketry, sensors and instrumentation. Gruntman participates in theoretical and experimental programs in space science and space technology, including space missions. He authored and co-authored nearly 300 scholarly publications, including six books.



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