Space Environment: Implications for Spacecraft Design

Course length:

2 Days



Course dates

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Adverse interactions between the space environment and an orbiting spacecraft may lead to a degradation of spacecraft subsystem performance and possibly even loss of the spacecraft itself. This two-day course presents an introduction to the space environment and its effect on spacecraft. Emphasis is placed on problem solving techniques and design guidelines that will provide the student with an understanding of how space environment effects may be minimized through proactive spacecraft design.

Course Outline:

  1. Introduction. Spacecraft Subsystem Design, Orbital Mechanics, The Solar-Planetary Relationship, Space Weather.
  2. The Vacuum Environment. Basic Description – Pressure vs. Altitude, Solar UV Radiation.
  3. Vacuum Environment Effects. Pressure Differentials. Solar UV Degradation, Molecular Contamination, Particulate Contamination.
  4. The Neutral Environment. Basic Atmospheric Physics, Elementary Kinetic Theory, Hydrostatic Equilibrium, Neutral Atmospheric Models.
  5. Neutral Environment Effects. Aerodynamic Drag, Sputtering, Atomic Oxygen Attack, Spacecraft Glow.
  6. The Plasma Environment. Basic Plasma Physics – Single Particle Motion, Debye Shielding, Plasma Oscillations.
  7. Plasma Environment Effects. Spacecraft Charging, Arc Discharging, Effects on Instrumentation.
  8. The Radiation Environment. Basic Radiation Physics, Stopping Charged Particles, Stopping Energetic Photons, Stopping Neutrons.
  9. Radiation in Space. Trapped Radiation Belts, Solar Proton Events, Galactic Cosmic Rays, Hostile Environments.
  10. Radiation Environment Effects. Total Dose Effects – Solar Cell Degradation, Electronics Degradation; Single Event Effects – Upset, Latchup, Burnout; Dose Rate Effects.
  11. The Micrometeoroid and Orbital Debris Environment. Hypervelocity Impact Physics, Micrometeoroids, Orbital Debris.
  12. Additional Topics. Environmental Space Station; Models and Tools; Available Internet Resources.


Dr. Alan C. Tribble has provided space environments effects analysis to more than one dozen NASA, DoD, and commercial programs, including the International Space Station, the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, and survival surveillance spacecraft. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Iowa and has been twice a Principal Investigator for the NASA Space Environments and Effects Program. He is the author of four books, including the text of the course title: The Space Environment – Implications for Space Design (Princeton University Press) and over 20 additional technical publications. He is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, and Associate Fellow of the AIAA and a Senior Member of the IEEE. Dr. Tribble recently won the 2008 AIAA James A. Van Allen Space Environments Award. He has taught a variety of classes at the University of Southern California, California State University Long Beach, the University of Iowa, and has been teaching courses on space environments and effects since 1992.

Alan Tribble Profile Picture

Who Should Attend:

Engineers who need to know how to design systems with adequate performance margins, program managers who oversee spacecraft survivability tasks, and scientists who need to understand how environmental interactions can affect instrument performance.


REGISTRATION: There is no obligation or payment required to enter the Registration for an actively scheduled course. We understand that you may need approvals but please register as early as possible or contact us so we know of your interest in this course offering.

SCHEDULING: If this course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses and you are interested in attending this or another course as an open enrollment, please contact us at (410)956-8805 or Please indicate the course name, number of students who wish to participate. and a preferred time frame. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a 3-5 month lead-time. To express your interest in an open enrollment course not on our current schedule, please email us at

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