ACS327 Space Systems Engineering

Module Description (subject to change)

The module aims to introduce different mission types including communications, earth observation, weather, navigation, astronomy, scientific, interplanetary missions and space stations.  Concepts of orbital motion such as Kepler Laws, Elliptic, Parabolic and Hyperbolic orbits are introduced. Atmospheric drag, luni-solar perturbations are explained. Hohmann orbit transfer, ground station visibility, launch windows are explained. The module provides an understanding of spacecraft sub-systems and control including attitude control and thermal control, as well as providing knowledge of propulsion systems for example chemical rockets, electric propulsion, nuclear rockets, and solar sails.

Various concepts related to space environment are explored including, sun, solar wind, solar cycles, heliosphere, ionosphere, magnetosphere, magnetic storms, substorms and geomagnetic indices. The module explains space weather phenomena and concepts including the effects of ionising radiation, cosmic rays, and solar energetic particle events on spacecraft systems and astronauts. Geomagnetic storms and sub-storms are also discussed. The module considers ground induced current and its effect on the pipelines, power grid and transformers. The effects of space weather on communications and forecasting of space weather are discussed.

Credits: 10 (Autumn semester)

Module Leader

Professor M Balikhin

Professor Michael A Balikhin

Amy Johnson Building

If you have any questions about the module please talk to me during the lectures or the labs in the first instance. It is likely that other students will learn from any questions you ask as well, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Outside of lectures please contact me to arrange an appointment.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this module, students will be able to:

  1. Classify different types of spacecraft mission and their services to modern society. [SM4m]
  2. Summarise space weather effects on space and ground based technological systems and the space weather forecast methodology. [SM6m]
  3. Classify Keplerian orbits in the two body problem. Survey spacecraft orbits, orbit transfers, orbit perturbations. [SM1m]
  4. Explain spacecraft subsystems, spacecraft attitude and thermal control. [EP2p]
  5. Classify launchers and spacecraft propulsion systems. [EP2m]
  6. Design an orbit transfer of a geostationary spacecraft from a launch to the final orbit. [EA3p]

This module satisfies the AHEP3 (Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes, Third Edition) Learning Outcomes that are listed in brackets after each learning outcome above. For further details on AHEP3 Learning Outcomes, see the downloads section of our accreditation webpage.



  • Rocket equation.
  • Different types of rocket engines.
  • Chemical rockets, secondary propulsion, electric propulsion, nuclear rockets, solar sails, beamed energy.
  • Mission types.
  • Sun, solar wind, solar cycles, heliosphere, ionosphere, magnetosphere, geomagnetic storms and substorms, geomagnetic indices.
  • Effects of ionizing radiation, cosmic rays, solar energetic particle events on spacecraft systems and astronauts.
  • Ground induced current and its effect on the pipelines and power grids.
  • Space weather effects on communications.
  • Forecasting of space weather.
  • Kepler Laws, elliptic, parabolic and hyperbolic orbits.
  • Hohmann orbit transfer.
  • Attitude control system, aerodynamic torques, solar radiation pressure, momentum storage torques, active attitude control.
  • Basic satellite subsystems.
Teaching Methods

Learning and Teaching Methods

NOTE: This summary of teaching methods is representative of a normal Semester. Owing to the ongoing disruption from Covid-19, the exact method of delivery will be different in 2020/21.

Lectures: 20 hours
Tutorial Classes: 4 hours
Directed Reading: 12 hours
Independent Study: 64 hours

Teaching Materials

Learning and Teaching Materials

All teaching materials will be available via Blackboard (MOLE).



Exam: 2 hour limited window Asynchronous examination - 100%

No resit examination is available for this module.



You will have an opportunity to view marked Exam Scripts once Exam results have been confirmed by the Faculty and released to students. The date of this Review session will be announced by the Departmental Office.

You will be able to look at the exam paper and a sample solution on the Blackboard (MOLE) page for this module. The paper and solution will be available after the exam period.

Student Evaluation

Student Evaluation

Students are encouraged to provide feedback during the module direct to the lecturer. Students will also have the opportunity to provide formal feedback via the Faculty of Engineering Student Evaluation Survey at the end of the module.

You can view the latest Department response to the survey feedback here.

Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading

  • Fortescue, P; Stark, J; Swinerd, G; Spacecraft Systems Engineering 3rd Edition, Wiley 2003 ONLINE ACCESS
  • Kivelson, M; and Russell, C. T; eds., Introduction to Space Physics, Cambridge University Press, 1995 [available in Western Bank Library, Q523.2(I)]