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ME40346: Spacecraft engineering

[Page last updated: 03 August 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/23
Owning Department/School: Department of Mechanical Engineering
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Semester 1
Assessment Summary: EX 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Examination (EX 100%)
Supplementary Assessment:
ME40346 Reassessment Examination (where allowed by programme regulations)
Learning Outcomes: After successfully completing this unit the student will be able to:
* Describe the basic challenges of the space environment.
* Explain the basic principles of orbit mechanics and manoeuvres and the relationships between the satellite orbit and its ability to perform its mission.
* Describe the typical spacecraft configurations for different space missions. Demonstrate familiarity with the basic concepts, components, design approaches, and key principles relating to the type of spacecraft and its sub-systems.
* Explain the basic principles of satellite navigation systems.

Aims: To provide an insight into the spacecraft design process and space missions.

Skills: Problem solving; mathematical modelling; numeracy; written communication; IT; working independently.

Content: Historical perspective of the motion of celestial bodies and history of spaceflight. Fundamentals of Newtonian mechanics and vector operations. Orbital mechanics. Orbital manoeuvres. Lunar and interplanetary trajectories. Spacecraft environment. Spacecraft sub-systems. Spacecraft attitude and control systems. Spacecraft propulsion system. Spacecraft structures. Satellite navigation systems.

Programme availability:

ME40346 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • UEME-AFM04 : MEng(Hons) Aerospace Engineering (Year 4)
  • UEME-AKM04 : MEng(Hons) Aerospace Engineering with Year long work placement (Year 5)
  • UEME-AFM16 : MEng(Hons) Mechanical Engineering (Year 4)
  • UEME-AKM16 : MEng(Hons) Mechanical Engineering with Year long work placement (Year 5)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
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