Module code: EEE3039

Module Overview

Expected prior learning:  It is helpful, but not essential, to have studied module EEE2043 – Space Engineering and Mission Design (5-spe), or to have equivalent learning.

Module purpose:  This module gives a hands on approach to mission analysis and develops mathematical descriptions of the natural orbital and rotational motions of spacecraft.  Material is delivered through a series of lectures, group problem solving and assessed assignments. The application to mission design is explored through group work and assessed labs.


Module provider

Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Module Leader

BARESI Nicola (Elec Elec En)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

JACs code: F520

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Satellite Orbits:

Kepler’s laws and Newton’s derivation of Keplerian orbits. Energy and angular momentum related to orbital geometry. Velocity and mission planning. Time along orbit – Kepler’s problem, mean and eccentric anomalies. Orbits in 3D, orbital elements. Orbital perturbations – sun synchronous and Molniya orbits. Critical inclination and frozen orbit.

Coordinate Systems and Time:

Equinoxes, solstices, first point of Aries, ECI frame. The obliquity of the ecliptic, Precession and nutation of Earth. Solar and sidereal time, fictitious Sun, universal time, GPS time and TAI. Julian date and MJD.

Mission Design:

Satellite groundtracks, repeat groundtrack orbits, Launch windows. Hohmann transfer and bi-elliptic transfers. Planetary flybys – mission to Venus, Apollo flights to the Moon.

Rotating Frames of Reference:

Attitude matrix and properties, Euler’s theorem and eigenaxis description, vector decomposition. Euler angles and roll, pitch, yaw. Quaternions, quaternion product. Kinematic equations. Measurement of velocity and Coriolis theorem, acceleration and centrifugal and Coriolis accelerations.

Dynamics of a Rigid Body:

Angular velocity, angular momentum, Moments of Inertia, principal axes, Euler’s equations, integrals of motion – rotational energy, total angular momentum. Motion of the angular momentum vector, torques. Inclusion of momentum exchange devices.

Spacecraft Attitude:

Rotation states of triaxial satellites, precession and nutation. Reaction/momentum wheels. Control Moment Gyros and steering laws.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination 2 HOUR CLOSED BOOK EXAM 75
Coursework COURSEWORK - X 2 MATLAB ASS. (1 - 10%, 2 - 15%) 25

Alternative Assessment

Not applicable: students failing a unit of assessment resit the assessment in its original format.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy for this module is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate the learning outcomes. The written examination will assess the knowledge and assimilation of terminology and theory of orbital motion and spacecraft pointing. It will assess the ability to analyse problems by applying mathematical models to solve and predict disturbance effects and mitigation. The Assignments will assess the ability to design space missions applying the theory to practical problems. The first assignment will evaluate the students ability to program some of the concepts while the second assignment will then assess their ability to put together a practical mission solution.


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of the following.

·         2 hour closed book written examination

·         Software assignment  An assignment involving the programming of and expl0oration of simple mission concepts.  (5-10 pages) due Monday Week 6 (assignment deadline should be checked in the Assignment Calendar)

·         Mission Planning Assignment  A software assignment that builds on the skills of the previous assignment but looks in more depth at a particular mission (circa 10 pages) due Monday Week 12 (assignment deadline should be checked in the Assignment Calendar)


Formative assessment and feedback

For the module, students will receive formative assessment/feedback in the following ways.

·         During lectures, by question and answer sessions

·         One to one discussions with lecturer during problem solving

·         Peer feedback during group problem solving

·         Through guided learning on SurreyLearn through provided material and problem solutions

·         During supervised software laboratory sessions

·         Via marking of written reports on assignments



Module aims

  • To introduce the student to develop a solid understanding of the classical dynamics of spacecraft and apply this knowledge in mission design for achieving pre-specified objectives and adequate pointing. This is to be achieved through a series of lectures, regular group problem solving with direct interaction with the lecturer and two lab based software assignments.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
1 Demonstrate an appreciation of the orbital motion of a satellite including perturbation effects.  KC
2 Select orbits most useful for space applications KCP
3 Demonstrate an understanding of rotational dynamics of a rigid spacecraft.  KC

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 110

Lecture Hours: 30

Laboratory Hours: 7

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to achieve the following aims.

The teaching strategy is through a taught theoretical foundation, interposed with direct group problem solving and with application of theory to real missions. A more significant mission design is worked on through software labs, where some aspects are looked at in greater depth. In all aspects there is direct interaction between lecturers and the groups to provide feedback on their understanding, and to push their understanding to solve new problems based on their knowledge.

Learning and teaching methods include the following.

Teaching and learning is by lectures, group problem solving and assessed software assignments. 2 hours lectures plus 1 hour problem solving classes per week for 10 weeks. 1 hour assignment lab per week for 10 weeks.



Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list


Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Aerospace Engineering BEng (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Electronic Engineering with Space Systems BEng (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Aerospace Engineering MEng 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Satellite Communications Engineering MSc 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Space Engineering MSc 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Electronic Engineering MSc 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Electronic Engineering with Space Systems MEng 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2021/2 academic year.