Module code: EEEM012

Module Overview

Expected prior learning:  None specifically advised.

Module purpose:  This is a key module for students interested in becoming space systems engineers, or in working in a related field. It introduces the student to the key principles and techniques of launch vehicles and propulsion. Through a series of lectures, exercises and case studies, the module aims to give an understanding on the fundamentals of Launch Vehicle design and propulsion techniques for spacecraft travel.


Module provider

Computer Science and Electronic Eng

Module Leader


Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 107

Lecture Hours: 13

Tutorial Hours: 10

Captured Content: 20

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes the following.

Launch methods

Rocket staging and launch scenarios. Review of launch vehicles and their engines.

Principles of Space Propulsion

Basic fluid equations – conservation laws, thermodynamics and specific heats. Steady 1-D flows in nozzles – entropy and shock fronts. Boundary layers and heat flow.

Performance of Rocket engines

The rocket equation, Isp, propulsion system trade-offs. Chemical rocket thrust chambers and nozzles. Solid rocket fundamentals – burn rates, grain size, hazards. Hybrid engines. Electric propulsion – electrothermal, electrostatic, electromagnetic technologies.

Non standard propulsion

Solar Sails, tethers, nuclear, solar thermal propulsion.

Launch dynamics

Launch vehicles dynamics and gravity turn trajectory. Thrust vector control. Attitude dynamics and stability.


Re-entry dynamics. Ballistic re-entry, skip re-entry, re-entry corridor.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination OPEN BOOK EXAM (2HR) 100

Alternative Assessment


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, concepts and theory of launch vehicles and spacecraft propulsion systems, as well as the ability to analyse and find solutions to problems concerning the design of such systems.


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

·         2-hour, open-book written examination.


Formative assessment and feedback

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

·         During lectures, by question and answer sessions

·         During tutorials/tutorial classes

·         By means of unassessed tutorial problem sheets (with answers/model solutions)


Module aims

  • To develop an understanding of the issues of launching a satellite from the surface of a planet, and the guidance and control techniques and the principles of spacecraft propulsion.
  • Give the student an introduction to the design and construction launch vehicles and propulsion systems.
  • The module forms a core part of the MSc programme in Space Technology and Planetary Exploration and, for the undergraduate MEng programme..
  • Students who complete this module, along with the other core modules in the Space Technology and Planetary Engineering or Electronic Engineering with Space Systems pathways, should have gained sufficient background knowledge to begin a career in space engineering, and will find the material invaluable in their early career development, as they work on real space missions.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
1 Have a well-developed understanding of the physics of passage through an atmosphere, lift and drag forces, angle of attack with an introduction to re-entry.  KC
2 Understand the reasons for rocket staging and review latest technologies.  KC
3 Build an understanding of the principles of spacecraft propulsion – fluid dynamics, performance prediction, energy storage, design drivers KCP

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

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

  • Develop understanding of the principles and techniques involved in the design of launch vehicles and propulsion techniques

  • Develop knowledge and understanding of the physical and mathematical principles underpinning the design and engineering of launch vehicles and propulsion systems and to have a grasp of the development and future possibilities of the topic;

  • Develop the ability to select appropriate technical solutions for launch vehicles and propulsion systems for a variety of space mission scenarios. 

Learning and teaching methods include the following.

  • Weekly captured lecture - 8 weeks (20 hours)

  • Weekly summary lecture - 7 weeks (7 hours)

  • Guest lectures - 2 weeks (4 hours)

  • Tutorials (guided study of example problems/past examinations) - 5 weeks (10 hours)

  • Practice lecture - 1 week (2 hours)

  • Independent study - 107 hours



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
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: EEEM012

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Electronic Engineering with Space Systems MEng 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Electrical and Electronic Engineering MEng 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Space Engineering MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Satellite Communications Engineering MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Electronic Engineering MEng 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Aerospace Engineering MEng 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% 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 2022/3 academic year.