Module code: EEE3040

Module Overview

Expected prior learning: Good background in physics including forces and motion, heat and light, and electricity and magnetism as might have been acquired at A/AS level or International Baccalaureate Physics. It is also useful to have some knowledge of typical space missions: BEng/MEng students might have acquired this through the EEE2043 – Space Engineering & Mission Design module.

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 spacecraft systems design, through real-world examples.

The student journey: For those students on the undergraduate “space” pathways, the compulsory Level 6 modules: EEE3040 Space Engineering and EEE3039 Space Dynamics and Missions, build upon the Level 5 Module EEE2043 Space Engineering and Mission Design, but provide a more detailed examination of the material. For students coming in on the MSc space pathway, EE3040 provides a first introduction to space systems design – therefore no prior knowledge of space is expected, however, a good understanding of basic physics and mathematics (to “A” level or first year undergraduate level or equivalent) is assumed. These modules, together, provide the background and context for the detailed individual Level 7 modules concerning different aspects, systems and applications of spacecraft: e.g. EEEM044 RF Systems and Circuit Design; EEM031 Satellite Communications Fundamentals; EEEM033 Satellite Remote Sensing; EEEM059 Space Avionics;.EEEM009 Advanced Guidance, Navigation and Control; EEEM032 Advanced Satellite Communications Techniques; EEEM012 Launch Vehicles and Propulsion; EEEM M057 Space Environment and Protection and EEEM049 Spacecraft Structures and Mechanisms. Students may choose their own selection from these advanced Level 7 modules, according to their interests or future career choices.

Module provider

Computer Science and Electronic Eng

Module Leader

UNDERWOOD Craig (Elec Elec En)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 88

Lecture Hours: 11

Tutorial Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 10

Captured Content: 30

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes: 

1. Designing for Space:¿Elements of a space mission; the physical environments of spacecraft manufacture, launching and space and their impact on spacecraft system design. Coping with the space environment is what distinguishes space engineering from terrestrial engineering, and awareness of this and its hazards is fundamental to the field.  


2. Getting into Space: The basic principles of the rocket, the rocket equation, specific impulse, choice of propellant, effect of launch site location and launch window. The development of the rocket from “cold war” rivalry (the space race) to international development and private enterprise. Future possibilities - SSTO.


Key Sub-Systems: 


3. Mechanical Design:¿Launch vehicle interface;¿frameworks and structures – forms and requirements; stress analysis, loads and stiffness, elastic instabilities, vibration, materials selection, structural analysis, verification. Key software tools e.g. FEA, CAD/CAM (Digital Capabilities). 


4. Thermal Design:¿Temperature limits;¿thermal sources and heat transport mechanisms in space – conduction, black-body radiation; Stefan-Boltzmann Law emissivity, absorptivity; greybody assumptions, Kirchhoff’s law, view factors; thermal balance, thermal modelling, finite difference method; thermal control elements – passive and active, thermal design and implementation. Key software tools e/g/ FDM Thermal modelling (Digital Capabilities) 


5. Mechanisms and Optics: Bearings and lubrication; flexures, flexure hinges and tape booms; electric motors and drives; pyrotechnics and one-shot devices; continuously rotating and intermittently operated mechanisms. Materials selection; optical materials, mountings, alignment, and stray-light control. Basic optics, diffraction limits; fields of view; sensor topologies, lens and mirror based telescopes; filters and optical bench layouts. 


6. Attitude & Orbit Control Systems:¿Attitude Determination Control and Stabilisation (ADCS) systems: Body dynamics – forces, torques, momenta, inertia matrix, kinematics. Attitude determination sensors – Sun sensors, Earth horizon sensors, star cameras, magnetometers, inertial sensors. Attitude control system technologies – reaction control systems, magnetorquers, gravity-gradient booms, reaction and momentum wheels, control-moment gyros; ADCS requirements and capabilities; small satellite ADCS. Orbit control systems: choice of propellant; liquid engines, solid motors; hybrid engines; arc-jets, resistojets, ion-thrusters. 


7. Power Systems:¿Power generation – fuel cells, RTGs, nuclear fission reactors, solar arrays; solar cell I-V characteristics – thermal and radiation effects; power storage – battery technologies, charge/discharge profiles and effects on cell lifetimes, super-capacitors; power regulation and monitoring, regulated and unregulated bus topologies; Energy budgets and efficiencies. Harnesses, shielding and grounding policy. Component protection, redundancy, and good design practices. 


8. TT&C, RF and OBDH Systems:¿Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT&C) systems, space and ground segments, tracking schemes, basic telemetry and telecommand systems, packet-switched systems, CCSDS, simple RF link equation, Eb/N0 and data robustness. On-Board Data Handling (OBDH) schemes and standards; digital interfaces, On-Board Computers (OBCs), radiation effects and mitigation – error detection and correction (EDAC) coding schemes; software design principles. 


9. Manufacture and AIT, Operation and Disposal: PA/QA, reliability issues; manufacture process; testing: mechanical properties (MoI, CoG); vibration, shock and acoustic testing, EMC test; thermal vacuum test; solar simulation; launch campaign. Operation and disposal. What is it like to work on a space mission? – the importance of responsibility and resilience; making space sustainable. The SmallSat revolution and Space 2.0 – the new era of space and the desperate need for engineers. How Surrey has pioneered this revolution and how it is contributing to cleaning up the space environment. Here, and indeed throughout the module, the practical experiences of working on real space missions will be conveyed, so that the student becomes aware of the actuality of being a working engineer – and the pressures and joys this can bring (Resilience, Employability).  



Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination 2 HOUR CLOSED BOOK EXAM 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 spacecraft systems, as well as the ability to analyse and find solutions to problems of the mechanical and electrical design of spacecraft systems.


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

·         2-hour, closed-book written examination. The questions test LO1, LO2 and LO3

 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

  • Through a series of lectures and exercises, the module aims to give the student an introduction to the design and construction of spacecraft, showing how the mission and the space environment, itself, constrain the engineering. The module forms a core part of the MSc programme in Space Engineering and, for the undergraduate MEng programme, builds upon the Year 2 material in module EEE2043 ¿ Space Engineering & Mission Design.
  • Students who complete this module, along with the other core modules in the Space 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.
  • The module also aims to provide opportunities for students to learn about the Surrey Pillars listed below.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Knowledge and understanding of the physical and mathematical principles underpinning the design and engineering of spacecraft and the ability to apply this knowledge to a variety of spacecraft subsystem design problems and space mission scenarios, including ones not previously encountered.  KCPT C1, C5
002 Knowledge and understanding of the engineering tools and approaches to problems of space system design and to have a grasp of the development and future possibilities of the topic.  KCT C2, C3, C13
003 Ability to select appropriate technical solutions for spacecraft sub-systems for a variety of space mission scenarios.  KCPT C4, C6

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 mechanical and electrical design of space systems.

  • Develop knowledge and understanding of the physical and mathematical principles underpinning the design and engineering of spacecraft and the ability to apply this knowledge to a variety of spacecraft subsystem design problems and space mission scenarios.

  • Develop knowledge and understanding of the engineering tools and approaches to problems of space system design and to have a grasp of the development and future possibilities of the topic;

  • Develop the ability to select appropriate technical solutions for spacecraft sub-systems for a variety of space mission scenarios. 

 Learning and teaching methods include the following.

  • lectures/tutorials 

  • Guided study of example problems/ past examinations 

  • Independent study 

  • Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs are given, and students are expected to attempt these and to come to tutorials to discuss their answers and to ask any questions they may have on the material. Similarly, all lecture slide packs are available on Surrey Learn, and students are expected to read through these before the summary lecture sessions, so that they can engage with the lecturer and ask any questions they may have. Reading resources for each lecture are given. The SAQs allow the students to test themselves against the 3 learning objectives. 


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: EEE3040

Other information

Surrey’s Curriculum Framework is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global aand Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, Resourcefulness and Resilience.

This module addresses the “5 pillars” as follows:

  • Sustainability – discusses space debris and mitigation – cleaning up the space environment and planetary protection.
  • Global and Cultural Intelligence – There is a large cultural aspect to the development of space technology, both historically (e.g. Cold War rivalries) and currently – e.g. through the emergence of new space powers and the role of private enterprise in the commercial utilisation of space assets (Global and Cultural Awareness). discusses the role of political rivalries in stimulating space exploration from the USA/USSR in the context of the Cold War to today’s emerging Asian superpower rivalries – e.g. China/India.
  • Digital Capabilities are touched upon in terms of discussions of digital/OBDH systems and also the use of digital tools in practical engineering and design including Computer Aided Design/ Computer Aided Manufacture (CAD/CAM), Finite Element Modelling (FEM) for mechanical design and Finite difference Modelling (FDM) for thermal design. Preferred computer languages for space, and the need for special techniques to enable digital hardware and software systems to operate successfully in the harsh ionising radiation environment of space are discussed.
  • Employability – Throughout, the industrial context of the module content is given through real examples and the skills/knowledge developed are aligned very closely with industrial needs. The needs of industry, what space companies are look for, and advice on applying to relevant companies is given.
  • Resourcefulness and Resilience – the module discusses how to build a team to achieve a successful space mission and the approaches and skills needed including working under significant pressures. The practical experiences of working as a space engineer is passed on throughout the module based on the lecturer’s almost 40 years of working in the field. ¿¿Systems design and systems thinking is critical to how industries handle complex engineering projects such as space missions. It is important that students become familiar with this concept and approach (Employability) and become aware of the resources, such as the key documents, that are available to the engineer to help them achieve well engineered systems.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Electronic Engineering (by short course) MSc(EEE SHORT COURSES OPTIONAL) 1 Optional 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 2023/4 academic year.