Module code: EEEM049

Module Overview

Expected prior learning: Knowledge equivalent to BEng degree in Electronic/Electrical Engineering or Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering


Module purpose:  The spacecraft structure is the physical platform that supports and integrates sub-systems and payloads. As such, it is of fundamental importance for any spacecraft. Through a series of lectures and exercises, this module gives the students an understanding of the issues that must be addressed in the design and analysis of spacecraft structures and mechanisms.


In addition, to illustrate the industrial perspective of this subject, there will be a series of guest lectures from the academia and industry. One lecture is delivered by an expert of spacecraft structures from the European Space Agency and the other by a chief mechanical engineer at Thales Alenia Space.


Module provider

Computer Science and Electronic Eng

Module Leader

CIAMPA Francesco (Mech Eng Sci)

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: 98

Lecture Hours: 11

Tutorial Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 10

Captured Content: 20

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes the following.

  • Overview of the module


  • Launch Environment

Sources of mechanical excitation during spacecraft Launch.

Satellite’s mechanical environment, quasi static loads, random vibrations, acoustic loads, shocks

Structural design requirements and specifications

The space environment


  • Vibration response – single and multi-degree of freedom systems, natural frequencies, structural transfer functions, shock response spectrum.

Micro-vibrations sources and impact on other subsystems


  • Typical structural component

Honeycomb panels / inserts / bolted and bonded joints


  • Typical spacecraft structural layouts

Primary, secondary and tertiary structures, definition, and examples


  • Typical spacecraft mechanisms

Release mechanisms, deployable structures (booms, antennas, arrays), various actuators and examples e.g., Reaction Wheels


  • Overview of structural analysis techniques for spacecraft structures, FEM


  • Overview of materials typically used in spacecraft structures: aluminium alloys and other metals alloys, polymer matrix composites (CFRP, GFRP) and their manufacturing processes, metal and ceramic matrix composites and ceramic materials. Failure modes in metals and ceramic materials.


  • Structural thermal response

Thermal response of mechanisms and modelling thermal environment

Thermal control techniques


  • Guest Lectures: European Space Agency & Thales Alenia Space

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy for this module is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and application of the module content as described above.

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

  • Online – open-book – written examination within 4-hour window. Exam questions will be structured to be answered in 2 hours. This will contain a selection of questions designed to assess the breadth and depth of knowledge that the students have gained by studying the module. The examination also verifies the assimilation of appropriate terminology, and the capability to apply specific structural design methodologies.   


Formative assessment and feedback

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

  • During online or face-to-face sessions, by question-and-answer sessions.


  • During tutorials/tutorial classes, students are given exercises which they try to solve independently and then the whole class goes through the solution discussing any issue that the students find with the specific exercise.  


  • By means of unassessed tutorial problem sheets (with answers/model solutions), similar to homework, and the students are given the solutions at a later date.


  • During meetings with the lecturer or at the end of face-to-face sessions, the lecturer is available for one-to one Q&A with the students to clarify any doubt they may have regarding to the material that was presented during the lectures.


  • There will be opportunities for formative assessment during other learning activities such as discussion forums.

Module aims

  • To provide an overview of the issues that need to be addressed in the design of spacecraft structures and mechanisms.
  • To provide students with an appreciation and understanding of the development of the whole spacecraft structural design process.
  • To provide the student with the ability to apply this knowledge to practical applications.
  • The module also aims to provide opportunities for students to learn about the Surrey Pillars listed below.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Having successfully completed the module, the student will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the development of the spacecraft structural design, starting from the definition of the structural requirements to the final structural test campaign. The students will also gain a good understanding of the basic principles of spacecraft mechanisms design. CPT M5
002 Having successfully completed the module, the student will be able to understand the mechanical design requirements quoted in launchers user manuals. KC M1, M2
003 Calculate preliminary loads on the spacecraft. KCT M3
004 Select appropriately the materials and structural parameters to meet basic requirements. KC M13
005 Perform a preliminary structural design/analysis of some spacecraft elements. KC M6
006 Analyse data from experimental testing and compare them with theoretical predictions. KC M2

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.


  • To provide students with an overview of issues that need to be addressed in the design of spacecraft structures and mechanisms, giving them an appreciation and understanding of the development of the whole spacecraft structural design process.

  • To provide the student knowledge and skills which are relevant for a future employment in industry or other institutions.


Learning and teaching methods include the following.

  • Teaching is by pre-recorded Panopto video lectures, face-to-face teaching sessions and tutorials. Learning takes place through lectures, tutorials, and exercises. Some of the example problems come from real industrial applications.

  • The students are invited to participate to the face-to-face lecture sessions raising questions, and at the end of these lectures the lecturer is available for one-to one Q&A with the students to clarify any doubt they may have regarding to the material presented during lectures. 

  • Pre-recorded Panopto video lectures worth 2 hours of lectures per week and 1 hour tutorial for 11 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
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: EEEM049

Other information

This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the areas of Digital Capabilities, Employability, Global and Cultural Capabilities and Sustainability.

Digital Capabilities: Throughout this module students learn to navigate and utilise the Virtual Learning Environment @ Surrey (SurreyLearn) and other digital resources and online videos (e.g., YouTube) to aid their learning and undertake research. For example, the lecture provided by the European Space Agency specifically for this module is available on YouTube. Students are also encouraged to use current media such as Teams and Zoom, and cloud/file sharing for communication and team working.

Employability: Throughout this module, students will be taught by, and exposed to, a variety of internal and external invited speakers from the academia and the industrial space field (e.g., Thales Alenia Space and the European Space Agency), exposing them to the variety of technical issues that professionals have in their workplace. The tasks and assessments undertaken across the module are specifically chosen to equip students with knowledge and skills that are key to the role of modern spacecraft structure engineers. Key to this, students will develop the ability to critically appraise evidence and the appropriate application of this knowledge in the design of future spacecraft structures and mechanisms, and by advancing research or creating new enterprises.

Global and Cultural Capabilities: the programme is taught in an interactive and collaborative way, in a cohort that commonly represents a wealth of nationalities and backgrounds. Students are encouraged to engage with, and learn from, diverse perspectives through interaction and teamwork.

Sustainability: Students will be supported to address sustainability considerations in problem-solving activities. The effectiveness of innovative material solutions to sustainable issues will be inherent in the design of future composite spacecraft structures.


This EEEM049 unit is run in the second semester of the fourth (final) year for various MES and EEE programmes, and it is related to other space modules such as EEE3040 (Space System Design) and EEEM057 (Space Environment and Protection).

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Aerospace 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
Mechanical 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 2023/4 academic year.