Course information

Responsible Instructor
Name E-mail
A. Cervone
Name E-mail
J. Bouwmeester
Contact Hours / Week x/x/x/x
Education Period
Start Education
Exam Period
Course Language
Course Contents
The course is structured in the following components: “Satellite Bus Platform” (40%), “Rocket & Onboard Propulsion” (40%), “CubeSat Design Workshop” (20%).
Study Goals
The general learning goals of the course are:
- Formulate the technical principles of rockets and satellite bus subsystems.
- Identify the technology state-of-the-art, the available subsystem options at component level and their physical and technical limitations.
- Characterize the key performance parameters of different spacecraft subsystems and compare the values obtained by ideal theory to the real-life ones.
- Perform the preliminary design of a spacecraft based on its key requirements.
Other spacecraft types, such as interplanetary rovers, will not be covered by this course. Spacecraft instrumentation and other payloads are also not covered, since they are included in other courses of the “Spaceflight” minor.
Education Method
The “Satellite Bus Platform” part of the course will include three online modules, complemented by classroom tutorials. In each lecture, the technology is discussed on a component level. The working principles of the components will be explained as well as their relation to the subsystem requirements and constraints. Topics treated by this part of the course are:
• Onboard Command and Data Handling (specifications of (micro)processors; commonly used data interfaces within spacecraft; radiation effects on processors and methods to deal with them; operational scheduling; Failure Detection, Isolation & Recovery).
• Electrical Power Technology (selection and implementation of photovoltaic cells; different types of power conversion and distribution methods; battery technology; common failure modes and protection).
• Attitude Determination and Control (general principles of sensing and actuation in space; types and basic principles of ADCS algorithms; working principles, design, types and characteristics of: sun sensors, magnetometers, star trackers, gyroscopes, reaction wheels, magnetorquers, etc.)
• Structures & Deployables (structural concepts; structural materials; deployment mechanisms).
• Thermal Control (passive thermal control; active and passive thermal components).

In the “Rocket & Onboard Propulsion” part of the course, the emphasis is on theory applied to technology. Also in this part there will be three online modules, complemented by classroom tutorials. Topics treated by this part of the course are:
• Applied Theory (fundamentals of rocket propulsion, main performance parameters of rockets and thrusters, ideal rocket theory basics and equations, types of propulsion, are recalled and applied to real-life cases).
• Liquid Propellant Engines (types of engines, types of propellants, nozzle design, real performance estimation).
• Solid Propellant Engines (types of solid propellant grains, ignition and burning characteristics of the propellant, real performance estimation).
• Electric and Advanced Propulsion (basics of electric propulsion theory, types of electric thrusters, components and characteristics of an electric propulsion subsystem, advanced propulsion concepts).
• Micro-Propulsion (available micro-propulsion options, propulsion system scaling-down criteria and challenges, specific propulsion requirements and performance needs in nano-satellites, micro-machining of nozzles, heaters and feeding system components).

In the “CubeSat Design Workshop”, students will form groups of 5-7 members and work at a CubeSat design problem, starting from mission description as input, up to a pre-phase A concept. When possible, they have to select commercially available subsystems and components. Only if necessary, new to be developed technologies will be explained and sized. There will be in-class or online sessions, during which the groups will work at their conceptual study and deliver a short report with an overview of selected technologies, budgets, timeline and explanation/justification of the choices made. This report will be reviewed and commented by the instructors, thus making the first design iteration for the team. During the final session, all groups will present their solution to the others, followed by a general discussion. The groups will then write an additional 1-2 page addendum, in which they will critically compare their own design to those proposed by other groups.
Either the first two years of TU Delft’s Aerospace Engineering BSc or the specific course “Introduction to Spaceflight” of the Spaceflight minor (or a similar one outside TU Delft).
This course requires enrollment in the Spaceflight minor. Registration outside the scope of the Spaceflight minor requires timely coordination and approval by the main lecturer.
The students will be graded by a digital exam and a report. The exam determines 80% of the final grade and comprises questions on the first two components of the course (Satellite Bus Platform, Rocket & Onboard Propulsion). The report determines 20% of the final grade and relates to the CubeSat Design Workshop. It will be graded for each group based on (1) the quality of the concept and (2) the critical comparison of the concept to those proposed by other groups.
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