MECH ENG 7073 - Space Vehicle Design

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2020

The aim of the course is to introduce the students to the basic theories and design criteria of space vehicles. Historical developments in space flight are explained as are the basic rocket equations, as well as the principles of rocket staging and its optimisation. The course includes orbital and trajectory theory, where two-body motion, manoeuvres and special trajectories are described. Numerical integration will be introduced. Individual subsystems are covered in detail. A section about rocket propulsion focuses on performance, propulsion requirements and various propellant systems (monopropellant, bipropellant, solid, cold gas and electrical and electromagnetic propulsion systems). Also covered are environmental control and life support systems, electrical power subsystems, communications and thermal control systems.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code MECH ENG 7073
    Course Space Vehicle Design
    Coordinating Unit School of Mechanical Engineering
    Term Semester 2
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 4.5 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Incompatible MECH ENG 3025 or MECH ENG 4015 or MECH ENG 3104
    Assessment Assignments, project, experiment, final exam
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Nataliia Sergiienko

    Dr Farzin Ghanadi:, Room S324h, extension 32293.
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

    1 Introduce students to Space Vehicle Design, its complex issues requiring expertise from many different areas of Aerospace Engineering;
    2 Familiarise students with space vehicle types and subsystems;
    3 Provide students with an understanding of the parameters that influence the design of space vehicles including their mission, orbital mechanics and the space environment; and
    4 Equip students with analytical and numerical methods required to solve space vehicle design problems.

    The above course learning outcomes are aligned with the Engineers Australia Stage 1 Competency Standard for the Professional Engineer.
    The course is designed to develop the following Elements of Competency: 1.1   1.2   1.3   1.4   1.5   1.6   2.1   2.2   2.3   2.4   3.2   3.3   3.5   3.6   

    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1, 3
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    2, 3
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    2, 3
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
    1, 2, 4
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    1. Course notes
    2. Textbook: Peter Fortescue, Graham Swinerd, and John Stark, Spacecraft Systems Engineering, 4th Ed., Wiley, 2011,
    3. Any online material will be available at:
    4. Digital recordings of lectures (e.g., taping lectures, wireless network, pod-casts) may not be made available to students who are absent.
    Recommended Resources
    1. Spacecraft Structures and Mechanisms – From Concept to Launch, 1995, Thomas Sarafin and Wiley Larson (editors).
    2. Spacecraft Mission Design, 1998, Charles D. Brown.
    3. Dynamics of Atmospheric Reentry, 1993, F.J. Regan and S.M. Anandakrishnan.
    4. Keys to Space, 2003, A. Houston and M. Rycroft.
    Online Learning

    Copies of assignments and any paper material distributed during class will also be posted on My-Uni.

  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    Lectures supported by problem-solving tutorials and a practical laboratory developing material covered in lectures


    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    A three unit course has a minimum workload of 156 hours regardless of the length of the course. It is expected that students spend 48hrs/week during teaching periods, additional time may need to be spent acquiring assumed knowledge, working on assessment during non-teaching periods, and preparing for and attending examinations.

    Formal Contact: Lectures and tutorials: 45 hours,

    Practical: 1.5 hours, Exam: 3 hours

    Suggested personal workload (will vary between students): Reading and revising course material: 30-50 hours, Completion of assignments and practical report: 30-50 hours, Exam preparation: 30-50 hours.

    Learning Activities Summary
    The numbers quoted here are approximations and will vary if some activities take more or less time than anticipated:

    I. Introduction of Spacecraft – 4 Lectures
       • Type of spacecraft
       • Subsystems
       • Design procedure
       • Spacecraft configuration
       • System integration

    II. Orbital mechanics – 7 lectures
       • Basic of dynamics/orbital mechanics
       • Types of trajectories
       • Orbit transfers
       • Geostationary Earth Orbits (GEO)
       • Interplanetary missions

    III. Propulsion system – 7 lectures
       • Basic of aerodynamics and thermodynamics
       • Chemical rockets
       • Spacecraft propulsion
       • Electric propulsion
       • Advanced propulsion

    IV. Launch systems – 4 lectures
       • Rocket equation
       • Rocket staging
       • Basic launch vehicle performance and operations
       • Spacecraft launch phases and mission planning

    V. Planetary entry/re-entry – 4 lectures
       • Fundamentals of hypersonic aerothermodynamics
       • Ballistic re-entry
       • Entry/re-entry issues

    VI. Attitude control system – 4 lectures
       • ACS overview
       • Torques and Torquers
       • Attitude measurement

    VII. Electrical power system – 1 lecture
       • Power system element
       • Primary power source
       • Secondary power source

    VIII. Thermal control system – 2 lectures
       • Fundamental of Thermal analysis
       • Thermal design
       • Thermal protection system

    IX. Communication subsystem – 2 lectures

    X. Space environment – 2 lectures

    XI. Assembly, integration and verification – 2 lectures

    XII. Student Seminars/Presentations – 4 lectures

    XIII. Review of course material – 2 lectures
    Specific Course Requirements

    Students will be required to adhere to laboratory conduct safety guidelines for the practical component of this course.

  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Weighting (%) Individual/ Group Formative/ Summative
    Due (week)*
    Hurdle criteria Learning outcomes
    Laboratory 10 1. 2. 3. 4.
    Group Project 15 Group Week 12 1. 2. 3. 4.
    Individual assignments x 5 25 Individual Weeks 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 2. 4.
    Final exam 50 Group Summative Exam period 1. 2. 3. 4.
    Total 100
    * The specific due date for each assessment task will be available on MyUni.
    This assessment breakdown complies with the University's Assessment for Coursework Programs Policy.
    Assessment Related Requirements

    In order to pass this course, students must achieve a pass grade for the microgravity performance laboratory.

    Assessment Detail
    • Final exam is a 3-hour long open book exam, to be conducted during the formal university examination period.

    • There will be 5 assignments in total. These are individual assignments (no collaboration). These will be distributed during class and also placed on MyUni. Due dates for these assignments may be subject to change; any changes will be announced in-class, written on the assignment, and posted on MyUni at the time the assignment is first distributed.

    • The microgravity laboratory is run as part of the formal Level III laboratories.


    Unless otherwise specified, submission of assignments and laboratory reports will be made through the hand-in boxes located on Level 2 of Engineering South. Cover-sheets should be attached to all submissions (cover-sheets located next to the submission boxes).

    Late submissions will be penalised at 20% per day late. All submissions are due at 1pm. Extensions for assignments will only be given in exceptional circumstances and a case for this with supporting documentation must be made either in writing after a lecture, submitted in hard copy to the front office (to be passed on to the lecturer), or emailed to the lecturer directly.

    Assignments will be assessed and returned within 4 weeks from submission (usually significantly less). Assignments that are marked prior to the last class will be brought to class for students to collect. Any assignments not collected in-class will be left in the assignment collection boxes next to the elevator on level 2 of Engineering South. There will be no opportunities for re-submission of work of unacceptable standard. Due to the large class size, feedback on assignments will be limited to in-class discussion resulting from questions from students.

    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.