AAE 45000

Spacecraft Design

Credits:     3

Contact hours:     3

Instructor:     Professor Longuski and Professor Garrison

Text:     Professor Longuski requires Longuski, Jim, Advice to Rocket Scientists, AIAA, 2004. ISBN 978-1563476556.
Professor Garrison requires Wertz, James Richard, David F. Everett, and Jeffrey John Puschell, Space Mission Engineering: The New SMAD, Microcosm Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1881883159.

Course Description:     Senior students perform a team-based spacecraft design, requiring application of the education and skills developed in the aerospace curriculum. Components include analysis methods for preliminary design, development of an initial spacecraft and mission concept, and development of a complete numerical model of the mission, culminating in oral and written reports by the teams.

Offered:    Fall and Spring

Pre-requisite:    None

Co-requisite:    None

Required:    Either/Or Option with AAE 45100, Sem 8

Student Learning Outcomes:
On completing this course the student shall be able to:

  1. Understand and implement the design process for aerospace systems
  2. Solve problems as part of a team
  3. Conduct open-ended, iterative tasks associated with spacecraft, rocket and mission design and system integration.
  4. Properly integrate a variety of systems and sub-systems within a spacecraft, rocket and mission to demonstrate design feasibility.
  5. Demonstrate design viability through testing, both real and virtual.
  6. Prioritize design requirements and organize work schedules.
  7. Use formal, structured design methods to develop superior products that meet or surpass customer expectations.
  8. Give oral presentations and write technical reports required of design engineers

Relationship of Course to Program Outcomes

    Program Learning Outcomes Included?
a An ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering Yes
b An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data No
c An ability to design an aerospace system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health, and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability Yes
d An ability to function on multidisciplinary teams Yes
e An ability to identify, formulate, and solve aerospace engineering problems Yes
f An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility No
g An ability to communicate effectively Yes
h An understanding of the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context No
i A recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning No
j A knowledge of contemporary issues in aerospace engineering No
k An ability to use the techniques, skills and modern engineering tools necessary for aerospace engineering practice Yes


  1. Analysis Methods to be used for Preliminary Spacecraft Design
    Loads, mass distribution, and center of gravity. Simplified estimation of structural weight. Orbital mechanics above a spherical rotating earth. Newtonian aerodynamics. Skin friction and heat transfer using simplified correlations. Static stability. Lumped heat-capacity model for thermal protection system. Selection among existing propulsion systems. Boost trajectory analysis. Space communications. Instrumentation. Use and adaptation of existing software
  2. Development of an Initial Spacecraft and Mission Concept
    Selection is based on historical background and engineering judgment, plus qualitative studies of vehicle requirements, mission goals, and possible vehicle concepts. Fundamentals of project management. The spacecraft and mission concept will include a number of free parameters, such as vehicle length, slenderness, mass, tank position, orbit selection, power system, attitude precision and so on. First formal report
  3. Development of a Numerical Model for the Vehicle Concept
    Based on sections 1 and 2, a numerical model must be coded and checked. The concept in section 2 must be sufficiently specific that it is feasible to develop this model in the time available. Validation of model for second formal report
  4. Configure Vehicle using Trade Studies based on the Simulations
    Quantitative trade studies performed using the model. Traceability of design parameters to mission requirements. Risk assessment and cost estimation. Selection of final configuration. Reporting of vehicle characteristics and performance. Final report.

Revision History:
Prepared by: Steven P. Schneider, Date: February 16, 2001
Revised by: James M. Longuski, Date: March 31, 2006
Updated Pre-Requisite: March 3, 2011
Format updated: September 2011