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Space Flight Operations


Credit Hours:


Learning Objective:

The Space Flight Operations Course is designed so that students will achieve the following learning outcomes: Understanding of the terminology associated with space flight operations; Development of technical resource budgets, spanning mass, power, thermal, telecommunications, data volume; Understanding of the roles and processes involved in operating a mission; Ability to determine and predict the location of an Earth-orbiting spacecraft for planning purposes; Ability to identify and assess anomalies in spacecraft telemetry; Ability to identify and mitigate mission risks; Understanding of best practices for space mission design, management, and operations


Space Flight Operations will provide students with a technical foundation for the operation of Earth orbiting and planetary missions. The course covers spacecraft design, mission planning, anomaly resolution, and industry best-practices.
Fall 2021 Syllabus

Topics Covered:

The course begins with providing students a background in spacecraft design with an emphasis on the eventual operability of the mission. This will include lectures on mission concept studies, key design trades, verification and validation, as well as the development of technical resource budgets for power, propulsion, telecommunications, thermal control, and attitude control sizing. In the second segment of the course, students will learn about the operation of spacecraft in orbit. Characteristics and modeling of the space environment will be discussed to provide a foundation for introducing students to orbit determination, orbit prediction, and pass planning. Flight team organization, launch operations, and orbital rendezvous will also be presented if time permits. The third segment concerns anomaly detection and response. Students will learn about anomaly types and techniques for detecting them in spacecraft telemetry. Students will also learn how to troubleshoot anomalies using fault trees, manage risk, and perform contingency planning. In the final segment, the class will learn industry best-practices and discuss failure investigation reports for high-profile mission failures spanning human and robotic missions.


This course is open to seniors and graduate students. There are no fixed prerequisites within the AAE curriculum, and the course may be of interest to non-AAE majors.

Applied / Theory:

70 / 30

Web Address:

Web Content:


There will be approximately 5 homework assignments, 1 midterm exam, and a final term paper. Homework assignments are usually due every 2 weeks. Participation in the in-class and online discussions (via the course Brightspace) is also expected. Homework assignments (50%); Term Paper (20%)


1 Midterm Exam (25%). No final exam.


Recommended Textbooks: These texts provide material that is supplementary to the lectures and are not required.
  • Uhlig, T., Sellmaier, F., Schmidhuber, M., editors, Spacecraft Operations, Springer, 1st Edition, 2015, ISBN 978-3-7091-4848-8.
  • Montenbruck, O. and Gill, E., Satellite Orbits, Springer, 1st Edition, 2000, ISBN 978-3-540-67280-7
  • Griffin, M.D., French, J.R., Space Vehicle Design, AIAA, 2nd Edition, 2004, ISBN 1-56347-539-1

Computer Requirements:

ProEd Minimum Requirements. For the homework, students should be familiar with a scientific programming language such as MATLAB or Python.

ProEd Minimum Requirements: