Space Flight 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


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, science data return
  • Understanding the roles and processes involved in operating a mission
  • Familiarity with mission planning methods and metrics
  • Ability to identify and mitigate mission risks
  • Understanding of best practices for space mission design, management, and operations
  • Determine and predict the location of an Earth orbiting spacecraft for planning purposes (time permitting)


Space Flight Operations will provide students with a technical foundation for the operation of Earth orbiting and planetary missions. The course covers Spacecraft design, space environment, mission planning, and industry best-practices.

Fall 2021 Syllabus

Topics Covered:

The course begins with providing a background in spacecraft design with an emphasis of the operability of the mission. This includes lectures on mission concept studies, key design trades, verification and validation, and the development of technical resource budgets for power, propulsion, telecommunications, thermal control, and attitude control sizing.
The second segment of the course, students 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 the spacecraft mission operations phase, in which activity planning and anomaly detection and response prosses occur. Students will learn about spacecraft planning, scheduling, resource margins, 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 fourth and final segment, the class will learn industry best-practices., hear guest lectures on space flight operations and failures, 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:


Web Address:

Web Content:


Homework assignments (50%); Term paper (10%)


1 Midterm Exam (20%). 


Students will form teams of 3, including on-campus and off-campus students, to collaborate on a live satellite tracking project. Students will answer various questions about the satellite's activities, health, orbit and other status information.



  • Uhlig, T., Sellmaier, F., Schmidhuber, M., editors, Spacecraft Operations, Springer, 1st Edition, 2015, ISBN 978-3-7091-4848-8
  • Wertz, J., Everett, D. and Puschell, J., Space Mission Engineering: The New SMAD, 2nd Printing, 2015, ISBN 10:1881883159
  • 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
  • Chamitoff, G.E. and Vadali, S.R., Human Spaceflight Operations: Lessons Learned From 60 Years in Space, 2021, AIAA, ISBN 978-1624103995

Computer Requirements:

For homework, students should be familiar with Excel, as well as a scientific programming language such as MATLAB or Python.