Skip to content
Main menu hidden.

Spacecraft Technology and Design, 7.5 Credits

Swedish name: Satellitteknik och satellitdesign

This syllabus is valid: 2022-09-05 and until further notice

Course code: 5FY219

Credit points: 7.5

Education level: Second cycle

Main Field of Study and progress level: Physics: Second cycle, has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements

Grading scale: TH teknisk betygsskala

Responsible department: Department of Physics

Established by: Faculty Board of Science and Technology, 2022-06-23


The course comprises two parts: a theoretical module of 1.5 credits and a practical module of 6 credits. The course starts with reviewing the basics of orbital mechanics (2-body problem, relative motion, conservation of energy and momentum, and Kepler's laws) and continues with an introduction to orbital mechanics for artificial satellites (e.g., sun synchronous, geostationary, and Molniya orbits). Advanced concepts in spacecraft orbit including transfer orbit, gravity assist, and aerobraking are explained, and real examples are shown and discussed. Main concepts of spacecraft attitude, i.e. the orientation in relation to a horizontal plane, (rotation, reference frame and inertial frame, local vertical and local horizontal, and transformation strategy) are explained and an introduction through different spacecraft systems and subsystems (mechanics and structure, electronics and power supply, telecommunication, thermal control, propulsion, data handling, attitude control, sensors and scientific payloads) are provided. Various launch vehicles and landing strategies are explained, and the theoretical module ends with an explanation of various environments that a spacecraft may face during its journey to a target as well as the environment at the target.

In parallel to the theoretical session, a practical training will be conducted to develop specific skills including electronics, programming, and structural design required for designing and building a mini-satellite (CanSat). The practical module starts with an introduction to logic circuits and digital systems and continues with an in-depth explanation on computer architecture, automated and semi-automated control systems, and hardware programming. A review to C++ and/or Python programming is given. Different parts of CanSat are introduced and different project work units are explained. The students are then divided into groups and each group is expected to design and build their own CanSat and ground station, which need to be tested and pass intensive reviews including preliminary design review (PDR) and critical design review (CDR). During the launch campaign, CanSats and ground stations will be tested under real conditions.

Expected learning outcomes

To fulfil the goals of knowledge and understanding, the student should be able to:
  • explain in detail the characteristics of different spacecraft orbits
  • systematically explain the principles of spacecraft orbital mechanics and attitude
  • discuss the principles of spacecraft attitude and control systems
  • describe various spacecraft systems, sub-system, their role and connections
  • demonstrate how different systems of a spacecraft work
  • compile and contrast different types of methods for controlling a spacecraft
  • describe the principles of on-board system programming
  • provide an in-depth explanation of different sections of a CanSat and their functionalities
  • demonstrate in-depth understanding of data communication and data handling
  • thoroughly summarise how a space mission is designed and built.

To fulfil the goals for proficiency and ability, the student should be able to:
  • show good laboratory skills and good ability to plan and evaluate experiment
  • systematically analyse the function of spacecraft systems
  • manage a project both independently and in a group of people
  • demonstrate the capacity to effectively integrate multiple sources into the writing and oral presentations
  • design, craft, and build an engineering project through collaboration
  • collaborate with other people.

To fulfil the goals for evaluation and critical approach, the student should be able to:
  • demonstrate the ability to assess risks when working on different sections of the CanSat project
  • reflect on and evaluate their own efforts in practical work
  • show insight into the importance of project organisation and multidisciplinary competence in industrial research and development work.

Required Knowledge

90 credits including Thermodynamics, Physical Measurement Techniques and a first course in scientific computing or equivalent. Swedish for basic eligibility for higher education programmes and English A/5. Requirements for Swedish only apply if the course is held in Swedish.

Form of instruction

The teaching is conducted in the form of lectures, lessons, problem solving assignments, and supervision in practical sessions. In addition to scheduled activities, individual work with the course material is also required.

Examination modes

The examination of the theoretical module of the course is in the form of assessment of 2-3 hand-in assignments during the course. The assignments test the student's ability to perform calculations and descriptions linked to the course content. The grading scale for this module is Fail (U), Pass (3), Pass with Merit (4), Pass with Distinction (5).

The examination of the practical module takes place in groups, with both individual and group assessment through written reports, oral presentations, the final development of CanSat, and the performance during the launch campaign. The grading scale for the practical module is, based on an assessment template, Fail (U), Pass (3), Pass with Merit (4), Pass with Distinction (5).

For the full course one of the grades Fail (U), Pass (3), Pass with Merit (4), or Pass with Distinction (5) will be given when all parts have been passed. The grade constitutes a summary assessment of the results in the various parts of the examination, with weight in proportion to the size of the course modules, and is only set when all modules have been approved. A student who has passed an examination is not allowed to take another examination in order to get a higher grade.

Deviations from the examination form of this syllabus can be made for a student who has a decision on pedagogical support due to functional diversity. Individual adaptation of the examination form must be considered based on the student's needs. The examination form is adapted within the framework of the expected study results described in this syllabus. At the request of the student, the course teacher, in consultation with the examiner, shall promptly decide on an adapted form of examination. The decision must then be notified to the student.

A student who has undergone two exams for a course or part of a course without a passing grade, has the right to have another examiner appointed, unless special reasons militate against it. One such reason may be, for example, that there is no other suitable examiner. Students should contact the director of studies or equivalent at the department responsible for the course with such a request. For more information, see Rule for grades and examination, dnr: FS 1.1-574-22.

Other regulations

In the event that the course syllabus expires or undergoes major changes, students are guaranteed at least three examination opportunities (including the regular examination opportunity), according to the regulations in the syllabus on which the student was originally registered, for a maximum of two years from the previous syllabus expiring or since the course has been discontinued.


The literature list is not available through the web. Please contact the faculty.