Online Course: Spacecraft Technology

TU Delft Open & Online Education

Programme Description

Online Course: Spacecraft Technology

TU Delft Open & Online Education

Exploration of space is never out of the news for long and the desire to construct lower-cost, reliable and more capable spacecraft has never been greater. At TU Delft years of technology development and research experience in space, engineering allows us to offer this course, which examines spacecraft technologies for satellites and launch vehicles.

This course will provide the essential grounding for anyone with an interest in the growing field of spacecraft design and manufacture with its strong focus on the practical applications of advanced theory.

This course provides:

  • knowledge of the technical principles of rockets and satellite bus subsystems
  • the ability to select state-of-the-art, available components
  • analysis of the physical and technical limitations of subsystem components
  • identification of the key performance parameters of different spacecraft subsystems
  • comparison of the values obtained by ideal theory and real-life ones
  • opportunity to make preliminary designs for a spacecraft based on its key requirements

Other spacecraft types, such as interplanetary rovers, are not covered in this course. Spacecraft instrumentation and other payloads are also not covered.


The first 1,5 weeks of the course are devoted to getting to know the platform, the material and your fellow online learners.

Spacecraft technology course is structured in three main segments:

Satellite Bus Platform

The technology is discussed at a component level with their working principles explained as well as their relation to the subsystem requirements and constraints. Calculations for the key characteristics of the components demonstrated prior to practical work by the students using primarily physical relations rather than general/empirical scaling rules. The three online modules are complemented by interactive Hangout sessions.

  • Onboard Command and Data Handling including the specifications of microprocessors; commonly used data interfaces within spacecraft; the effects of radiation on processors and methods to deal with them; operational scheduling; failure detection, isolation, and recovery).
  • Electrical Power Technology covering the selection and implementation of photovoltaic cells; different types of power conversion and distribution methods; battery technology; common failure modes and protection.
  • Attitude Determination and Control. General principles of sensing and actuation in space; types and basic principles of AOCS algorithms; working principles, design, types and characteristics of sun sensors, magnetometers, star trackers, gyroscopes, reaction wheels, magnetorquers, etc.
  • Structures and deployable craft looking at structural concepts; structural materials; deployment mechanisms, etc.
  • Thermal Control - both passive and active thermal control mechanisms and components.
  • The basics of telecommunication and the main components of radios.

Rocket & Onboard Propulsion

The emphasis is on technology rather than a theory with examples of hardware shown whenever possible during the lectures. The lectures on liquid-propellant engines and solid propellant engines will be structured in such a way to be a compliment, and not an overlap, to the previous BSc courses of the Aerospace Engineering curriculum. The three online modules are complemented by interactive Hangout sessions.

  • Applied Theory covering the fundamentals of rocket propulsion, main performance parameters of rockets and thrusters, ideal rocket theory basics and equations and types of propulsion are reviewed and applied to real-life cases and practical demonstrations.
  • Liquid Propellant Engines looks at types of engines, types of propellants, components of the feeding system, nozzle design, quality factors and real performance estimation.
  • Solid Propellant Engines covers types of solid propellants, ignition and burning characteristics of the propellant, hybrid rockets and pressure instabilities and real performance estimation.
  • Electric and Advanced Propulsion reviews the basics of electric propulsion theory, types of electric thrusters, components and characteristics of an electric propulsion subsystem and advanced propulsion concepts
  • Micro-Propulsion covers the available micro-propulsion options, the criteria for scaling-down propulsion systems, specific propulsion requirements and performance needs in nanosatellites, micro-machining of nozzles, heaters and feeding system components.

CubeSat Design Workshop

Students will form groups of 5-7 members and work at a CubeSat design problem. Starting from the general mission description and requirements, provided as input, the group will design the complete satellite architecture up to pre-Phase A stage. Wherever possible, they will select commercially available subsystems and components. If necessary, new still-to-be-developed technologies can be considered and justified.

Weekly sessions of 2 hours each (in-class or online) will be scheduled. After working on the conceptual study, the team will deliver a short report with an overview of selected technologies, budgets, timeline and explanation and justification of the choices made. This report will be reviewed by the instructors, thus making the first design iteration for the team. During the final session, all teams will present and discuss their solutions with the others. Based on the outcomes of this discussion, the teams will then write an additional 1-2 page addendum, in which they will critically compare their own design to those proposed by other groups.

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated December 11, 2018
Duration & Price
This course is Online
Start Date
Start date
Part time
1,250 EUR