Satellite Communications Engineering MSc

A unique MSc, equipping students with the necessary background to enter the satellite industry.

Why Surrey?

Surrey’s satellite and space technology programmes are renowned internationally and our graduates are highly regarded.

Our course in Satellite Communications Engineering is designed to give you the specialist multidisciplinary skills required for careers based on working in the satellite and space industries and their applications. Our programme will therefore make you very attractive to the relevant space-related industries that employ over 6,500 people in the UK alone.

Programme overview

Surrey is at the forefront of satellite communications research and training. This MSc is unique in Europe in equipping students with the necessary background to enter the satellite industry or to continue on to a research degree.

We have a unique concentration of academic staff experienced in the satellite area, as well as developed contacts with all the major satellite manufacturers, operators and service providers. Industry participates in the MSc programme in both lecturing and projects, and facilitates excellent engagement for our students.

Our own spin-out company, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, is situated close by on the Surrey Research Park and provides ready access to satellite production and industrial facilities. In addition, we have a strategic relationship with EADS Airbus Europe-wide and several other major communications companies. Graduates from this MSc are to be found in key positions in the satellite industry (Inmarsat, Airbus, SSTL, SES, Eutelsat etc) and continue to be much in demand.

Why not read about past and present student experiences of our electronic engineering programmes, including Christopher Lord, Christos Merkouris and Prashant Butani?

Programme structure

Our MSc programmes are made up of eight taught modules. Each module is worth 15 credits. A project, worth 60 credits, runs over the year. This brings the total to 180 credits for the programme.

Your project is chosen in Semester 1 and work on it begins in Semester 2 on a part-time basis. Over the summer (project) period you will be working on your project on a full-time basis, with final report and a viva voce assessment conducted at the end of the academic year.

Compulsory modules

Satellite Communications Fundamentals

This module looks at the basics of satellite communication systems and provides the student with the knowledge to design a complete system. It covers earth stations, satellite types, regulation of the spectrum and interference, the propagation channel, air interfaces, and fixed and mobile applications. A feature of the module is coverage of the satellite business, major players, financial and business planning. A key element of the module is the assignment which is a real system design which replicates what has to be done in the industry.

Space Systems Design

This module covers the basics of the space environment and spacecraft design. It includes orbit dynamics, power production and conditioning, thermal design, attitude and orbit control, launching and launchers. Detailed system design for communications, earth observation payloads and mission analysis are covered in the module.

Advanced Satellite Communications Techniques 

This is a more advanced communications module building on Satellite Communications Fundamentals and giving state-of-the-art aspects of air interface (modulation/coding) and inclusion in DVB and ETSI standards; satellite broadcasting to fixed and mobile terminals; broadband access and vsats; non-geostationary constellations and operations with mobile terminals; networking issues of IP over satellite and security; radio resource management and MAC; advanced payload design including multibeam antennas and on-board processing, as well as inter satellite links. This module contains a practical laboratory assignment where students make measurements on real systems.

Spacecraft Structures and Mechanisms

This module provides an understanding of the issues that have to be addressed in the design and analysis of spacecraft structures and mechanisms. Starting from the definition of the launch environment the module covers the whole process up to final testing.

MSc Project


General Optional modules

Students can select from a list of fundamental discipline-based options, either to fill in gaps in their undergraduate knowledge or to get a deeper understanding of a discipline. Areas covered are: Antennas and Propagation; Digital Communications; Mathematics of Signal Processing; Packet and Telecommunications Networks; and RF Systems and Circuits. These modules are aimed at a basic theoretical understanding rather than practice.

Antennas and Propagation

Antennas and the propagation of radio on the physical layer (PHY) are a fundamental aspect of communications and radar, as well as any other device that will radiate electromagnetic waves over an air interface. The course aims to help you understand the key aspects of antenna theory and design (including practical hands-on laboratory exercises) as well as factors involved in modelling radio channels to ensure conformance in wireless system design and deployment.

Digital Communications

This module deals with the three important processing stages of modern digital communications: source coding for signal compression, channel error control coding for robust transmission, and modulation for efficient digital interface with the available channel.

Principles of Telecom and Packet Networks

The aim of this module is to introduce you to the principles of modern telecommunications and packet networks. You will also learn about analytical modelling concepts as a basis for quantitative analysis of network performance.

RF Systems and Circuit Design

The design of RF systems and their circuits underpins the production of mobile communications, satellite communications, radar and intelligent wireless devices, to name just a few. This module focuses on state-of-the-art applications and demonstrates the importance of underlying theoretical and design concepts.

Space Dynamics and Missions

This module gives a hands on approach to space mission analysis, and develops mathematical descriptions of the  orbitalparameters and rotational motions of satellites. The application to mission design is explored through group work and assessed labs.

Data and Internet Networking

This module provides you with an in-depth treatment of current and evolving internet standards. On the course you will be taught about principles, algorithms, protocols, services and standards used for internet-based networked communications.

Advanced Guidance, Navigation and Control

This module provides you with advanced understanding of the dynamics of satellites and methods for controlling their motion. By the end of the course you will appreciate real satellite orbits, and know how to model them. You will also develop knowledge on sensors and actuators, developing real-world control algorithms for attitude and orbit control.

Launch Vehicles and Propulsion

This module provides an introduction to the fundamentals of launch vehicle design for placing satellites into orbit as well as propulsion technologies including solid, liquid and hybrid rocket motor systems, and a brief introduction to electric propulsion (plasma thrusters). 

Network and Service Management and Control

On this module, you will look at basic and advanced management/control principles and technologies for modern communication networks. On successful completion of the course you will be able to illustrate network and service management control principles, evaluate basic network management technologies and understand how network configuration for resource optimisation can be used to satisfy quality of service guarantees of contracted services to customers.

Specific optional modules

These specific optional modules allow the student to customise the MSc to their personal interests or orientate to a particular job market. Thus a communications route would take Data and Internet Networking and Network and Service Management and Control to incorporate satellite networks. Alternatively, if your interest is in satellite/spacecraft production and manufacturing, then modules on Advanced Guidance, Navigation and Control, Dynamics and Control of Spacecraft, Launch Vehicles and Propulsion, and Space Robotics would be preferred.

These modules are detailed and state of the art in each area.

The above gives you a wide range of possibilities for personalising an MSc that suits your individual needs.


The project is a major part of the programme. It is designed to enable you to demonstrate your skills and ability to solve real-life problems, while gaining more detailed knowledge of a particular topic. It can be theoretical, simulation-based or experimental. In all cases, you are expected to show innovation and an ability to come up with your own solutions.

Projects can either be carried out within a research group or, when the project is based on a practical problem suggested by industry, at the partner organisation’s premises. Participants have worked with INMARSAT, Logica, BT, Astrium, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) and a number of small local companies.

Teaching and assessment

Taught Masters programmes in the Department of Electronic Engineering combine world-leading staff with state-of-the-art facilities. We provide a range of learning experiences – lectures, tutorials, directed study, practical laboratories and project work – which will prepare you for your professional life. The academic staff who teach on this programme are all research-active, and the specialist space modules are delivered by staff recognised as world leaders in small satellite technology.

We are particularly keen to develop in all our students a broad range of generic skills to complement the core technical or scientific competencies of their chosen subject area. Our modular programme format, coupled with the increasing use of innovative teaching and learning strategies such as e-learning and industrially focused short courses, provides a flexible study environment whilst maintaining academic rigour and quality.

All modules are assessed by a combination of formal written examinations, taken at the end of each semester, and coursework assignments. For example, in the Satellite Communications A module, satellite systems design work, incorporating link budgets, is assessed as 40 per cent of the overall module work. Satellite Communications B assignment involves practical measurements on state of the art satellite terminal equipment.

You will be assigned a personal tutor who will help you to monitor your progress. Very often this tutor will also be your project supervisor, who will guide you through your project work.

Facilities, equipment and support

Through consistent investment, we have built up an impressive infrastructure to support our students and researchers.

The University of Surrey hosts Surrey Space Centre – a unique facility comprising academics and engineers from our own spin-out company, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. Our mission control centre was designed and developed by students to support international CubeSat operations as part of the GENSO network, and it also supports the development of the University’s own educational satellites.

Our teaching laboratories provide ‘hands-on’ experience of satellite design and construction through the use of EyasSAT nano-satellite kits. They also house meteorological satellite receiving stations for the live reception of satellite weather images.

Elsewhere, our fully equipped RF lab has network analyser, signal and satellite link simulators. The Rohde and Schwartz Satellite Networking Laboratory includes DVBS2-RCS generation and measurement equipment, and roof-mounted antennas to communicating live with satellites. A security test-bed also exists for satellite security evaluation. We have a full range of software support for assignments and project work, including Matlab, and you will be able to access system simulators already built in-house.

Satellite Communications Engineering students can also make use of SatNEX, a European Network of Excellence in satellite communications supported by ESA; a satellite platform exists to link the 22 partners around Europe. This is used for virtual meetings and to participate in lectures and seminars delivered by partners.

Professional recognition

Our full-time and part-time programmes are accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). They can be used in partial fulfilment of the requirements for gaining Chartered Engineer (CEng) status, and are countable under the continuing professional development (CPD) scheme.

Related programmes

Postgraduate (Taught)

Professional development

Related departments/schools

Related research areas

Programme leader

Professor Barry Evans

Find out more

General enquiries:

+44 (0)1483 681 681

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Programme facts

Type of programme:


Programme length:

  • Full-time: 12 months
  • Part-time: 60 months

Start date:

Sep 2016

Entry Requirements

An honours degree in electronic engineering, mathematics, computing or physical sciences. Our minimum entry level is a 2.2 from a good UK university, or overseas equivalent. Relevant industrial experience will also be considered.

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time Sep 2016 £8,000 £18,000
Part-time Sep 2016 £900* £2,000*

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2016/2017 only. Annual fees will rise by four per cent (rounded up to the nearest £100) for each year of study.

A complete list of all fees for our Masters Programmes


Discounts for Surrey graduates

Thinking of continuing your education at Surrey? As an alumnus of Surrey you may be eligible for a ten per cent discount on our taught Masters programme fees. Learn more.

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GREAT Surrey Scholarships India

For for all postgraduate taught courses starting in February 2017 within the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, the University is offering graduates from India the opportunity to apply for one of three scholarships worth £5,000 through the GREAT Scholarships - India programme. 

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Admissions Information

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Further information for applicants

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Modules listed are indicative, reflecting the information available at the time of publication. Please note that not all modules described are compulsory and may be subject to teaching availability and/or student demand.

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