Spacecraft Systems Design

Key information

Start date: 11 July 2022

Attendance dates:

July 2022: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Time commitment: 5 days


Stag Hill campus, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 7XH

Contact details:


This intensive five day course will provide you with an introduction to the engineering aspects of satellite and mission design - with particular emphasis on the design of small low-cost satellites. Through a series of intensive lectures and exercises, this course will give an introduction to the design and construction of spacecraft, showing how the mission, and the space environment itself constrain the engineering.

The course will be held at the University of Surrey on the Stag Hill campus. 

Concepts and theories easily understood and expertly presented… Great lectures – encompassed all content of technology…Professor Underwood has really just a perfect knowledge about this area and the experiments were great!

Comment from previous student

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course, you will have a good understanding of the way that satellites are designed and built and have knowledge of:

  • The space environment and its effects
  • Spacecraft platform systems and design
  • Satellite manufacture and testing
  • Applications of small, low-cost satellites
  • Space mission analysis and design.

Because this course gives emphasis to the theoretical aspects of the subject, you will be able to apply your knowledge to a wide range of spacecraft design problems ranging from single payloads to a whole spacecraft.

Course content

Please note that we reserve the right to alter the syllabus. Any major changes will be notified to delegates before the course starts.

Space mission design

Elements of a space mission: The mission, the spacecraft, trajectories and orbits, launch vehicles, mission operations systems, mission management and operations systems engineering.

Overview of orbit and constellation design: The orbit design process, Earth coverage, simple delta-V budgets, selecting orbits and constellations, common examples.

Designing for space: The physical environment of space and spacecraft system design.

Mechanical and thermal design

Mechanical design: Frameworks and structures, stress analysis, loads and stiffness, elastic instabilities, vibration, materials selection, structural analysis.

Thermal design: Thermal sources and transport mechanisms in space, thermal balance, thermal control elements, thermal design and implementation.

Sensors and mechanisms, guidance and control

Mechanisms and optics: Kinematics, bearings and lubrication, motors and drives, mechanisms, wheels, materials. Optical mountings, alignment, and stray-light control, simple optics, telescopes.

Sensors, guidance, navigation and control systems: Optical sensor technology, attitude determination and control systems (ADCS) sensor technology, guidance, navigation and control (GNC) systems.

Power, communication, and data handling systems

Power systems, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and interfacing: Power generation, storage, regulation and monitoring. Harnesses and connectors, EMC, shielding and grounding, monitoring and protection.

Telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C), RF systems and on-board data handling: Tracking, telemetry and command systems, RF link, data handling, onboard computers (OBCs).

Small satellite design

Micro/nano-satellite design principles: Organisation, the KISS principle, capabilities, technology roadmap
space mission design exercise.

Learning and teaching methods

Learning and teaching methods include the following:

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials.


There is no assessment for those who take this as an individual short course.

Course leader

Craig Underwood profile image

Professor Craig Underwood

Head of the Planetary Environments Group

Reading list

  • Maral & Bousquet 'Satellite Communications Systems' (3rd Ed), Wiley ISBN 0-471-97166-9 : 1998
  • Jerry Jon Sellers 'Understanding Space - An Introduction to Astronautics',  McGraw Hill ISBN 0-07-057027-2 : 1994
  • Fortesque & Stark (eds) 'Spacecraft Systems Engineering', John Wiley & Sons ISBN 0-471-93451-8 : 1992
  • W.J. Larson (eds) 'Space Mission Analysis & Design'(2nd Ed), Kluwer Academic Publishers ISBN 0-7923-19982.

Entry requirements

There are no prerequisites required to do this course.

Recognition of prior learning

It will be assumed that you have a basic understanding of orbits and spacecraft dynamics.

Fees and funding

Price per person:


IET members: Standard rate


Non IET members: Standard rate

What these fees include

An electronic copy of the course notes, teas, coffees and lunches.

How to apply

Payment can be accepted by purchase order, credit card or bank transfer on our online store.

Please note that we do not charge VAT as we are an educational establishment.

Payments will be accepted subject to availability. If making payment by credit card, please forward the transaction receipt by email to Barbara Steel.

Register your interest

Terms and conditions

When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations and our terms and conditions. You are also confirming you have read and understood our privacy notice.

  • Cancellations notified in writing ten working days before the event; we charge a cancellation fee of 35 per cent of the standard rate. If we have already received payment we refund 65 per cent of the full fee.
  • Cancellations within 10 working days before the event; We charge these at the full rate and do not give refunds.
  • If no written notice of cancellation is received, no refund can be made.
  • The University of Surrey reserves the right to cancel any event. In this case, the full fee will be refunded unless a mutually convenient transfer can be arranged. Details of event changes or cancellations are available by phoning +44 (0)1483 686040.
  • Delegates can make a provisional registration for a course by telephone or email. However bookings are only acknowledged formally once payment has been received.
  • Substitutions from the same company may be made following consultation with the Continuing Education Manager.
  • The University reserves the right to cancel any course on the grounds of insufficient numbers or for other reasons beyond our control. In this case the full fee will be refunded unless a mutually convenient transfer can be arranged.
  • Registrations cannot be accepted without a valid purchase order, credit card payment or cheque.
  • Proof of payment.
  • Registrations must come with a valid purchase order, credit card payment or cheque.


This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the commencement of the course. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read more.