The module descriptors for our undergraduate courses can be found below:

  • Four year Aeronautical Engineering degree (H401)
  • Four year Aeronautical Engineering with a Year Abroad stream (H410)

Students on our H420 programme follow the same programme as the H401 spending fourth year in industry.

The descriptors for all programmes are the same (including H411).


Spacecraft Structures S4

Module aims

This module presents state-of-the-art methodologies for the design of spacecraft structures, from launchers to satellite platforms and to habitable inflatable modules. The fundamental knowledge provided in this course will involve how hazardous spacecraft-environment interactions can be predicted and mitigated at material and structural level; awareness of design methods and certification requirements for both structures and payloads that can successfully withstand launch and insertion into orbit; and the understanding of the operational principles for deployable structures in space applications and of the relevant design strategies.


Learning outcomes

On successfully completing this module, you should be able to: 1. appraise the issues related to structural design for space; 2. recognize the standard structural qualification process for spacecraft systems; 3. acquire a good command of advanced structural analysis methods for spacecraft components; 4. select appropriate structural analysis and design methodologies for advanced spacecraft structures; 5. design and characterize static and deployable space structures following industrially-relevant processes. AHEP Learning Outcomes: SM7M, SM8M, EA6M, EA5m, D9M, D10M, P12M, P9m, P10m

Module syllabus

Spacecraft-Environment Interactions:
•    Thermal Environment
•    Outgassing, erosion and contamination
•    Effects of plasma and radiation
•    Micrometeoroids and debris

Launch and deployment loading:
•    Quasi-static loading
•    Sinusoidal loading and frequency response
•    Random loading and Miles’ Equation
•    Shock loading and Shock Response Spectra

Deployable Structures:

•    Deployable Structure classification
•    Conventional Mechanisms
•    Compliant Mechanisms and post-buckling
•    Membrane Structures

Teaching methods

The module will be delivered primarily through large-class lectures introducing the key concepts and methods, supported by a variety of delivery methods combining the traditional and the technological.  The content is presented via a combination of slides, whiteboard and visualizer.Learning will be reinforced through tutorial question sheets and a demonstration of the vibration testing and qualification process on the department’s shaker facility.


This module presents opportunities for both formative and summative assessment. 
You will be formatively assessed through progress tests and tutorial sessions.
You will have additional opportunities to self-assess your learning via tutorial problem sheets.
You will be summatively assessed by a written closed-book examination at the end of the module.

Assessment type Assessment description Weighting Pass mark
Examination 2-hour closed-book written examination in January 100% 50%

You will receive feedback on examinations in the form of an examination feedback report on the performance of the entire cohort.

You will receive feedback on your performance whilst undertaking tutorial exercises, during which you will also receive instruction on the correct solution to tutorial problems.

Further individual feedback will be available to you on request via this module’s online feedback forum, through staff office hours and discussions with tutors. 


Module leaders

Professor Matthew Santer