KL6068 - Satellite Systems and Space Environment

What will I learn on this module?

The module provides students with skills and knowledge to develop scientific and/or electronic systems for space applications. The topics covered are:

The space environment - launch, orbits, rocket equation, drag, radiation, vacuum, thermal gradients.

Satellite systems and system development for space applications - radio communication, ground stations and link budgets, solar power, data processing, Earth observation, optimisation of systems for space, materials choice for space, component characteristics, mechanical and thermal testing.

Product Acceptance and Qualification Assurance for space – industry standards for space-worthy design, functional testing, simulation of operations, verification and validation processes.

Environmental Testing – theory and practice of vibration testing, resonant sweeps, shock tests and random noise tests. Theory and practice of thermal vacuum testing, the effect of vacuum on electronics and thermal cycling. Theory and practice of radiation testing, how radiation effects electronics, how to design to be radiation tolerant, and testing components in the x-ray irradiator.

How will I learn on this module?

The module will be delivered using a combination of lectures, tutorials, laboratory workshops, and directed and independent learning. Classes will take place in the Northumbria Space technology Lab where students will be guided through the product design, assembly and testing phases of the product life cycle for space systems. This will involve working in a team to build and test a CubeSat with a unique payload developed by the team.

The learning and teaching approach will include the introduction of theoretical basis in the lecture form and then application aspects will be studied throughout the laboratory sessions, including problem solving and numerical simulation. You will be instructed to prepare for the lectures including reading the notes, finding and analysing relevant information in advance. Working group will be formed to encourage you to engage in critical discussion in class. Case studies will be used to demonstrate and reinforce the lectures and laboratories.

Small groups will be formed for laboratory workshops. Lab work will be a combination of the theory introduction, experiment procedure and set of questions that help you to analyse the results and refer them to existing research findings. Lab session will also provide the appropriate experiment methodology, optoelectronics hardware and simulator (LabVIEW and Matlab). You will be trained to utilise basic and advanced measurement instruments and associated application packages, including vibration shaker operation, accelerometers, x-ray irradiator, dosimeter, thermal vacuum chamber and electronic test support equipment for satellite electronics.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Lectures, tutorials and laboratory workshops will be used to deliver the module. These provide the key academic support to the module. Lecture notes are the main element to provide the theory content and the research-based tutorials will help to solve the system design problem; however, around these is built a number of support structures as followed.

Workshops, supported by lab tutors and technicians, effectively provide verbal feedback and comments throughout the session. The comments could be generic and applicable to all of you, typically noting procedures or some technical guideline or could be more directed to the individuals learning and particular task.

One key to workshop activities is in questioning the results and referring the work performed to the theoretical study in the module lectures. In addition, you can reflect on the findings with the research literatures and industrial systems under the guide of lab tutors.

The use of eLearning-Portal (eLP) will be made in the module where all the module taught content and assessment guidance are provided along with links to both the reading list support, relevant professional body related web sites showing relation of the theory to the industrial and standard context of the module. Industrial project and demonstration are also included.

Feedback on your learning will take the form of verbal feedback during the tutorials, laboratory sessions and written feedback from the laboratory report. Examination feedback will be provided following the normal processes to show generically where the cohort has a strong or a weaker answer to the examination.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

AHEP4: Over the whole module, the following codes are assessed ‘E’: C1, C5, C6, C12, C14, C16, C17

The following codes are developed but not assessed: C2, C3, C9, C10, C11, C13, C15.

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Demonstrate the application of knowledge in the design of satellite electronic systems with understanding of real-world problems and contexts in which satellite technology. (AHEP4: C1, C5, C6, C14, M5, M6, M14)

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
2. Ability to model, design and test system-level performance of satellite systems. (AHEP4: C5, C6, C12, , C14, C16, M5, M6, M12, M14)

3. Ability to analyse the specification and performance requirements necessary for systems and subsystems for satellites. (AHEP4: C6, C12, C14, M6, M12, M14)

4. Acquire skills and ability to write industry-standard technical reports (AHEP4: C17)

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA)
5. Manage time, resources and H&S efficiently and work effectively. (AHEP4: , C16)

How will I be assessed?

This module is summative assessed with: - Presentation (PRE): a group project review presentation (40%) and - coursework (CW): a laboratory report at the end of the semester (60%).

The group presentation meets LO1 and LO3 by asking the students to provide a design for a CubeSat for a specific purpose meeting provided specifications. Feedback will be provided via written comments on the presentation and in class through discussion with the tutors.

The final report meets all LOs by asking the students to provide a final design of their product after assembly, integration and testing. Feedback will be via written comments on the report returned to the students. If direct discussion of the feedback is requested the tutor can provide this, but the report will be submitted at the end of the semester so no scheduled class time is available for discussion.

A small fraction (10%) of the mark will be assessed by the student team members, each will be asked to assess the value of the contribution of each team member to the project outcome.

Formative assessment will be carried out throughout the module during the lab workshops and seminar
sessions. Students will receive feedback during the labs, classes and via emails.





Module abstract

Space is an increasingly integral part of critical infrastructure for communications, navigation and timing, and Earth observation. Satellites and spacecraft are used for: exploration, science, weather forecasting, climate monitoring, national security, and most vitally communications, navigation and timing. These services underpin the stock market, national security, and modern logistics for world-wide trade. The space industry is growing rapidly and offers excellent employment opportunities for those with the correct technical skills. In this module, you will use the Northumbria Space Technology Lab facilities to develop fundamental concepts, practical skills and theoretical knowledge of the design, fabrication, testing and operations of satellite systems. This will include: the space environment, where and how satellites operate, surviving launch, the environmental risks they are subject to, common principles of electronics and mechanical design for space such as: batteries, solar panels, radio, attitude control and propulsion, processing and control systems and environmental / scientific sensors.

You will learn using a mixture of small-class seminars and group laboratory work designed to emulate the experience of working in the space industry. You will have an opportunity to carry out experiments, use environmental testing systems used in industry, and improve practical skills through laboratory workshops. You will gain experience in the creation of a real design solution in a team, from concept to realisation in the form of system design and evaluation. Throughout the module you are able to enhance your analysis and problem-solving skills as well as understanding technologies applied in related industrial fields.

Course info

UCAS Code F3F5

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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