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Spacecraft Technology

Module MW1983

This Module is offered by Chair of Astronautics (Prof. Walter).

This module handbook serves to describe contents, learning outcome, methods and examination type as well as linking to current dates for courses and module examination in the respective sections.

Module version of WS 2012/3

There are historic module descriptions of this module. A module description is valid until replaced by a newer one.

Whether the module’s courses are offered during a specific semester is listed in the section Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature below.

available module versions
SS 2020SS 2013WS 2012/3

Basic Information

MW1983 is a year module in English language at Master’s level which is offered every semester.

This Module is included in the following catalogues within the study programs in physics.

  • Catalogue of non-physics elective courses
Total workloadContact hoursCredits (ECTS)
240 h 90 h 8 CP

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


The lectures of the summer semester provide knowledge of the fundamentals of Rocketry:
Rocket Equation
Rocket Staging
Rocket Propulsion (chemical and electrical)
Launcher Systems
Space Environment
Rocket Ascent
Orbit Transfers

The lectures of the winter semester provide knowledge of the fundamentals of space mission and spacecraft design:
Mission Design (requirements, trade studies)
Mission Geometry & Orbit Selection
Orbit Perturbations
Space Environment
Satellite Payloads (typical)
Structure & Mechanisms
Attitude Determination and Control System
Propulsion System
Communication System
Power System
Thermal Control System

Learning Outcome

After the successful conclusion of the first part of the module (summer term) , the students will be able to apply the basic physics of rocketry and propulsion to carry out a first order desing of a launcher system with respect to the design budgets of mass, power and volume. The students are able to analyse the complexity and the limitations of launching space craft systems and payloads into orbit. Furthermore, the students are able to apply the basic theory of astronautics, especially that of orbital trajectories and transfer maneuvers, with respect to the space craft's propulsion efficiency and the mission time. In general, the students are able to evaluate typical baseline launcher concepts and mission concepts with respect to the typical trade-offs in rocketry, namely mass and power.
After the successful conclusion of the second part of the module (winter term) the students will have learned all relevant theory and engeneering tools for analysing the major elements of a typical space mission with special emphasis on the space element, namely the spacecraft itself. The students will be able to understand the complex interactions between the spaceflight environment, spacecraft sub-systems and mission needs, can analyze relevant requirements and find first order solutions for mission planning purposes. Students will be able to evaluate spacecraft systems and perform basic optimizations with respect to the typical trade-offs comprising power, mass, data rate, lifetime, complexity and reliability. The students will be able to evaluate the basic interactions between the design drivers for spacecraft systems and to implement them in the typical design processes.



Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

Learning and Teaching Methods

In the lecture, the topics are taught with the help of presentations and black board sketches. The accompanying tutorials repeat and engross the crucial topics. With the help of rough calculations and rule of thumb methods, the studens lern how to do first order system evaluations.


lecture, presentation, powerpoint assistance, hand-outs, black board


Lecture notes; U.Walter, Astronautics, Wiley-VCH, ISBN 3-527-40685-9;
Further literature survey is given in the hand-out

Module Exam

Description of exams and course work

The module Spacecraft Technology comprises two thematically related subject areas which are based upon each other, namely the theory and physics of rocketry and astronautics (summer term) and the engineering and desing of the spacecraft system and its mission. The evaluating and analytical command of both expertise clusters is a fundamental prerequisite for the professional qualification of a space craft engineer. This fact requires the independent and successful verification of the learning outcome of both competence bundles. An academically educated engineer in the field of rocketry, astronautics and spacecraft desing has to proof knowledge in the field of the physical and theoretical rocket science on the one side and the engineering and desing part of the spacecraft itself on the other side. Both aspects are indispensable for the professional competence of the prospective graduate. Besides the advantage to split the exam burden of a two-semester module into two seperate, timely staggered exams (at the end of the 2nd semester and at the end of the 3rd semester), this assesment approach enables effectually the learning achievement of both study clusters. Both parts have to be passed individually. Only this test scheme for the module "Spacecraft Technology" allows the documentation of the achievement of the entire course objectives. Each of the two exams comprises typically 20 tasks - short questions as well as calculation problems with a partitioning of about 50% and 50%, respectively, which have to be answered and solved pressed for time. To work on the exam, the students are provided with a formulary; besides a non-programmable calculator, no further auxiliary material is allowed.

Note in view of the limitations on university operations as a result of the CoViD19 pandemic: If the basic conditions (hygiene, physical distance rules, etc.) for a classroom-based examination cannot be met, the planned form of examination can be changed to a written or oral online examination in accordance with §13a APSO. The decision about this change will be announced as soon as possible, but at least 14 days before the date of the examination by the examiner after consultation with the board of examiners of the respective study program.

Exam Repetition

There is a possibility to take the exam in the following semester.

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