2-Day Introduction to Spacecraft Dynamics

19-20 June 2000


To introduce the delegate to the classical dynamics of Earth-orbiting satellites, covering geocentric orbits and manoeuvres, spacecraft dynamics, and attitude determination and control systems. By the end of the course, the delegate should be capable of carrying out the preliminary planning for an Earth-orbiting spacecraft mission.

Note: The material covered in this course is a necessary prerequisite for the 5-day Short Course on Spacecraft Systems.

Texts:  SELLERS, J.J.,    Understanding Space, McGraw Hill, 1994 ISBN: 0-07-057027-2          £33.00

WIESEL, W.E.,    Spaceflight Dynamics, McGraw Hill, 1998 ISBN: 0-07-115631-3                     £24.00

MARAL, G.  & BOUSQUET, M., Satellite Communications Systems (3rd Ed ), Wiley, 1998 ISBN: 0-471-97166-9                                                                                                                                  £40.00

SIDI, M.J.,    Spacecraft Dynamics and Control,  CUP, 1997 ISBN: 0-521-55072-6                        £68.00


Through a series of intensive lectures and an exercise, the course aims to give an introduction to the classical dynamics and control of spacecraft, showing how these affect their engineering design and mission applications. By the end of the course, the delegate should have an appreciation of the orbital motion of a satellite, and the techniques used to stabilise and control its orientation. The delegate should be capable of applying this knowledge in carrying out the preliminary design of a space mission.

This course is complementary to the Satellite Communications Short Course, and the material is a necessary pre-cursor to the Spacecraft Systems Short Course.


This intensive 2 day course provides delegates with an introduction to the classical dynamics of spacecraft as a necessary pre-cursor to understanding the engineering aspects of satellite and mission design.


[1] Basic Orbits: an introduction to orbits: Keplerís relations; Universal Gravitation; The two-body problem; Keplerian Elements, Mean, True and Eccentric Anomalies; The Earthís orbit: aphelion, perihelion, Equinoxes, Solstices;

[2] Real Orbits: Pertubations: atmospheric drag, luni-solar effects, the geopotential, radiation pressure;
Useful orbits: GEO, Molniya orbits, LEO, Sun-synchronous orbits, exactly repeating orbits; Constellations: Walker orbits.

[3] Launch Vehicles and Propulsion: The rocket equation, Isp; multi-stage rockets; SSTO; Launch vehicle technology, liquid, solid and hybrid rockets - chemical principles; air-breathing engines and space-planes;

[4]  Orbital Manoeuvers: Influence of launch site; plane changes; Hohmann transfers; GTO "dog-leg" manoeuvers; super-synchronous transfers; relative motion and rendezvous.


[1] Rigid Body dynamics: vectors and determinants; centre of mass, Moment of Inertia, inertia matrix; torques, angular momentum and energy; principal-axes; Eulerís equations; Eulerís angles; Coriolis effect; torque-free bodies; spinning and non-spinning bodies; the gyroscope effect;

[2]  Attitude Control Systems: 3-axis stabilised, spin stabilised and dual-spin satellites;
gravity-gradient effect and magnetorquing; reaction wheels and momentum wheels; control-moment gyros; thrusters (solid, liquid, and electric);

[3] Attitude Determination: star-sensors, Sun-sensors, Earth-horizon sensors,
magnetometers, inertial sensors - accuracy and limitations; Attitude control loops.

[4] Mission Planning Exercise: Planning the orbit and dynamical control system for a particular application satellite.


Dr Craig Underwood graduated from the University of York in 1982 with a BSc(Hons) in Physics with Computer Science. After gaining a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) from York in 1983, he began a teaching career at Scarborough Sixth-Form College where he developed satellite activities. In January 1986, Craig joined the University of Surrey as a Research Fellow responsible for the generation and maintenance of software for the UoSAT Satellite Control Ground-Station. In 1988, as a Senior Engineer with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), he became responsible for mission analysis and the thermal design of the UoSAT spacecraft, including: UoSAT-3, -4, and -5, KITSAT-1, S80/T, HealthSat-II, PoSAT-1 and FASat-Alfa. From 1990 he has been the Principal Investigator of space radiation effects on the UoSAT satellites, completing a PhD in this area in 1996. As part of this research, he designed and developed radiation monitoring payloads for the UoSAT-5, KITSAT-1, Phase-3D and TiungSat satellites. More recently he has developed stratospheric ozone monitoring UV radiometers for FASAT-Alfa and -Bravo, and an ultra-compact Earth-observation CMOS video camera for TMSat. In 1993, Craig became a Lecturer in Spacecraft Engineering advancing to Senior Lecturer in 1999. He is currently pursuing research interests in the analysis of the space radiation environment and its effects on COTS technologies, satellite remote sensing, space science and nano-satellite technologies.


Time Day 1 Day 2
09:00-10:30 Basic Orbits Rigid Body Dynamics
10:30-11:00 COFFEE COFFEE
11:00-12:30 Real Orbits Attitude Control Systems
12:30-14:00 LUNCH LUNCH
14:00-15:30 Launch Vehicles and Propulsion Attidude Determination
15:30-16:00 TEA TEA
16:00-17:30 Orbital, Manoevres and Station Keeping Mission Planning Exercise


Please note that the Programme can change to reflect the topicality of the course, please Bookmark and Check!


Limited En-suite accommodation may be available on a limited basis on campus for a price of £35.00 per night inclusive of breakfast. Please telephone Barbara Steel on 01483 876040 for further information.


Price per person, including lunch, refreshments and printed course notes: To reserve a place on the above course please complete this registration form

For further information please contact:

Barbara Steel, Course Co-ordinator        Tel     01483-876040

                                          Fax:    01483-876041

                                          Email:  Short-course@ee.surrey.ac.uk

TAKE THE CREDIT -THE MODULAR MASTERS PROGRAMME Spacecraft Dynamics is also an element within the unique MSc awarded by the University of Surrey (which is subject to final validation). Suitably registered candidates can obtain MSc credit by passing an associated exam in this field.

Other courses contributing to the Modular Masters Scheme include the following with further courses under development.

Registration on the Modular Masters scheme is optional and currently free. In addition to the opportunity to build credits towards a recognised qualification, benefits will include the availability of tutorial support and the opportunity to increase understanding through integrated exercises. Students will have up to 5 years to complete their studies.

All courses are stand alone modules and can therefore be attended on an individual basis.

For a more detailed explanation about how the Modular MSc via Short Courses works CLICK HERE


CSER is a post-graduate research centre within the School of Electronic Engineering, Information Technology and Mathematics, running MSc courses in Satellite Communications Engineering, Satellites & Mobile Systems, and Telematics, as well as research in: CSER has established a world renowned reputation for the design, construction and operation of smaller, faster and cheaper satellites. It has designed and launched a total of twelve 50kg microsatellites since the early 1980s. A University company, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), now runs the commercial activities and is developing a 300kg minisatellite and supports work in CSER.

Research projects are involved with remote sensing (new sensors, processing, etc.) navigation using GPS on-board data handling, VLSI performance in space, store-&-forward (e-mail) communications, the use of DSP (modulation & coding), on-board satellites power and propulsion systems including the novel hybrid motors.

In addition, the group is research low-cost satellite design and new mission applications for constellations of small satellites. This work is closely associated with, and supported by SSTL.

A third, smaller research group is operating in collaboration with Civil and Mechanical Engineering departments to cover aspects of satellite structures, materials for space use and CAD/CAM for space.

In 1996 CSER and CCSR (Centre for Communications Systems Research) were awarded the Queenís Anniversary Prize for outstanding work in "Satellite Communications & Engineering Research and Teaching"






Last Update: 18 August 1999, Barbara Steel