Rocketry and Human Spaceflight - PH711

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
(version 2)
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7 15 (7.5) DR SC Lowry







Flight Operations: Control of spacecraft from the ground, including aspects of telecommunications theory.

Propulsion and attitude control: Physics of combustion in rockets, review of classical mechanics of rotation and its application to spacecraft attitude determination and control.

Impact Damage: The mechanisms by which space vehicles are damaged by high speed impact will be discussed along with protection strategies.

Human spaceflight: A review of human spaceflight programs (past and present). Life-support systems. An introduction to some major topics in space medicine; acceleration, pressurisation, radiation, etc.

International Space Station: Status of this project/mission will be covered.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

30 contact hours, including lectures (26 hours), 2 workshop sessions (2 hours) and class tests.

In addition 120 hours of directed reading and self-study are required.


This is not available as a wild module.

Method of assessment

Coursework (30% - includes 2 class tests at 15% each);
Final Examination (70%).

Preliminary reading

Recommended Text:
Fortescue, Stark and Swinerd, Spacecraft Systems Engineering, 3rd ed, Wiley, 2003

Other recommended reading:

  • Wetz and Larson, Space Mission Analysis and Design, 3rd Edition,
  • Sutton, Rocket Propulsion Elements
  • Sidi, Spacecraft Dynamics and Control
    Background reading (In addition, a fuller reading list will be distributed in the lectures):
  • McNamara: Into the Final frontier, pub. Harcourt
  • Nicogossian, Huntoon and Pool: Space Physiology and Medicine, pub Lea & Febiger
  • Turner: Rocket and Spacecraft Propulsion, pub. Praxis

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

  • Learning outcomes

  • Aspects of the theory and practice of space science, and of those aspects upon which space science depends in relation to rocketry and Human Space Flight (a knowledge of key physics, especially for rocketry).
  • An understanding of relevant fundamental laws and principles of physics, along with their application to rocketry and human spaceflight.
  • An ability to identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
  • An ability to solve problems in rocketry and human spaceflight using appropriate mathematical tools.
  • An ability to use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour.
  • An ability to solve advanced problems in rocketry and human spaceflight using appropriate mathematical tools, to translate problems into mathematical statements and apply their knowledge to obtain order of magnitude or more precise solutions as appropriate.
  • An ability to interpret mathematical descriptions of physical phenomena.
  • An ability to present and interpret information graphically.
  • An ability to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials, other primary sources or other learning resources as part of managing their own learning.
  • To develop an appreciation of the design, construction and testing of space vehicles and their operation.
  • To understand the basic physiological changes the human body is subject to in space.
  • To develop an appreciation of the uses of space for science and by astronaut.
  • Ability to identify relevant principles, discuss in an informed fashion, make relevant descriptions or approximations (mathematical or otherwise) and solve problems.
  • Problem-solving skills, in the context of both problems with well-defined solutions and open-ended problems; an ability to formulate problems in precise terms and to identify key issues, and the confidence to try different approaches in order to make progress on challenging problems. Numeracy is subsumed within this area.
  • Investigative skills in the context of independent investigation including the use of textbooks and other available literature and databases to extract important information.
  • Communication skills in the area of dealing with surprising ideas and difficult concepts, including listening carefully, reading demanding texts.
  • Analytical skills – associated with the need to pay attention to detail and to develop an ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas, to construct logical arguments and to use technical language correctly.

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