Rocketry and Human Spaceflight - PHYS7110

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 7 15 (7.5) Stephen Lowry checkmark-circle


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.


Contact hours

Total contact hours (Lectures and workshop sessions – does not include office contact hours): 30
Private study hours: 120
Total study hours: 150


This is not available as a wild module.

Method of assessment

Two homework assignments (15% each, 10 hours each)
Examination (2 hours, 70%)

Indicative reading

Recommended Text:
Fortescue, Stark and Swinerd, Spacecraft Systems Engineering, 3rd ed, Wiley, 2003 [TL875, 6 copies]
Wertz and Larson, Space Mission Analysis and Design, 3rd Edition, 1999 [TL 790]
Sutton, Rocket Propulsion Elements, 1992 [TL 782]
Sidi, Spacecraft Dynamics and Control, 1997 [TL 1050]

Background reading (In addition, a fuller reading list will be distributed in the lectures):
McNamara: Into the Final frontier, Harcourt, 2000 [qTL873]
Nicogossian, Huntoon and Pool: Space Physiology and Medicine, Lea & Febiger, 1994 [RC1150]
Turner: Rocket and Spacecraft Propulsion, Praxis, 2000 [TL782]

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
Have a knowledge and understanding of:
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.

Other more specific learning outcomes:
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 astronauts.

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
Have a knowledge and understanding of:
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.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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