About this online course


The Image

Course video

Exploration of space is never out of the news for long and the desire to construct lower-cost, reliable and more capable spacecraft has never been greater. At TU Delft years of technology development and research experience in space engineering allow us to offer this course, which examines spacecraft technologies for satellites and launch vehicles.

This course will provide the essential grounding for anyone with an interest in the growing field of spacecraft design and manufacture with its strong focus on the practical applications of advanced theory.

This course provides:

  • knowledge of the technical principles of rockets and satellite bus subsystems
  • the ability to select state-of-the-art, available components
  • analysis of the physical and technical limitations of subsystem components
  • identification of the key performance parameters of different spacecraft subsystems
  • comparison of the values obtained by ideal theory and real-life ones
  • opportunity to make preliminary designs for a spacecraft based on its key requirements

Other spacecraft types, such as interplanetary rovers, are not covered in this course. Spacecraft instrumentation and other payloads are also not covered.

Watch sample video lectures


The first 1,5 weeks of the course are devoted to getting to know the platform, the material and your fellow online learners.

Spacecraft technology course is structured in three main segments:

Satellite Bus Platform (40%)

The technology is discussed at a component level with their working principles explained as well as their relation to the subsystem requirements and constraints. Calculations for the key characteristics of the components demonstrated prior to practical work by the students using primarily physical relations rather than general/empirical scaling rules. The three online modules are complemented by interactive Hangout sessions.

  • Onboard Command and Data Handling including the specifications of microprocessors; commonly used data interfaces within spacecraft; the effects of radiation on processors and methods to deal with them; operational scheduling; failure detection, isolation and recovery).
  • Electrical Power Technology covering the selection and implementation of photovoltaic cells; different types of power conversion and distribution methods; battery technology; common failure modes and protection.
  • Attitude Determination and Control. General principles of sensing and actuation in space; types and basic principles of AOCS algorithms; working principles, design, types and characteristics of sun sensors, magnetometers, star trackers, gyroscopes, reaction wheels, magnetorquers, etc.
  • Structures and deployable craft looking at structural concepts; structural materials; deployment mechanisms, etc.
  • Thermal Control - both passive and active thermal control mechanisms and components.
  • The basics of telecommunication and the main components of radios.

Rocket & Onboard Propulsion (40%)

The emphasis is on technology rather than theory with examples of hardware shown whenever possible during the lectures. The lectures on liquid propellant engines and solid propellant engines will be structured in such a way to be a complement, and not an overlap, to the previous BSc courses of the Aerospace Engineering curriculum. The three online modules are complemented by interactive Hangout sessions.

  • Applied Theory covering the fundamentals of rocket propulsion, main performance parameters of rockets and thrusters, ideal rocket theory basics and equations and types of propulsion are reviewed and applied to real-life cases and practical demonstrations.
  • Liquid Propellant Engines looks at types of engines, types of propellants, components of the feeding system, nozzle design, quality factors and real performance estimation.
  • Solid Propellant Engines covers types of solid propellants, ignition and burning characteristics of the propellant, hybrid rockets and pressure instabilities and real performance estimation.
  • Electric and Advanced Propulsion reviews the basics of electric propulsion theory, types of electric thrusters, components and characteristics of an electric propulsion subsystem and advanced propulsion concepts
  • Micro-Propulsion covers the available micro-propulsion options, the criteria for scaling-down propulsion systems, specific propulsion requirements and performance needs in nanosatellites, micro-machining of nozzles, heaters and feeding system components.

CubeSat Design Workshop (20%)

Students will form groups of 5-7 members and work at a CubeSat design problem. Starting from the general mission description and requirements, provided as input, the group will design the complete satellite architecture up to pre-Phase A stage. Wherever possible, they will select commercially available subsystems and components. If necessary, new still-to-be-developed technologies can be considered and justified.

Weekly sessions of 2 hours each (in-class or online) will be scheduled. After working at the conceptual study, the team will deliver a short report with an overview of selected technologies, budgets, timeline and explanation and justification of the choices made. This report will be reviewed by the instructors, thus making the first design iteration for the team. During the final session, all teams will present and discuss their solutions with the others. Based on the outcomes of this discussion, the teams will then write an additional 1-2 page addendum, in which they will critically compare their own design to those proposed by other groups.


The students will be graded by a digital online exam via online proctoring, and a report. The exam determines 80% of the final grade and comprises questions on the first two components of the course. The report determines 20% of the final grade and relates to the CubeSat Design Workshop. It will be graded for each group based on (1) the quality of the concept and (2) the critical comparison of the concept to those proposed by other groups.

Date of proctored exam: February 1, 2019.

Date of resit: April 16, 2019.



If you successfully complete your online course you will be awarded with a TU Delft certificate.

This certificate will state that you were registered as a non-degree-seeking student at TU Delft and successfully completed the course.

If you decide that you would like to apply to the full Bachelor's program in Aerospace Engineering, you will need to go through the admission process as a regular BSc student. If you are admitted, you can then request an exemption for this course that you completed as a non-degree-seeking student. The Board of Examiners will evaluate your request and will decide whether or not you are exempted.


General admission to this course

Required prior knowledge
The first two years of a relevant BEng or BSc in engineering; students are expected to have mastered the fundamental concepts of a related engineering or science discipline. This includes satisfactory command of the fundamentals of calculus and physics needed at the BSc or BEng level.

Proof of prior knowledge of introduction to spaceflight: "Spaceflight – a Technical Primer" or a similar course from outside TU Delft.

Expected Level of English
English is the language of instruction for this online course. If your working language is not English or you have not participated in an educational program in English in the past, please ensure that your level of proficiency is sufficient to follow the course. TU Delft recommends an English level equivalent to one of the following certificates (given as an indication only; the actual certificates are not required for the admission process):

  • TOEFL score 90+ (this is an internet-based test)
  • IELTS (academic version) overall Band score of at least 6.5
  • University of Cambridge: "Certificate of Proficiency in English" or "Certificate in Advanced English"

Admission process

In order to complete your admission process you will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • a CV which describes your educational and professional background (in English)
  • a copy of your passport or ID card (no driver's license)
  • a copy of relevant transcripts and diplomas


If you have any questions about this course or the TU Delft online learning environment, please visit our Help & Support page.

Start Admission

  • Starts: Future dates to be announced
  • Fee: € 1250
  • Length: 13 weeks
  • Effort: 12 - 14 hours per week

Related courses