Space Systems – Subsystems Designs


This 4.5-day multi-disciplinary course provides a complete summary of the technologies needed to understand and develop spacecraft systems and instrumentation. The course presents a systems engineering approach for understanding the design and testing of spacecraft systems. The course highlights the underlying scientific and engineering foundations needed to develop space systems, as well as current practices. Case studies are used to pinpoint the key issues and trade-offs in modern design, and to illustrate the lessons learned from past successes and failures.

Space Systems I & IIare recommended for engineers, scientists, or managers who wish to broaden their perspectives and capabilities.

The emphasis will be on how today’s technology is incorporated into the planning, designing, fabrication, integration, and testing of modern space systems. Each participant will receive a complete set of notes and the award-winning textbook Space Systems written by the instructors. The textbook and course notes provide an authoritative reference that focuses on proven techniques and guidelines for understanding, designing, and managing modern space systems.

Course Outline:

  1. The Space Environment. Vacuum and drag. Temperature and thermal gradients. Magnetic field. Ultraviolet and ionizing radiation. Pre-launch and launch environments.
  2. Space Communications/Part I. RF signal transmission. Antenna properties. One-way range equation. Properties and peculiarities of the space channel. Modulation of RF. Sources of noise. Signal-to-noise ratio. Link margin.
  3. Space Communications/Part II. Communications link design example. Error correction. Encryption and authentication. Covert Communications. Anti-jam techniques.
  4. Spacecraft Command and Telemetry. Command receivers, command decoders, encrypted links. Command messages. Synchronization, error detection and correction. Command logic. System requirements. Telemetry Systems. Sensors and signal conditioning. Frame formatting, data compression.
  5. Spacecraft On-Board Processing. Central processing units for space. Software development and engineering. Memory types. Mass storage. Processor input and output. Fault tolerance and redundancy. Radiation hardness and upset, latch-up. Error correction.
  6. Spacecraft Integration & Test. The design process and design reviews. Planning for integration and testing. Electrical, thermal, and mechanical design interactions. Ground support system. Integration and test facilities. Test plans. Testing subsystems. Spacecraft level testing. Launch site tests.
  7. Reliability & Quality Assurance. System reliability and redundancy. Reliability predictions. Examples of approaches for current satellites. Quality assurance and component selection. Inspections and reviews. Survivability and radiation effects.
  8. Space Mission Operations. Mission analysis and planning, mission control center. Communications. Pre-launch operations. Launch operations. Post-launch operations. Post-launch control. Problems and anomalous operations.
  9. Detailed Case Study. Systems engineering example for a launched spacecraft. Trade-offs, risk assessments and design margins. Software management. Integration and testing. Lessons learned for future systems engineers.


This course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses. If you are interested in attending this or another course as open enrollment, please contact us at (410)956-8805 or at and indicate the course name and number of students who wish to participate. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a lead time of 3-5 months. Group courses can be presented at your facility at any time. For on-site pricing, request an on-site quote. You may also call us at (410)956-8805 or email us at


  • Eric Hoffman joined JHU/APL in 1964, designing high-reliability spacecraft command, communications, and navigation equipment. He recently retired as Chief Engineer of the Space Department, which has designed and built 61 spacecraft.


  • Robert C. Moore worked in the Digital Flight Systems Group of the APL Space Department from 1965 until his retirement in 2007. He designed electronic circuitry and embedded microprocessor systems for space flight data processing.

    Contact these instructors (please mention course name in the subject line)

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