Spacecraft Propulsion Systems


The Spacecraft Propulsion Systems short course is designed for professionals interested in how rocket propulsion is applied to spacecraft including attitude control, orbit change, and orbit maintenance. This course begins with a review of space mission fundamentals as they drive spacecraft propulsion system requirements. This is followed by an explanation of how those requirements are flowed down to the propulsion system and how the propulsion system is made to meet them. It includes an overview of the relevant propulsion technologies (e.g., cold gas, chemical, electric), propulsion technology selection, system design, and component evaluation.

What you will learn:


  • The interaction between space mission objectives, orbits, and other requirements
  • Orbital dynamics for propulsion system design
  • How rocket engines work
  • How the spacecraft architecture is created and how it impacts the propulsion system
  • How propulsion requirements are derived
  • How propulsion architectures are developed from the mission and spacecraft architecture
  • How propulsion subsystems are designed to meet the requirements
  • Lessons-learned both personally and from his friends



Course Outline:

  1. Introduction: the functions performed by spacecraft propulsion systems and their interfaces with the rest of the vehicle.
  2. Space Missions: descriptions of the functions performed by various types of spacecraft including communication, science, and observation in and beyond Earth Orbit
  3. Orbital Dynamics: gravitation, axis systems, orbital paths, orbit perturbations such as atmospheric drag and the non-spherical Earth, and orbit changes
  4. Rockets: thrust, impulse, physical hardware effects, performance, contamination
  5. Launch Vehicles: launch facilities, performance, and Users’ Guides and what they mean to the spacecraft propulsion designer
  6. Spacecraft: propulsion uses including attitude control, orbit acquisition, orbit maintenance; propulsion effects on the vehicle including contamination and slosh; propulsion to vehicle interfaces
  7. Propulsion System Requirements: total impulse, engine line of action, orbit transfer thrust, minimum torque bit, budgets, environments, limitations, plume effects, thermal effects, safety, reliability
  8. Propulsion Technologies: cold gas, chemical (solid, liquid including monopropellants and bipropellants, hybrid), electric including thermal and ion
  9. Engine Requirements: thrust, specific Impulse, minimum impulse bit, duty cycle, life
  10. Rocket Engines and Their Major Features: large, small, solid, liquid, hybrid, electric
  11. Tanks: ASME Boiler Code, high performance tankage, thin wall tanks, composite overwrap pressure vessels; propellant management
  12. Other components: valves, filters, regulators, instrumentation, propellant lines
  13. Propulsion Design: technology selection, margin, schematics and arrangements, trade studies, component selection, fluid system schematics
  14. Lessons Learned: cleanliness, process control, detonability


  • Barney Gorin (BS, MS, MBA, PE) is a propulsion and systems engineer with more than thirty-five years of post-bachelors engineering experience. His aerospace engineering background includes spacecraft propulsion systems and their associated rocket engines, spacecraft systems engineering, and electromechanical system design. He is licensed to practice engineering in the State of Maryland. Mr. Gorin has presented customized versions of this course at a variety of venues including through American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) sponsorship and directly to user communities including the Naval Research Laboratory and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He also organized the AIAA Liquid Propulsion Technical Committee’s annual in-service training course for several years.

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