Introduction to Space Science

  • Combine this unit with two others to form the module 'Introduction to Physics Specialisms'

During this unit you will develop your education in speciality physics by gaining an overview of space exploration, including exploitation of space for terrestrial applications, exploration of the solar system, science, and the concepts and techniques which enable these activities to be carried out.

You will begin by studying the scientific and engineering challenges of the successful exploration and exploitation of space. Reaching a suitable orbit requires knowledge of celestial mechanics and spacecraft propulsion and control; the environment of space can damage spacecraft materials and electronics unless they are appropriately designed, and the distances involved in many missions make tasks such as power generation and communication more difficult in this context than they are on the Earth. Each planetary target presents its own unique environment and challenges, which shape the missions that are designed to explore them. Space exploration can therefore act as a 'kickstarter' for technologies which find applications that bring benefits in sectors other than space.

You will go on to studying the major planetary bodies in the solar system: the terrestrial planets including the Earth, along with the gas giants, and the largest of the planetary moons. You will learn about the most significant missions which have enabled the study of these worlds, in a treatment which will focus on some of the key results which they returned.

You will attend lectures and a workshop, solve problems and discuss topical areas of planetary exploration and space technology with your peers and staff.

Topics Covered

  • Space instrumentation and applications
  • Orbits, trajectories, rocket propulsion and launch systems
  • The space environment (debris, thermal, vacuum, radiation)
  • Spacecraft Subsystems and ground segment
  • The major bodies in the Solar System and key missions which have explored them