Spaceflight Dynamics and Propulsion

Module code: PA7013

In this module we will explore the fundamental physical and engineering principles appropriate to astronautics, with a specific emphasis on rocket propulsion, and the ways this is applied to rocket engines. You will familiarise yourself with the design and operation of solid, and liquid fuelled chemical engines as a key spacecraft/ rocket sub-system, and explore the physics of electric and nuclear propulsion, with practical examples of each kind of thruster as a key spacecraft/rocket sub-system. You will develop your analytical skills and solve problems on rocket engine performance to understand forces’ action on launcher and space vehicles, derive and use the rocket equation, understand thrust to weight ratio and solve numerical problems on launch and interplanetary transfer. 

By developing your understanding of the fundamental physical and engineering’s principles you can begin to develop mission designs by addressing satellite control and manoeuvres, transfer trajectories and become proficient in the use of software tools such as Satellite Tool Kit, which provides a virtual environment for mission design. This module will also give a broad overview of the European space industry e.g. products and focus of the main large aerospace companies, policies and priorities of major contributors to ESA.


  • 20 hours of lectures
  • 14 hours of practicals/workshops
  • 116 hours of guided independent study


  • Coursework (30%)
  • Exam, 2 hours (70%)