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SPST305 - Introduction to Orbital Mechanics

Course Details

Course Code: SPST305 Course ID: 3692 Credit Hours: 3 Level: Undergraduate

Students taking this course compute and calculate satellite orbits, planetary orbits, solar system orbits, and other essential space orbits. Designed for the non-scientist student, this course provides a fundamental understanding of how orbital mechanics works in space. (Prerequisites: MATH111 and SPST200 or SPST300)


Course Schedule

Registration Dates Course Dates Session Weeks
12/31/18 - 05/31/19 06/03/19 - 07/28/19 Spring 2019 Session D 8 Week session
02/25/19 - 08/02/19 08/05/19 - 09/29/19 Summer 2019 Session I 8 Week session
04/29/19 - 10/04/19 10/07/19 - 12/01/19 Fall 2019 Session B 8 Week session

Current Syllabi

Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • CO-1 Describe the laws of planetary motion and gravitation that illustrates the effects that gravity has on two-body mechanics.

  • CO-2 Identify the four different types of orbits and their special characteristics.

  • CO-3 Calculate the orbital components and perturbations for elliptical and circular orbits.

  • CO-4 Determine orbital elements and organize them into two-line element sets given an orbit’s radius and velocity vectors.

  • CO-5 Analyze spacecraft maneuvers including transfer orbits and rendezvous.

  • CO-6 Compute the ΔV, escape trajectories, impact requirements, and time-of-flight required for a patched-conic section transfer orbit from Earth to another planet.

Grades for this course will be based upon four grading instruments. You must complete all assigned tasks in order to pass the course.

Homework Assignments

Homework assignments make up 50 percent of your overall course grade. Questions will require you to have previously read the chapter(s) assigned in order to comprehend and correctly respond. Each homework assignment will be posted in the Assignments area of the classroom at the end of the week listed in the Course Outline (below). Be sure to work through the practice problems/sets provided in the book before working on your homework problems!!!

Midterm/Final Exams

The Midterm and Final Exams are both open book/open note exams. You will have 24 hours to upload your responses from the time you access the exams. You can access the exams multiple times but will only be allowed to submit your answers once, so make sure you are complete with your exam before submitting.

Forums/Class Participation

10 percent of your course grade is earned through participation with other students in the Forum area of the classroom. Your knowledge of assigned readings will be reflected in your ability to actively participate and discuss key course concepts. Postings will occur every week throughout the course. You must respond to each Forum posting within seven days of the original posting date in order to receive full credit.

All assignments in this course are given to you prior to the due date. The “due date” for all assignments is the week in which the assignment is due. For the purposes of this course, a “week” is defined as the time period between Monday–Sunday. The first week begins on the first day of the semester and ends on midnight (your local time) the following Sunday.

During this course, we can maintain contact in several ways. The best will be through email; next will be the online Chat Room; last will be phone. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind phone calls, however most questions are best answered in writing so that the information can be referred to again in the future.

NameGrade %
Homework Assignments 50.00 %
Homework Assignment 1 6.25 %
Homework Assignment 2 6.25 %
Homework Assignment 3 6.25 %
Homework Assignment 4 6.25 %
Homework Assignment 5 6.25 %
Homework Assignment 6 6.25 %
Homework Assignment 7 6.25 %
Homework Assignment 8 6.25 %
Forums 10.00 %
Forum 1 1.25 %
Forum 2 1.25 %
Forum 3 1.25 %
Forum 4 1.25 %
Forum 5 1.25 %
Forum 6 1.25 %
Forum 7 1.25 %
Forum 8 1.25 %
Exams 40.00 %

Software Requirements

  • Microsoft Word

A Note to Students using MS Office 2007: To ensure that your assignments can be shared across platforms, please save your documents as a Word 97-2003 document (.doc).

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader

Selected Bibliography

There are numerous online sources to help you in better understanding the objectives outlined in this course. Besides the author’s website (at, other websites that may be of help are listed below:

Book Title:Understanding Space
Publication Info:McGraw-Hill
Unit Cost:$87.21
Electronic ISBN:1259215202
Electronic Unit Cost:$35.00

Previous Syllabi

Not current for future courses.