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Course Details

Course Details

Course Code: SPST502 Course ID: 3712 Credit Hours: 3 Level: Graduate

CORE COURSE: What is an orbit? How does a spacecraft fly to the Moon or Mars? What does NORAD use to track all of the satellites currently in orbit around Earth? How does a spacecraft move from one orbit to another? These questions and more are answered in this course. From Kepler and Newton to the modern telecommunications, navigation, and remote sensing spacecraft, knowledge of orbital mechanics is essential for the modern Space Manager to be able to plan future space missions and to converse with orbital analysts that perform the day-to-day calculations determining IT IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED THAT YOU HAVE PREVIOUSLY COMPLETED COLLEGE ALGEBRA BEFORE TAKING THIS COURSE. (Prerequisites: SPST500 and SPST501)

Course Schedule

Registration Dates Course Dates Session Weeks
01/25/21 - 07/02/21 07/05/21 - 08/29/21 Summer 2021 Session B 8 Week session
02/22/21 - 07/30/21 08/02/21 - 09/26/21 Summer 2021 Session I 8 Week session
03/29/21 - 09/03/21 09/06/21 - 10/31/21 Summer 2021 Session D 8 Week session
04/26/21 - 10/01/21 10/04/21 - 11/28/21 Fall 2021 Session B 8 Week session

Current Syllabi

After completion of this course, you will have a basic understanding of orbital mechanics and 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 to describe 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.

  • CO-7 Calculate launch times based on desired orbit inclination.

  • CO-8 Analyze the factors and trade-offs that govern the re-entry corridor.

  • CO-9 Understand space mission and remote sensing designs from a systems engineering standpoint.

  • CO-10 Comprehend how space vehicle control systems and subsystems work together.

  • CO-11 Understand basic rocket science as it applies to launch vehicles.

  • CO-12 Analyze basic space mission operations and how space is used for the betterment of humanity.

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

Forums/Class Participation

20 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 make your initial post in each forum during the week in which it is due along with responses to your classmates to receive full credit for the forum.

Your initial posts must be at least 250 words in length. This is a graduate-level course, and your forum writing should reflect as such and be grammatically correct. In addition, each post should have proper in-text citations and accompanying references at the bottom of the post in accordance with APA Style rules. As part of each graded forum, you are expected to respond substantively (100+ words) to the initial post of at least 2 of your classmates. Responses should also include in-text citations and references as applicable.

Your initial forum postings are due by 11:55 pm, ET, Thursday of the week in which the forum is due and peer responses should be completed no later than 11:55 pm, ET, Sunday, of the same week. Late initial posts (after 11:55 pm, ET, Thursday) will lose 10% (8 points) per day. Forum posts will not be accepted for grading after the end of the week assigned (with the exception of coordination BEFORE the due date).

The purpose of the forums is for you to engage your fellow students and learn from one another. For this to occur, your interactions in the forums need to be timely. This is why your initial post id due by Thursday (but you are encouraged to post earlier in the week) to allow time for interaction with your classmates before the end of the week. Initial posts contribute 80% toward your forum grade, and interaction with your classmates contributes the final 20% to each forum's grade.

Short Papers

You will complete 2 short papers in the course that are due in weeks 1 and 8. Your short papers will provide an analysis of a given reading and represent 15 percent of your overall course grade. Each short paper should contain 4- 5 pages of narrative that fully explores the assignment requirements as noted in the assignment details and includes your supporting argument or rationale. The short papers expand on your readings and demonstrate a deeper understanding of the topics. Details are provided in the Assignments Tab.

Homework Assignments

There are 6 homework assignments make up 45 percent of your overall course grade. These assignments are comprised of mathematical Questions and will require you to have previously read the assigned chapter(s) in order to comprehend and correctly respond. You MUST show your work and templates are provided to help you use the Microsoft Word Equation function. Each homework assignment will be posted in the Assignments area of the classroom. Be sure to work through the practice problems/sets provided in the book before working on your homework problems!!!

Final Exam

The Final Exam, which contributes 20% to your final grade, is an open book/open note exam. You will have 6.5 hours to complete the exam. The exam is cumulative and will contain 20 short answer/essay questions. All answers should fully explore each question. Typical responses should be, at a minimum, a 3-5 sentence paragraph, with complete thoughts and citations/references as applicable.

Your exam must be submitted by Sunday (11:55 pm, ET), the last week of the class.

Due Dates

All assignments in this course are given to you prior to the due date. The "due date" for all assignments is the end of 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 (eastern time) the following Sunday. If you are located in a distant time-zone, communicate that with me and we can adjust the assignment submission times accordingly.

Our course is a fast-paced 8-week course. In as such, it is vitally important that you keep up with all assignments and submit your work in a timely manner. I do understand, however, that we are all working adults with many life-activities that force us to manage competing demands for our time. In the event that you feel you may need to extend your deadline, communicate with me BEFORE THE DUE DATE and we can discuss your situation and determine an acceptable resolution. If we agree on a later submission date, you will be held accountable to the new due date or you may still incur late penalties.

Re-Accomplishment of Work

If you do poorly on a homework assignment or short paper, you can request to re-accomplish the work. This is subject to approval, but if permitted, there are the following stipulations: the highest grade you can obtain is 85% for the first resubmission; 80% for the second resubmission, and 75% for the third resubmission. If part of your initial grade included late penalties, those penalties will still be applied and reduce your final grade.

NameGrade %
Forums 20.00 %
Week 1 2.50 %
Week 2 2.50 %
Week 3 2.50 %
Week 4 2.50 %
Week 5 2.50 %
Week 6 2.50 %
Week 7 2.50 %
Week 8 2.50 %
Extra Credit Forum 1.00 %
Homework Assignments 45.00 %
Week 2 Homework Assignment 5.00 %
Week 3 Homework Assignment 8.00 %
Week 4 Homework Assignment 8.00 %
Week 5 Homework Assignment 8.00 %
Week 6 Homework Assignment 8.00 %
Week 7 Homework Assignment 8.00 %
Short Papers 15.00 %
Short Paper 1 7.50 %
Short Paper 2 7.50 %
Final Exam 20.00 %
Final Exam 20.00 %

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.