Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

How to Design a Space Mission: From Concept to Execution

AA 118N

Space exploration is truly fascinating. From the space race led by governments as an outgrowth of the Cold War to the new Era of space commercialization led by private companies and startups, more than 50 years have passed characterized by great leap forwards and discoveries. In this seminar you will learn how space missions are designed, from concept to execution, based on the professional experience of the lecturer and numerous examples of spacecraft, including unique hardware demonstrations by startups of the Silicon Valley. You will get to study the essentials of systems engineering as applicable to a variety of mission types, for communication, navigation, science, commercial, and military applications. And you will explore the elements of a space mission, including the spacecraft and ground and launch segments. We will give special emphasis to the design cycle, to understanding how spacecraft are born, from the stakeholders' needs, through analysis, synthesis, all the way to their integration and validation. You will get to compare current designs with those employed in the early days of the space age, as well as the importance of economics in the development of spacecraft. Finally, working as a team, you will get to brainstorm startup ideas and apply the concepts learned to a notional space mission design.

The goal is not to make everyone into a space engineer but to provide you with an introduction to space systems engineering; develop a systems engineering perspective of how space missions are conceived, developed, and implemented; and establish a basic knowledge of the methods and tools involved.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Simone D'Amico

"I am an assistant professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a Terman Faculty Fellow of the School of Engineering, director of the Space Rendezvous Laboratory, and Satellite Advisor of the Student Space Initiative, Stanford's largest undergraduate organization. Before coming to Stanford I was at the German Space Operations Center working on the design, development, and operations of first-of-a-kind spacecraft capable of formation-flying and rendezvous missions; they are currently in orbit. I believe that multi-satellite systems will help humanity address fundamental issues in space science and exploration, i.e. imaging Earth-like planets, measuring gravitational waves, or resolving earth's geophysical processes for disaster monitoring and prediction. Although my research focuses on how space objects move relative to one another, and how to sense, estimate, and control their relative motion, I put special emphasis on the design of complex systems, which essentially consists of two or more satellites dancing in space. I look forward to teaching this class because the realization of future complex engineering devices, on earth as well as in space, requires a new generation of engineers equipped with the right tools and a systems perspective."