Space Engineering

Space Engineering combines multidisciplinary engineering fields to realise high-performance space systems and system components. Areas of interest include the engineering of space missions, space vehicles and instruments, sensors, actuators, mechanisms, propulsive means, vehicle control, distributed space systems, and systems engineering. In Space Engineering, applying state-of-the-art technologies is daily business. The Space Engineering profile aims to educate future academic engineers in end-to-end space engineering.

You will learn how to engineer complex space vehicles: launchers, satellites and deep space probes, as well as their subsystems, instruments and components using a systematic approach. You will gain expertise on every phase of a spacecraft system development including design, development, integration, verification/testing and operation. You will also learn about management aspects of engineering including scheduling and planning, and about working in multi-disciplinary design teams to formulate spacecraft system solutions. This will enable you to apply your gained knowledge also to other complex technical systems outside of aerospace engineering. Students do their specialised thesis work in one of three areas: spacecraft engineering, space systems and space propulsion.

Spacecraft Engineering
This area deals with the design, development, construction, testing, and operation (end-to-end engineering) of space vehicles: launchers, satellites, etc. operating around Earth and other planetary bodies as well as in outer space. It addresses the engineering of the spacecraft subsystems in relation to the overall spacecraft and its life cycle. The emphasis is on miniaturisation and spin-in of commercial technology into space systems for increased performance or cost reduction. Examples of research projects are the following:

  • Highly miniaturized satellites (Delfi-C3, Delfi-n3Xt, DelFFi)
  • One of the world’s smallest reaction wheel systems
  • Advanced algorithms for satellite attitude determination and control
  • Small optical sensors
  • Deployable synthetic aperture telescope, and antenna deployment systems

The research environment includes industrial software tools and a state-of the art clean room.

Space Systems
The field of space systems focuses on the architectural development of complete space systems (including launcher selection, ground control, orbits and constellations, payloads, mission operations, etc.) needed to get a job done. Of special interest is the category of distributed systems, i.e. space systems that involve multiple spacecraft, which together enable high-performance mission objectives. Examples are global coverage for communication or navigation or innovative missions, for example using long and flexible baselines to allow multipoint sensing. The formation flying of two DelFFI cubesats is a typical example of a research project in this field. Some other research projects are:

  • Robotic testbed for distributed systems
  • Swarm of satellites to observe the dark ages of the universe (OLFAR)
  • Space Debris Removal mission

Space Propulsion
Space propulsion/rocket systems constitute a critical enabling technology for most space missions. Research projects in this field encompass the engineering of extremely miniaturised and highly integrated propulsion systems, as well as the engineering of advanced rocket stages and the associated rocket propulsion systems. Projects are typically embedded in (inter)national research activities. The research facilities include a vacuum chamber and a number of small thrust benches. Examples of research projects are the following:

  • Miniaturised cold-gas propulsion system for use on nano-satellites
  • MEMS resistojet thruster system
  • Solar electric and solar thermal propelled orbital transfer stages
  • Solid/liquid/hybrid rocket motor development
  • Air-launched nanosatellite launch vehicle


Space Engineering

Master track coordinator

Profile Space Engineering

/* */