Space Engineering profile

Space Engineering is the field of engineering concerned with the end-to-end engineering of space systems and system components. Areas of interest include the engineering of advanced/innovative space missions, space vehicles and instruments, sensors, actuators, mechanisms, and thrusters. In Space Engineering applying state-of-the-art technologies and providing innovative solutions is daily business. End-to-end engineering generally covers the full product cycle from conceptualization, design, development and operations, i.e. “from the cradle to the grave”.

You will learn how to engineer complex space systems : on their constituting elements, 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 operations.

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 using a concurrent engineering approach. 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

Spacecraft engineering 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.
Emphasis is on miniaturisation and spin-in of commercial technology into space systems for increased performance or cost reduction.

Examples of research projects:

  • 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 theart clean room.

Space Systems

The field of space systems focusses 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:

  • robotic test bed 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 environment includes a vacuum chamber and a number of small thrust benches.

Example research projects:

  • 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

For the course descriptions see the digital study guide.