–   ASTE520 Spacecraft Design


ASTE 520

Department of Astronautical Engineering (ASTE)
Viterbi School of Engineering (VSOE)
University of Southern California (USC)


Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering (MS ASTE)

MS ASTE - Frequently asked questions

MS ASTE - schedule of courses

USC Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering: Overview (53 min)


who should take course ASTE 520 Spacecraft Design aste520 spacecraft 
design information

MS ASTE Program Update 

North Korea satellite launchApplying ASTE-520:  Satllite Launch by North Korea in 2012

students enrolled in ASTE520 Spacecraft design

ASTE 520 in Fall 2013 semester: all course materials will be posted on the class web site at DEN/GAPP in mid August.

In the meantime, you can get some information about the course
from a recent (Spring 2013) first (introductory) lecture :

ASTE 520 – First lecture and detailed information

In 2013–2014 academic year, ASTE520 Spacecraft Design
will be offered in thefall 2013 (Monday, 6:30–9:10 pm) semester;
the course will not be offered in the spring 2014  semester.

MS ASTE course schedule

Note that shedules do change. Always check the course schedule with ASTE Student Advisor .

Course webcasts.  All lectures are available as webcasts through VSOE's Distance Education Network DEN to all students enrolled in the course during the entire semester.

PC or Mac. DEN streams course videos using Microsoft Windows media encoders and servers. While streaming windows media files are supported by both the latest Mac and PC operating systems, using a Windows based system will usually provide a better experience. Additionally, DEN has recently added video download capabilities using Microsoft’s Digital Rights Management supporting Windows operating systems.

ASTE520 is a very popular graduate course. Almost 1100 students took the course during the last 10 years from 2003-2012; more than 1400 students took the course since 1996.  

Instructor:    Mike Gruntman

Mike Gruntman's web site on
Astronautics and Spacecraft Design

Recommended books (textbooks and monographs) on Astronautics, Spacecraft Design, and Spacecraft Systems

Frequently asked questions FAQ
Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering

USC Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering: Overview (53 min)

For fun:                            Sputnik 1                 Explorer 1               Vanguard 1

Special lecture (free download) –  1 hr 10 min
The road to spaceThe Road to Space. The First Thousand Years.

Fifty years ago in October of 1957, the first artificial satellite of the Earth was launched into space.  The lecture focuses on the history of the events that led us to the space age. 

Space: from firecrackers to interstellar flightSpecial lecture (webcast):
Space: From Firecrackers to Interstellar Flight

Part 1. The First Thousand Years (webcast 87 min);  Part 2.  Space in 21st Century (webcast 84 min)

Video clips on satellite orbits and space
Molniya orbitSpace Mission Design and Spacecraft DesignGPS satellite constellation

Short courses: space systems and space missions

Book preview   

Blazing the Trail by Mike GruntmanMike's book Blazing the Trail. The Early History of Spacecraft and Rocketry (published by AIAA in 2004) received the Luigi Napolitano Award from the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) in 2006. 

 From Astronautics to Cosmonautics   –  book published in 2007

About Course ASTE 520

Book preview

Awarded (annual) Master's degrees in Astronautical Engineering


ASTE 520 Spacecraft System Design

Course Outline (see also a recent first lecture of the course for details)

Organization of the class.

History of space exploration.

Univere. Galaxy. solar system. Coordinate systems.

Space environment. Hardness.

Space mission geometry; astrodynamics.

Orbit design. Basic orbits, perturbations, delta-V.

Spacecraft and mission design overview. Operations, launching facilities. Reliability.

Guidance, navigation and control; attitude determination; reaction control system. Global Positioning System.

Propulsion. Launch systems.

Introduction to communications; antennas.

Communication link;TT & C; data handling.

Electric power systems.

Thermal control.

Structures and mechanisms.

Only for students enrolled in Mike's ASTE 520


Class Notes (800+ pages) are essential and mandatory to the course.

The notes are available for download at DEN's web site of ASTE520 in the beginning of the semester.

Start with reading the "readme.pdf" file for instructions.

Usually, the full set of notes is ready before the first class meeting. The full set of homework assignments will also be available by that time, or – at the latest – by the end of the first month of the semester.

To access the class web site at DEN, all students enrolled in the class (including all on-campus students) must register with DEN.

Note that the notes are protected with a password that can be obtained only from the instructor (see Section 00, Part 2; no password protection).

Required text

Space Mission Analysis and Design , ed. W.J. Larson and J.R. Wertz,
Kluwer Academic Publishers and Microcosm, 3rd Edition.


The New SMADSpace Mission Engineering: The New SMAD ,
eds. J. R. Wertz, D.F. Everett, and J.J. Puschell, Microcosm, 2011.

The students enrolled in ASTE520 will get discount, as usual, when buying the book directly from the publisher at (you need to contact - call by telephone - them directly and tell that you are enrolled in Mike Gruntman's ASTE520). 

Many other textbooks and monographs – recommended by the instructor – on various aspects of astronautics and space technology  are listed at


There are 30–36 homework assignments.  Late homework is graded with grades reduced by a 50% factor.

Grading policy for ASTE 520 (subject to change)

40% Midterm
40% Final
20% Homework

Privacy policy.           Copyright © 2000–2013 by Mike Gruntman. All rights reserved.