–   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      Program history

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

Advanced degrees in astronautical engineering for the space industry,
Acta Astronautica, 2014

gruntman acta astronautica 2014 

students enrolled in ASTE520 Spacecraft design

ASTE 520 in Fall 2015 semester:
all course materials will be posted
on the class web site at DEN/GAPP in mid August.

One can get more information about the course
from a recent (Fall 2014) first (introductory) lecture :

ASTE 520 – first lecture

In 2015–2016 academic year, ASTE520 Spacecraft Design
is offered in the fall 2015 semester (Monday, 6:40–9:20 pm);
the course is not offered in the spring 2016   semester.
See astronautics course schedule

Class enrollement is unlimited.

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 (on-campus and remote) 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.

ASTE-520 is a popular graduate course.
About 1250 students took the course during the last 12 years from 2003-2014;
more than 1500 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

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)

Socks for the First Cosmonaut of Planet Earth Gruntman - Socks for Gagarin

Video clips on satellite orbits and space
Molniya orbit     GPS satellite constellation                list of videos (pdf) 

About Course ASTE 520

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 subsystem.

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).

Recommended textbooks

The New SMAD   Space Mission Engineering: The New SMAD
eds. J. R. Wertz, D.F. Everett, and J.J. Puschell, Microcosm, 2011
ISBN 9781881883159


Space Mission Analysis and Design , ed. W.J. Larson and J.R. Wertz,
Kluwer Academic Publishers and Microcosm, 3rd Edition, ISBN 9781881883104 .

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

Awarded (annual) Master's degrees in Astronautical Engineering

MS ASTE graduation statistics

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