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MSC in "Space Engineering" - Pre-requisite mathematics

  1. Jun 30, 2015 #1
    Hi folks!
    Not sure if this is the ideal place to be posting this but looked as good a forum section as any!
    I'm starting an MSc entitled "Space Engineering" at the start of October and want to make sure my skills are up to scratch before I start!
    In my undergrad studies I just learnt the maths to pass the exam, but on this course I will really need to use and understand it.
    With this in mind I am wondering what areas of mathematics I need to focus my revision efforts on over the next two months? From what I have read, the course involves a lot of orbital mathematics and also 'celestial sphere' geometry.

    I have gone over all of my basic single variable calculus already and am comfortable with it - would it be better for me to then go on to differential equations or multi-variable calculus? How far will I need to go with my differential equations - ordinary or partial?
    Is linear algebra used heavily in this area?
    Any other areas that I might have overlooked??

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2015 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome to the PF.

    What is your undergrad degree in? Can you post a syllabus of the courses you will be taking to earn this Master's Degree? Which school offers this degree?
  4. Jun 30, 2015 #3
    Hi Berkeman,
    Undergrad degree is in Electronic Engineering but as I say the Math was learnt to pass the exam rather than for proper understanding!
    The MSc is being run by the University of Surrey, UK.
    I do not have full access to the syllabus for each module but an overview can be see below:

    Module descriptions
    • Space Dynamics and Missions
    This module gives a hands on approach to mission analysis, and develops mathematical descriptions of the natural orbital and rotational motions of spacecraft. The application to mission design is explored through group work and assessed labs.

    • Space Systems Design
    This module gives an overview of all spacecraft subsystems (hardware) explaining their functions and interactions. Key principles and techniques of spacecraft systems design are introduced, through real-world examples, delivered by a lecturer with more than 25 years' practical experience of designing and building spacecraft systems and payloads.

    • Advanced Guidance, Navigation & Control
    This module provides you with advanced understanding of the dynamics of satellites and methods for controlling their motion. By the end of the course you will appreciate real satellite orbits, and know how to model them. You will also develop knowledge on sensors and actuators, developing real-world control algorithms for attitude and orbit control.

    • Launch Vehicles & Propulsion
    This module provides an introduction to the fundamentals of launch vehicle design for placing satellites into orbit as well as propulsion technologies including solid, liquid and hybrid rocket motor systems, and a brief introduction to electric propulsion (plasma thrusters).

    • RF Systems and Circuit Design
    The design of RF systems and their circuits underpins the production of mobile communications, satellite communications, radar and intelligent wireless devices, to name just a few. This module focuses on state-of-the-art applications and demonstrates the importance of underlying theoretical and design concepts.

    • Satellite Communications B
    This is a more advanced communications module building on Satellite Communications A. You will learn about state-of-the-art aspects of air interface (modulation/coding) and inclusion in DVB and ETSI standards; satellite broadcasting to fixed and mobile terminals; and broadband access and vsats. You will also be taught on non-geostationary constellations and operations with mobile terminals; networking issues of IP over satellite and security; radio resource management and MAC; advanced payload design including multibeam antennas and on-board processing; and inter satellite links.

    • Satellite Remote Sensing
    Through a series of lectures, seminars, open discussions and 'thinking breaks' in class, this module aims to give you an introduction to the scientific principles of remote sensing – both passive and active – as carried out by spacecraft. Remote sensing is discussed in terms of instrumentation, missions, products and applications.

    • Space Avionics
    This module examines the electrical and electronic systems on a spacecraft and how they interact; including spacecraft power systems, tracking, telemetry-and-telecommand (TT&C), on-board data handling, and ground/mission software.

    • Space Environment & Protection
    This module delivers a detailed understanding of the space environment in which satellites must operate (including space weather) and the effects that that it has on components, technologies and missions. Mitigation measures and assurance processes are addressed.

    • Space Robotics & Autonomy
    This module covers the techniques and challenges involved in space robotic missions for on-orbit servicing and planetary exploration. A detailed mathematical analysis of the robotic arms will be provided, and you will be taught about control of robotic arm and traction control of planetary rovers. Various aspects and techniques of improving autonomy of space robotic systems will be introduced, including sensing, perception, localisation, mapping, autonomous planning and navigation.

    • Spacecraft Structures & Mechanisms
    This module provides an understanding of the issues that have to be addressed in the design and analysis of spacecraft structures and mechanisms. Starting from the definition of the launch environment the module covers the whole process up to final testing.

  5. Jun 30, 2015 #4
    I think you vastly underestimate the degree of mathematical sophistication an EE must have. Judging from my cursory glance however I would strongly encourage review of vector calculus, differential equations (normal and partial), Fourier series, and linear algebra. About what us physics undergrads learn in about a term of so-called "Mathematical Physics" or "Mathematical Methods for Physics". Now that I write that out, I suggest you take a look at Boas' book if you're looking for a one-stop shop for all your mathematical needs.
  6. Jul 2, 2015 #5
    Thanks for the response snatchingthepi!
    I promise you, my mathematical sophistication is somewhat lacking!
    I have grabbed a partial pdf of boas book and the content looks like what I am looking for - I am looking at ordering a copy of it but as someone who has clearly used the book, would you say it is a good book to learn from - the examples are clear, concise and plentiful? Would you recommend following the order of the book - does one section lead into another, or can I jump around a little? (within reason)

    Cheers :)
  7. Jul 2, 2015 #6
    It's a good book and you don't necessarily have to follow the order.
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