ECE 2164 Exploration of the Space Environment | ECE | Virginia Tech

Undergraduate PROGRAMS

Course Information


This introductory course covers a broad range of scientific, engineering, and societal aspects associated with the exploration and technological exploitation of space. Topics covered include: science of the space environment; space weather hazards and societal impacts; orbital mechanics and rocket propulsion; spacecraft subsystems; applications of space-based technologies.

Why take this course?

Since the dawn of the modern space age, society has become increasingly reliant on the deployment of technological assets in space. Examples include: communications and entertainment; GPS and navigation; weather forecasting and resource management - to name just a few. Maintaining a robust space program will continue to be closely linked with national security concerns and international prestige. The technological exploitation of the space environment presents unique challenges that cover the entire spectrum of science and engineering fields, necessitating a systems engineering approach. This introductory course is designed to give students a broad introduction to the opportunities and challenges associated with the exploration and technological exploitation of space. The course is offered at the sophomore level because it assumes previous exposure to Math and Science.

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the science of the near-Earth space environment
  • Describe some space weather hazards and societal impacts
  • Apply the equations of orbital mechanics and rocket propulsion
  • Identify and describe the components of spacecraft subsystems
  • Describe some applications of space-based technologies

Course Topics


Percentage of Course

1. Introduction to the Space Program 5%
2. Science of the Space Environment a) The Sun b) The Solar Wind c) The Magnetosphere d) The lonosphere-Thermosphere 20%
3. Space Weather Hazards and Societal Impacts a) Astronaut Health b) Damage to Spacecraft Components c) Disruptions to ground-based Power and Communications 15%
4. Rockets and Propulsion 10%
5. Orbital Mechanics 10%
6. Spacecraft Subsystems a) Attitude Control b) Communication and Power c) Thermal and Life Support d) Structures and Mechanisms 20%
7. Applications of Space-Based Technologies a) Space-Based Remote Sensing b) Satellite Navigation (GPS) c) Satellite Communications d) Others 15%
8. Space Mission Design 5%