ECE 3154 Space Systems Lab | ECE | Virginia Tech

Undergraduate PROGRAMS

Course Information


Introduction to systems and techniques used in electrical engineering design for space-based applications. Design, fabricate, and test an electronic system following accepted NASA and industry standards, including functional bench-top tests, thermal cycle testing, shake and vibration tests, and day in the life testing. Periodic formal reports will document design approaches and test results.

Why take this course?

This course provides a lab experience to supplement 3104 - Introduction to Space Systems. It provides exercises to enable students to apply the design techniques used in 3104, and establishes familiarity with instrumentation and testing approaches common to space systems. Students must thoroughly understand fundamental electromagnetic theory and practical methods of space environment simulation testing prior to taking 3154, so a C- or better in 3105 is required.


Pre: a C- or better in 3105. Co: 3104. (3L, 1C)

Co: 3104, Pre: 3105 (Grade of C- or better). This class makes use of laboratory skills and circuit design and analysis techniques learned in the sophomore year, as well as the principles of electromagnetics covered in 3105 Electromagnetic Fields I. The laboratory exercises in this course build upon environmental testing protocols introduced in 3104 Introduction to Space Systems, which is a co-requisite of this course.

Major Measurable Learning Objectives

  • Evaluate constraints on electronic design for the space environment.
  • Design and fabricate electronic systems capable of surviving launch-related stresses and functioning in the vacuum and thermal environment of near-Earth space.
  • Interpret measurements from space-simulation laboratory testing.
  • Assess suitability of systems for use in the space environment.

Course Topics


Percentage of Course

Circuit board layout software tutorial 10%
Safely working with space simulation vacuum systems 10%
Design project Printed Circuit Board (PCB) layout 10%
Working with plasma sources in vacuum 10%
Population and bench testing of PCB design 10%
Environmental testing of PCB design (shake, bake, vacuum) 10%
Thermal plasma measurements in vacuum Langmuir probe 10%
Thermal plasma measurements in vacuum Retarding Potential Analyzer technique 10%
High energy particle source experiment 10%
Data analysis from high energy particle source 10%