Course Number
Primary Program
Space Systems Engineering
Applied Physics Laboratory
Course Format
Onsite, Virtual Live

The intent of this class is to teach the basics of propulsion such that you will be able to make informed decisions about which sort of system would be best for a particular application. To do this, the class starts with a basic primer on the physics of propulsion and then covers key elements of the various types of propulsion systems that are typically used on spacecraft, including chemical and electric systems, and also some types of system not typically used now, but that might be available in the future (e.g., nuclear propulsion, matter/antimatter propulsion). In the class, you are introduced to how a propulsion subsystem is used and how it interacts with the rest of the spacecraft, so it can be seen from a system perspective and not just from the subsystem view. Key pros and cons of each type of system presented are discussed, as well as key constraints and failure modes. Subsystem components and performance characteristics are introduced and then used in examples from actual spacecraft to explain why these systems were selected for flight. Then, you are shown how to specify a propulsion subsystem and trade various subsystem types against each other, how to size them, how to integrate and test them, and ultimately how to fly them.

Course Prerequisite(s)

EN.675.600 Systems Engineering for Space and EN.675.601 Fundamentals of Engineering Space Systems I, or with approval of the instructor.

Course Offerings


Spacecraft Propulsion Systems

01/23/2024 - 05/07/2024
Tues 7:20 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Kossiakoff Center K219
Notes: This course uses the Virtual Live format. It combines the face-to-face class held at APL (section .3VL) with remote students participating online through live web-conferencing. You may choose to attend in-person/on-site or remotely or both. Students who wish to enroll and attend in Virtual Live courses in-person/on-site at the Applied Physics Lab, COVID-19 and Flu vaccination compliance is mandatory for enrollment in this course. All students must upload proof of vaccination or request and receive an exemption in the Vaccination Management System ( prior to the start of class.
Spring 2024
Course Format
Virtual Live
Applied Physics Laboratory
Course Materials