Short courses


Space Systems (Systems Engineering)

  • 35 hours + plus independent study for assessment (if applicable)
  • 5 days


This short course provides you with a broad understanding of the space sector by exploring:

  • why the space sector is important - socially, economically and politically
  • why it's relevant to study in the context of systems engineering

The course is run by staff from the UCL Centre for Systems Engineering (UCLse) within UCL's Department of Space and Climate Physics (Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL).

Course content

Firstly you'll examine the institutional and industrial landscape of organisations involved in space projects

You'll then look at the implementation of systems engineering lifecycles and methodologies to space systems. 

Space systems primarily include launchers, spacecraft (including manned space flight) and the ground segment which monitors, controls and make use of the services provided by the system. The course will help you understand the unique challenges of the environment in which spacecraft operate and the impacts this has on the system engineering activities to ensure a robust design. 

You'll also look at the applications which make use of space assets to deliver services of value to the users. 

The course is complemented by sessions delivered by industry and research institutes including the Satellite Applications Catapult and Airbus Defence and Space.

Each attendee will be provided with a hard copy of the taught material.

Subjects covered

The subjects include:

  •     Why space?
  •     Industrial landscape
  •     Space domains
  •     Anatomy of a mission
  •     Launch and space environment
  •     Lifecycle and model philosophy
  •     Anatomy of a spacecraft
  •     Human rated space systems
  •     Ground segment and operations
  •     Telecommunications applications
  •     Earth observation applications
  •     Navigation applications
  •     Space project management
  •     Future space systems

Teaching, structure and assessment

This is a blended course involving both in-person and remote teaching.

It's delivered as a combination of lectures, group exercises, group discussions and case studies.

This course is an optional module within UCLse's Master's degree programmes. You can take this course as either:

  • a standalone short course
  • a 'taster module' that allows you to earn UCL credits towards a Master's degree

To earn UCL credits you'll need to complete an assessment. For more details on this option, please contact the course administrator. 

Who this course is for

This short course is relevant to anyone involved in the specification, procurement or development of systems in the space sector. You may be working on systems projects, managing systems projects or managing engineering project staff.

It may suit a wide range of professionals including:

  • engineers from all disciplines including systems engineers and system specialists
  • project managers and project management professionals
  • managers and staff from marketing, finance, procurement, manufacturing, support, quality, human resources, research and other business functions
  • managers and staff working in associated organisations, e.g. working on policy or providing business growth support

There are no assumptions regarding prior knowledge and experience of the subject.

The course will be suitable for those who are new to the area as well as those that do have some knowledge and/or experience.

Learning outcomes

This short course will help you to:

  • express the various reasons why developing space systems is interesting and relevant and to describe the characteristics of a space mission and its constituent elements
  • discuss the supply chain and appreciate some of the influencing factors and constraints
  • understand the major lifecycle stages of space systems and the major engineering concerns that influence their development
  • understand the major application areas for space data and services and the relationship between user needs and system development
  • appreciate what the future landscape of space systems and the services they enable might look like.


The fee for the short course is £1,450.

To take as a taster module and earn UCL credits, the fee is:

  • £1,681 for UK/EU 
  • £2,512 for overseas

Discounts may be available for the short course. Contact uclse.courses@ucl.ac.uk for more information.

Course team

Professor Alan Smith

Professor Alan Smith

In 1990 Alan joined UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) following 8 years at the European Space Agency in the Netherlands. He's founding Director of UCL’s Centre for Systems Engineering, instigator of the centre's education and training programme and Director of MSSL. Alan’s background is in space science technology and project management and he's worked with all of the major space agencies.

Ian Raper

Ian Raper

Ian is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Technology Management Group at UCL. He's Programme Director for the MSc in Systems Engineering Management. He has 22 years of industrial experience working on all aspects of the systems design lifecycle from user requirements through to integration, acceptance and deployment. Part of Ian's career was in the defence sector, within Vickers Shipbuilding and BAE SYSTEMS. Following this, he worked in the space sector covering mission and system level activities at EADS Astrium. Ian is a Chartered Engineer and a member of the International Council on Systems Engineering. He has an MSc in Systems Engineering from UCL and a PGCert in Teaching and Learning in Higher and Professional Education.

Benoît Pigneur

Benoît Pigneur

Benoît is a tutor in the Centre for Systems Engineering at UCL. He's involved with teaching at MSc level as well as delivering industrial training. His research interests include space systems, space mission design, systems architecting, system-of-systems, concurrent design, design management and design thinking. Before joining UCL, he worked in the space industry and also in academia in UK, Europe and USA. Through his career, Benoît has been involved with several space projects as well as teaching engineering courses at university. He has an MSc in Space Mission Analysis and Design and a MSc in Systems Engineering and Control. He's a member of the International Council of Systems Engineering (INCOSE).

Learner reviews

"A great opportunity for working professionals to network, as well as for students to get a real feel for their career when interacting with professionals."

"Future Space Systems was an excellent finish to the course and the case study is a great way to apply knowledge to a scenario."

"Wide ranging interesting module with very good speakers."

"Although I have a lot of experience about space systems, there are still many new findings."

Course information last modified: 1 Nov 2021, 14:00