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Space science

Spacecraft missions play a vital role in the exploration of the solar system and the more distant universe. This module introduces, in depth, the methods of conducting scientific measurements in the space environment and the technologies behind spacecraft and space missions. The module makes extensive use of online remote experiments and facilities to develop your practical scientific skills and to allow you to engage in collaborative team-working activities that are the hallmark of spacecraft operations. The module is good preparation for further academic research in space science, and develops skills and knowledge that are relevant to employment in the space sector.

Vocational relevance

The module is of particular relevance for students seeking employment not just in space science research, but more generally in the space sector. Particular strengths of this module are that it develops skills in the quantitative analysis of science and engineering data obtained from spacecraft, and requires students to have a good understanding of spacecraft systems. This module is particularly relevant to employment in roles that are concerned with the acquisition, handling and interpretation of data obtained by space-based instrumentation.

Qualifications

S818 is a compulsory module in our:

S818 is an optional module in our:

This module can also count towards F12 and M03, which are no longer available to new students.

Module

Module code
S818
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
60
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
OU Postgraduate
FHEQ 7
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

This module makes extensive use of real space missions to highlight the challenges of spaceflight and illustrate the diversity of topics encompassed by space science. An introductory section covering the basic concepts of spaceflight and spacecraft design is followed by four in-depth case studies. These consider science topics in lunar and planetary exploration, as well as space-based astronomy. You’ll see how science goals translate into the engineering requirements of spacecraft and their operation. Online practical work supports each case study – for example, using a robotic telescope to observe variable stars or a microscope to study hypervelocity impacts on spacecraft materials.
Throughout the module, there’s emphasis on developing skills that are relevant to research in space science and employment in the space sector. You’ll analyse and present spacecraft data using the Python programming language. You’ll develop your team-working skills through a simulated mission to explore and investigate a Martian landscape using the OpenSTEM Laboratory’s Mars yard and rover. With support from your tutor, you’ll also develop a case for a small spacecraft based on your own ideas and interests, which must meet the exacting demands of a real space mission.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you’ll likely need a headset with a microphone.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Course work includes

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Future availability

Space science (S818) starts once a year – in February.

This page describes the module that will start in February 2022.

We expect it to start for the last time in February 2024.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    We would typically expect students to have an honours degree (or equivalent qualification) in physics, astronomy, geosciences, chemistry, engineering or mathematics. Note that we do not require previous study in space science or astronomy.

    It’s essential you have the necessary background knowledge and experience. The booklet Are You Ready For S818? will help you decide if you’re ready to start the module or you need some extra preparation.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Register

    Start End England fee Register
    29 Jan 2022 Oct 2022 £2580.00

    Registration closes 13/01/22 (places subject to availability)

    Register
    This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2024.

    Future availability

    Space science (S818) starts once a year – in February.

    This page describes the module that will start in February 2022.

    We expect it to start for the last time in February 2024.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    Study materials

    What's included

    Study materials are all online and provided through the module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • study guides and associated resources
    • audio and video content
    • assignment details and submission section
    • online tutorial access
    • remote access to online experiments and collaborative activities.

    Computing requirements

    You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

    It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    Materials to buy

    Set books

    • Fortescue, P., Swinerd, G. & Stark, J. (eds) Spacecraft Systems Engineering (4th edn) Wiley £56.00 - ISBN 9780470750124

    If you have a disability

    Some online components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader (mathematical, and scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future.

    Due to our extensive use of external websites and third party software, we cannot guarantee the accessibility of all components of the module.

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.