Space Flight Mechanics


Dr. Robert D. Braun
321-5 Knight Building


Required: Bate, Mueller and White, Fundamentals of Astrodynamics, Dover, 1971.
Reference: Hale, Introduction to Space Flight, Prentice-Hall, 1994.
Reference: Curtis, Orbital Mechanics for Engineering Students, Elsevier, 2005.

Course Website:



Course Overview:

Space Flight Mechanics is a first course in astrodynamics designed for undergraduate students interested in space systems. The course content includes historical background and equations of motion, two-body orbital mechanics, orbit determination, orbital maneuvers, orbital prediction, interplanetary trajectories, space vehicle performance and atmospheric entry.

There will be seven homework sets, two midterms and a final exam. Each homework assignment will be due at the beginning of the lecture, one week from the date it is handed out. No late homework assignments will be accepted. Homework should be legible, professional and demonstrate all important steps in the solution. Use only one side of the page and indicate page numbers and your name on each page. Clearly indicate your final answer by enclosing it in a box. Be sure to indicate units. Deductions will be made for improper homework formats.

Midterm 1 will cover historical background and equations of motion, two-body orbital mechanics, orbit determination and orbital maneuvers (Chapters 1-3 in the BMW text). Midterm 2 will cover time-of-flight (Kepler’s problem), orbit determination (Gauss’ problem), and interplanetary and gravity assist trajectories (Chapters 4-5 and 8 in the BMW text). All class material (including lunar transfers, Chapter 7 in the BMW text, Space Vehicle Performance and Atmospheric Entry, Chapters 6-7 in the Hale text) will be covered in a comprehensive final during finals week. All tests employ a closed book, closed notes format. Chapters 6 and 9 of the BMW text are not assigned. Chapters 1-5 in the Hale text are recommended as supplemental reading. TA-led problem sessions will be held conducted in-class in preparation for each exam.

Course Materials:

Registered students can access all course materials via T-square.


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