The First Week of Classes

At this point in my academic career (first semester senior year), my classes are starting to get really exciting.  This semester I’m taking:

Space Propulsion Systems (3 credits)

Spacecraft Attitude, Dynamics, and Control (3 credits)

Control Systems Analysis and Design (3 credits)

Electrical Engineering Lab (1 credit)

Spacecraft Preliminary Design (4 credits – First class in the Senior Capstone Design sequence)

I think my favorite class this semester is going to be Space Propulsion Systems.  This is the case for two reasons.  First, the professor for the class, Dr. Fabian, is so enthusiastic about the subject matter that it’s contagious. He spent 20 years in the Air Force engineering propulsion systems and uses his experience to bring additional levels of depth to the class beyond the textbook, such as information about the international aerospace engineering culture, video examples of different propulsion systems, historical milestones in propulsion, and firsthand accounts of propulsion systems in action. His sense of humor also makes the class fun.  On his syllabus he listed the topic for the class periods that students have off for Thanksgiving Break as “Personal Energy Resupply Mission.”

Second, the subject matter for this class is off the charts cool.  It is honest to goodness rocket science.  Throughout the class we will be studying rocket equations, matching missions and propulsion systems, force balancing and staging, thrust equations, cold gas designs, energy considerations, combustion, liquid rockets, solid rockets, hybrid rockets, nuclear rockets, electric rocket propulsion, and advanced and exotic propulsion systems.

If I had to have one of my classes at 8:00 in the morning, this one, which wakes me up and keeps me attentive for the entire hour, is the one to have.

Spacecraft Attitude, Dynamics, and Control also looks interesting from my initial introduction to it. So far we’ve been doing review from our dynamics and space mechanics classes and going more in-depth into attitude parameterization.  According to the syllabus, these are the subjects we are going to be covering this semester: 3D rigid body kinematics, stability and dynamics of symmetric and tri-inertial bodies, attitude, nutation and spin control maneuvers for spin stabilized spacecraft, effects of energy dissipation, momentum biased spacecraft dynamics and stability, modeling and simulation of spin stabilized and momentum biased spacecraft, elements of 3-axis stabilized spacecraft, effects of solar radiation pressure, atmospheric drag and magnetic torque on spacecraft attitude.

Control Systems Analysis and Design looks like it will be a challenging but interesting class. In this class, we will study control design through “classical” control theory and cover topics such as these, listed in the syllabus as “system modeling, uncontrolled system behavior of first and second-order mechanical systems, basic feedback control theory and controller design via frequency domain techniques (root locus and bode plots).”  I don’t know exactly what all of these things are at this point (a good reason for taking the class), but I’ll update my readers as I learn more.

I took Linear Circuits Analysis over the summer to get credit for my Electrical Engineering (EE) requirement , and I’m taking the lab this semester.  It looks as though it will be pretty easy and fun (I like hands-on classes where I actually get to build things).

As for Preliminary Spacecraft Design, the most interesting class, I think that description needs its own blog entry.

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