Space Mission Operations


Instructed by Teaching Science and Technology Inc. (TSTI)
  • Space Mission Operations is the ideal course for systems engineers, payload principle investigators, subsystem engineers or project managers who are responsible for the detailed design and operation of space systems.
  • All students will receive an AIAA Certificate of Completion at the end of the course

This exciting, fast-paced 4-day course explores the challenge of designing and implementing space mission operations in a practical, cost-effective way in the real world. Taking a functional approach, the course provides an in-depth view of the entirety of space mission operations, including the concept of operations and all functions that are performed in support of a space mission. Interactive discussions focus on initial requirements definition, operations concept development, functional allocation among spacecraft, payload, ground system and operators. Students get extensive hands-on experience with a variety of mission operations modeling tools to understand physical constraints and appreciate the impact of programmatic trade-offs. Case studies of ongoing NASA, DoD and commercial missions are examined.

The course will be approached through:

  • Guided lectures and discussion
  • Historical documentaries
  • Hands-on exercises
  • Current Mission Case Studies in Operations
    • FalconSAT
    • ISS
    • Cygnus
    • Kratos quantumCMD ground hardware/software
    • EchoStar
    • LRO
    • Others


  • Define and explain the critical activities of space mission operations
  • Develop a mission concept of operations (ConOps) and be able to critically analyze one of these key documents
  • Describe the elements that contribute to mission operations complexity and perform trade-off analyses to reduce that complexity
  • Apply principles of orbital mechanics to plan and implement key operations activities
  • Describe and analyze key elements of mission ground systems including communication link budgets
  • Compare and contrast operations concepts for military, civil, scientific and human space missions
  • Develop the planning, execution and support requirements for real-time space mission operations

Systems engineers, payload principle investigators, subsystem engineers or project managers who are responsible for the detailed design and operation of space systems.

Type of Course: Instructor-Led Short Course
Course Level: Fundamentals
Course Length: 3 days
AIAA CEU's available: Yes

Course Series: In Spring 2024, AIAA and TSTI are offering a series of courses focused on Space Systems Engineering. While courses are completely self-contained and can be taken on their own, those students wishing to deepen their knowledge may be interested in additional course study:

Course Introduction and Overview
  • Course Introduction
  • Mission Operations Overview
Mission Operations Planning
    • Concept of Operations (ConOps) Development
    • Operations Complexity
    Tracking and Navigation
    • Understanding and Using Orbits
    • Predicting Orbits
    Mission Data Receipt and Delivery
    • Introduction to Telemetry, Tracking, and  Commanding (TT&C)
    • Ground Systems and Communication Architectures
    Spacecraft Support and Analysis
    • Environmental Effects and Spacecraft Design
    • Contingency Planning and Anomalies
    Flight Control and Training
    • Activities, Roles and Responsibilities
    • Organization and Training
    The course will be instructed by an aerospace systems expert from Teaching Science and Technology Inc. (TSTI):

    Dr. Peter Van Wirt
     is a former Deputy Department Head for Labs and Research of the Department of Astronautics at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has been a visiting lecturer for the Technical University of Delft’s SpaceTech Master’s Degree in Space Systems Engineering and is an Adjunct Professor for the Space Systems Engineering Master’s program at Stevens Institute of Technology. He also instructs at the National Security Space Institute in Colorado Springs, CO. He has served as a systems engineer/program manager for a variety of US Air Force engineering developments. Peter has over 30 years of aerospace engineering experience and over 20 years teaching experience. He earned his doctorate at Utah State University.


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