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Title: Spacecraft Systems Engineering 3rd Ed


Review Date, Jan 2005
Author: Peter Fortescue, John Stark, Graham Swinerd
Pub: Wiley 2003
ISBN: 0-471-61951-5
COST: 39.95 GBP
Cover: soft
Pages: 678
Keywords: aerospace, systems engineering
Recommendation: Recommended
Source: - Publisher



I was rather curious when I saw this book. I was not sure if it was going to be “make your own rocket in the garage” or “How NASA conquered space”. It turned out to be neither. It is neither amateur nor American. The first edition of book started life as a series of lectures on a short course at Southampton University in 1974. In the intervening years the European space industry has come of age and this book has matured into it’s third edition.


This book is not aimed at amateur rocket builders. The “small” nano and pico satellites they talk of start at 0.1 million GBP (0.2 million USD) and the launch vehicle is another matter. Whilst piggy-backing on someone else’s rocket is discussed as an inexpensive option it is still not a small cost.


A spaceship is a huge undertaking and no one person can know all the disciplines involved. This book brings together many experts to write on their own subject. The 19 chapters have a total of 23 authors from a mixture of commercial companies and universities. All are UK based and all involved in space engineering. It may come as a surprise to some but the UK has quite a strong space industry. Whilst it is authoritive, it is clearly, in 678 pages, going to be broad rather than deep.


The lack of depth is not a problem. It is an over view designed for those working on spaceships to get an understanding of what the other hundreds of people involved are doing. It should also help the engineer in one area understand the decisions made by another team. Apart from any aerospace engineers anyone doing this kind of work (or related) at University level will find this book invaluable. Though for anything serious you will, as the book readily acknowledges, need many other books on the specific topics. However, each chapter has copious references for those going further.


There is a limited amount of maths that should not tax the average engineer: mainly in the sections on launch, gravity and orbits. Also some in the section on thermal analysis…. Even the paint colour and finish is important. So much for Red Dwarf!


Telemetry is covered from both ends both the launch system and the ground stations. Including a section entitled “cost effective and autonomous ground systems” In space circles “cost effective” is a relative term!

For anyone working in or interested in aerospace this is a fascinating book.