OPS 104: Orbital Mechanics and Mission Simulation

OPS 104: Orbital Mechanics and Mission Simulation

Provides a foundation in space flight mechanics, to understand why a spacecraft follows suborbital, orbital, and escape trajectories, and the methods used to establish and control these trajectories.



This course provides an overview of orbital and attitudinal dynamics. The intent is to provide a meaningful understanding of spacecraft flight dynamics with minimal mathematical emphasis. Thus, the student will gain sufficient knowledge that, when presented with mission profiles from a flight dynamics specialist, they will have a conceptual understanding of the flight profiles and the sequence of events needed to actualize the profile in a simulation environment.


The purpose of this course is to provide a foundation in space flight mechanics, so as to understand why a spacecraft follows suborbital, orbital, and escape trajectories and the methods used to establish and control these trajectories. This knowledge will facilitate flight profile execution in the simulators.


Upon completing this course, scientist candidates will be able to:

1. Explain the relationship of gravity and velocity in establishing suborbital, orbital, and escape trajectories.
2. Describe vehicle attitude representations and control methods.
3. Describe an orbit around a celestial body using classical Keplerian Elements.
4. Explain the use of velocity changes to change from an existing to a desired trajectory.
5. Demonstrate the use of simplified linearized approximations and their effective use in rendezvous and proximity operations in preparation for docking.
6. Describe profiles for establishing departure, rendezvous, encounters, entry, and landings between planets or other celestial bodies.


Part 1 provides the astrodynamics foundation, which is 11 weeks of webinar lectures, that provides foundational knowledge of orbital mechanics and attitudinal dynamics to facilitate performance in simulator scenarios.

Part 2 will be a four day Orion spacecraft simulator-based course.  Lectures will focus on the practical aspects of flight dynamics, helpful toward executing the simulator scenarios:

1. Launch to ISS orbital intercept/rendezvous using space suits.

2. ISS proximity operations and docking, flight suit environment

3. Deorbit and landing scenarios using space suits

2021 Course Schedule


17apr(apr 17)6:30 pm21(apr 21)5:00 pmPoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Class 2001 and 2002

19apr(apr 19)8:00 am23(apr 23)5:00 pm2020 PoSSUM Academy - Red Sprite Group

24apr(apr 24)6:30 pm28(apr 28)5:00 pmPoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Class 2003 and 2101

26apr(apr 26)8:00 am30(apr 30)5:00 pm2020 PoSSUM Academy - Blue Jet Group


03may(may 3)8:00 am07(may 7)5:00 pmFeaturedBIO 103 Microgravity Research CampaignMicrogravity Research Campaign supporting the IIAS BIO 103 Program

08may(may 8)8:00 am12(may 12)5:00 pmOPS 102 Spacecraft Egress and Rescue Operations On-SiteOn-site compliment to OPS 102 course providing aircraft egress and sea survial training to complement post-landing human space flight system engineering instruction

13may(may 13)8:00 am16(may 16)5:00 pmFeaturedBIO 104: Advanced Egress - Spacesuit Landing and Post-Landing Testing

25may(may 25)8:00 am28(may 28)5:00 pmEVA 102 Operational Space Medicine Field CampaignField component to cover wilderness medicine in extreme environments, culminating with a 4-day on-site lab portion devoted to triage, scenarios and skills pertaining to wilderness medicine

29may01junEVA 103 Planetary Field Geology Field CampaignEVA 103 course covers the requirements and design considerations for EVA systems and tools for conducting planetary field geology


06jun(jun 6)8:00 am12(jun 12)5:00 pmFTE 102 Fixed-Wing Performance Flight Test CampaignOn-Site compliment to FTE 102 Fixed-Wing Performance Flight Testing using Turbo Mooney aircraft.

13jun(jun 13)8:00 am19(jun 19)5:00 pmFTE 103 Fixed-Wing Stability and Control Flight Test CampaignOn-Site compliment to the FTE 102 Fixed-Wing Stability and Control Flight Test Course using Turbo Mooney, Piper Twin, and Pitts S2B aircraft.


10julAll Day20FeaturedAER 103 Noctilucent Cloud Imagery Field Research CampaignField campaign as part of AER 103, Airborne Noctilucent Cloud Imagery course to study noctilucent cloud formations through coordinated ground, airborne, and balloon observations.

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