Space science

Spacecraft missions are vital in exploring the solar system and the more distant universe. This module introduces the methods of conducting scientific measurements in the space environment and the technologies behind spacecraft and space missions. It extensively uses online remote experiments and facilities to develop your practical scientific skills and allow you to engage in collaborative team-working activities that are the hallmark of spacecraft operations. The module is good preparation for further academic research in space science and develops skills and knowledge relevant to employment in the space sector.

Vocational relevance

The module is of particular relevance for students seeking employment not just in space science research, but more generally in the space sector. Particular strengths of this module are that it develops skills in the quantitative analysis of science and engineering data obtained from spacecraft, and requires students to have a good understanding of spacecraft systems. This module is particularly relevant to employment in roles that are concerned with the acquisition, handling and interpretation of data obtained by space-based instrumentation.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

This module makes extensive use of real space missions to highlight the challenges of spaceflight and illustrate the diversity of topics encompassed by space science. An introductory section covering the basic concepts of spaceflight and spacecraft design is followed by four in-depth case studies. These consider science topics in lunar and planetary exploration, as well as space-based astronomy. You’ll see how science goals translate into the engineering requirements of spacecraft and their operation. Online practical work supports each case study – for example, using a robotic telescope to observe variable stars or a microscope to study hypervelocity impacts on spacecraft materials.

Throughout the module, there’s emphasis on developing skills that are relevant to research in space science and employment in the space sector. You’ll analyse and present spacecraft data using the Python programming language. You’ll develop your team-working skills through a simulated mission to explore and investigate a Martian landscape using the OpenSTEM Laboratory’s Mars yard and rover. With support from your tutor, you’ll also develop a case for a small spacecraft based on your own ideas and interests, which must meet the exacting demands of a real space mission.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you’ll likely need a headset with a microphone.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Course work includes

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

Space science (S818) starts once a year – in January.

This page describes the module that will start in January 2025.

We expect it to start for the last time in January 2028.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

We would typically expect students to have an honours degree (or equivalent qualification) in physics, astronomy, geosciences, chemistry, engineering or mathematics. Note that we do not require previous study in space science or astronomy.

It’s essential you have the necessary background knowledge and experience. The booklet Are You Ready For S818? will help you decide if you’re ready to start the module or you need some extra preparation.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
25 Jan 2025 Oct 2025 £2900.00

Registration closes 09/01/25 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2028.

Future availability

Space science (S818) starts once a year – in January.

This page describes the module that will start in January 2025.

We expect it to start for the last time in January 2028.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

Study materials are all online and provided through the module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • study guides and associated resources
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access
  • remote access to online experiments and collaborative activities.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Fortescue, P., Swinerd, G. & Stark, J. (eds) Spacecraft Systems Engineering (4th edn) Wiley £56.00 - ISBN 9780470750124

If you have a disability

Some online components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader (mathematical, and scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future.

Due to our extensive use of external websites and third party software, we cannot guarantee the accessibility of all components of the module.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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