Skip over navigation

Machine Design (Engineering 176)
Course Description:

Instructor:  Dr. Rick Fleeter
rick_fleeter@brown.edu
Tues / Thurs alternating, 6:30 – 9:30 pm

Design of machines which operate in the orbital and deeper space environments requires integration of many engineering disciplines.  Spacecraft span 4 orders of magnitude in mass and volume, and without the need to accommodate a road, rail or trail, liquid, gas or even gravitational environments, their shape and appearance are diverse.  Our use of space spans only 50 years, and societies are still exploring new applications and missions there.  

Their isolation requires spacecraft to convert, process and store electric power, maintain orientation, control temperature and communicate with near perfect reliability over several years, sometimes decades, without periodic service or parts replacement.  They must withstand large static and dynamic loads during launch and yet be lightweight and stiff, since launch envelopes are cramped and launch prices exceed $10,000 per kg.   These and other design aspects of the space environment provide a rich opportunity to apply engineering principles including heat transfer, thermodynamics, dynamics, control, analog and digital electronics, software and structural mechanics using finite element, 3-D modeling, dynamics simulation and other analytical design tools to address real-world, contemporary engineering challenges. 

The course assumes no familiarity with aerospace-specific engineering considerations.  Because the course is quite distinct from much of the core curriculum, there is some flexibility on prerequisites.  So please check with Professor Fleeter if you are interested in Engin 176 to discuss your level of preparation compared with the demands of the class.

The class will be introduced to the elements of mission, and ultimately space machine, design while simultaneously developing a mission definition, drawn from contemporary space programs, from which the machine’s requirements are synthesized.  With the ultimate goal of creating a non- or partially- functional prototype space vehicle, or more often an interesting component of one, and the design of the entire vehicle, student design / development teams will be coached through the intuitive, iterative, analytical and human (political, managerial and human interface) elements of the design cycle.