UCLA Extension

Spacecraft Structural Design and Verification

This course is intended to help practicing engineers and managers (structural or non-structural) with limited structural background become familiar with the concepts, techniques, and practices that are essential to the development of spacecraft structures. The general background of spacecraft structures, fundamental structural mechanics theories, and the engineering procedures that are employed in daily engineering practices from design to verification are introduced. Topics are presented in the same sequence as the spacecraft structural development process and include an introduction to spacecraft, mechanical environments, structural design requirements, structural design considerations, structural dynamics and loads analysis, strength analysis, composite structures, finite element analysis, and structural testing. Many of the subjects presented are based on accumulated engineering experiences that cannot usually be found in structural mechanics books or regular engineering courses.

Course Materials

The text, Spacecraft Structures and Mechanisms: From Concept to Launch (Space Technology Library), Thomas P. Sarafin, editor (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1995), and lecture notes are distributed on the first day of the course. These notes are for participants only and are not for sale.

Coordinator and Lecturer

Donald L. Edberg, PhD, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Dr. Edberg has over 24 years of experience in the aerospace industry and has been employed at General Dynamics, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, AeroVironment, McDonnell Douglas, and the Boeing Company, where he was a Technical Fellow. He currently teaches astronautics and aerospace vehicle design full-time at Cal Poly Pomona and is the director of its Space and Launch Vehicle Laboratory and Uninhabited Aerospace Vehicle Laboratory. He also has taught aircraft, spacecraft, and structural design courses at UCLA, UC San Diego, and UC Irvine, and has consulted for a number of small companies.

During his career, Dr. Edberg has worked on launch vehicle and on-orbit space environments, aerodynamic testing of launch vehicles at high angles of attack, experimental modal and dynamic analysis, launch vehicle load mitigation, reduction of on-orbit mechanical vibrations, and microgravity isolation systems, as well as the development of an electric-powered, backpackable UAV in service as the FQM-151 Pointer. He holds 10 U.S. patents in aerospace and related fields, and was the inventor of and chief engineer for the patented McDonnell Douglas STABLE (Suppression of Transient Acceleration by Levitation Evaluation) vibration isolation system. STABLE was successfully demonstrated during the flight of Space Shuttle flight STS-73 carrying USML-2 in October 1995.

Dr. Edberg is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and an active UAV pilot.


Todd D. Coburn, PhD, Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (CPP).  Dr. Coburn served 25 years in the aerospace industry at McDonnell Douglas/Boeing prior to joining CPP, where he specialized in the structural analysis of metallic aircraft and composite rocket structures.  He served in the roles of analyst, lead, and manager, and is an expert in classical hand stress analysis & FEA.  He also has conceptualized and implemented full–scale and component structural tests of both metallic and composite structures, and has experience in ditching, floatation, rapid decompression, crashworthiness, and moisture-absorption structural analysis techniques.  His experience includes work on the McDonnell Douglas & Boeing family of commercial aircraft as well as the Delta II, III, & IV family of launch vehicles.  In addition to spearheading the structures arm of the Aerospace Department at CPP, Dr Coburn serves as a consultant DER supporting industry for Part 25 aircraft.

Daily Schedule

Day 1


  • Spacecraft Missions
  • Spacecraft Orbits
  • Launch Vehicles
  • Spacecraft Configuration

Spacecraft Environments

  • Flight Environments
  • Transportation and Handling Environments
  • On-Orbit Environments
  • Characteristics of Dynamic Environments
  • Structural Design Requirements

Spacecraft Structural Design

  • Spacecraft Structures
  • Design, Analysis, and Verification Flow
  • Load Path
  • Material Selection
  • Mass Properties and Volume
  • Thermal Effects

Day 2

Structural Dynamics and Loads Analysis

  • Single-Degree-of-Freedom Vibration
  • Multiple-Degree-of-Freedom Vibration
  • Random Vibration Analysis
  • Acoustic Analysis
  • Pyroshock Devices and Analysis
  • Modal Participation and Modal Identification
  • Flight Loads Analysis Cycles
  • Coupled Loads Analysis

Strength Analysis

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Structural Failure Modes
  • Basic Stress Analysis
  • Structural Instability
  • Sandwich Structures
  • Bolted Joints and Fitting
  • Fatigue Analysis
  • Fracture Control Concepts

Day 3

Composite Structures

  • Composite Material Characteristics
  • Mechanics of Composite Materials
  • Spacecraft Application
  • Quality Assurance

Finite Element Analysis

  • General Concept
  • Finite Element Approach
  • Introduction of MSC/NASTRAN
  • Finite Element Modeling and Post-Processing

Structural Test Verification

  • Methods of Verification
  • Test Specification
  • Static Loads Test
  • Centrifuge Test
  • Modal Survey Test and Model Correlation
  • Sinusoidal Vibration Test
  • Acoustic Test
  • Random Vibration Test
  • Pyroshock Test

Final Review

For more information contact the Short Course Program Office:
shortcourses@uclaextension.edu | (310) 825-3858