Space & Trade Spaces online module successfully launched

On a journey from Sputnik and the Moon Race to today’s commercial SpaceX operations, Professor H. Pat Artis from Virginia Tech, USA, brought the world of commercial space vehicles to HAW Hamburg in winter semester 2021/22. During the eight-week online course 24 HAW Hamburg aeronautical engineering students learnt about the design challenges of boosters built to insert payloads into Earth’s orbit and developed their own vehicle design.

Seminarraum mit Leinwand und Studierenden, die einer Online-Vorlesung folgen

Virginia Tech Online-Modul Space & Trade Spaces

The weekly three-hour classes introduced the students to the ‘tyranny of the rocket equation’ and to launch vehicle design, stress analysis, stability and control. In addition to the theory, the course included a design problem selected from current commercial space industry headlines; specifically, the German government’s plan for a North Sea spaceport. As a way of strengthening the national space programme, the objective would be to insert small payloads into polar and sun synchronous orbits.

Student teams were tasked to determine the delta-V required to reach the specified orbits from the sea-based launch site and then estimate the velocity losses/gains from propulsive efficiency, gravitation loss, aerodynamic drag, and rotational velocity of the earth at the launch latitude. Based on this delta-V budget, the students evaluated staging alternatives, propulsive systems, configuration layout, vehicle structure, flight loads, and vehicle dynamics and controls. During the final two weeks, each team developed a conceptual vehicle design for placing a 51.5 kg payload into a 300 km sun synchronous orbit.

Many of the 24 students who participated in the course want to work in the field of aerospace after graduation and saw it as a way of broadening their expertise and getting an insight into a field that is not taught at HAW Hamburg. For Muhammad Iqbal Aziz the vision goes further: ‘In the next two to three decades, space travel will no longer be "fancy". Tourism around the moon will become a possibility. Perhaps our grandchildren will have a school trip around the moon with their classmates and teachers. It is very possible that in 50 years we will develop a colony or civilisation in Mars. Better be prepared for it.’

I really liked Professor Artis' lecture style. He created an interesting and relaxed learning atmosphere in which he imparted his knowledge almost casually.

Finn Frerks

After three semesters of online teaching due to the corona pandemic, the students had become more than used to following lectures via Teams or Zoom. So, the only unusual thing about logging in for class on a Friday afternoon was that it was with a Virginia Tech professor and in English. Finn Frerks speaks for all the students when he says: ‘Personally, I found it relatively easy to work through the content online. Professor Artis always explained the content of the slides well, and with the help of the script and the materials provided, it was easy to master the tasks.’

Professor Artis describes himself as ‘a child of the space age’ and has been building rockets for 60 years. And it is this passion and in-depth knowledge that particularly impressed the HAW Hamburg students. Finn Frerks adds: ‘I really liked Professor Artis' lecture style. He created an interesting and relaxed learning atmosphere in which he imparted his knowledge almost casually.’ They also loved the stories he told and the regular jokes that he cracked – something they don’t generally experience in a German lecture.

All agree that the course was really interesting and that they would recommend it to anyone interested in broadening their knowledge of aerospace and getting an insight into rocket design.  And for Fynn Thilker it was more than that: ‘Not only was it a very interesting topic, but it also shows how international universities teach. So, it is not just about increasing academic knowledge, but also a lesson in new intercultural experiences.’

For Professor Artis it was also a first to teach at a foreign university and he was very happy with the Hamburg students: ‘Teaching this short course has been a remarkable experience for a variety of reasons. Principal among them was the students’ interest in the design of space launch vehicles and their eagerness to be assigned homework problems which would allow them to explore the trades inherent in the design process. When students are eager to learn, teaching is fun. I will always look back at this time we spent together as a wonderful experience.’


The course was financed with ISAP* funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). A big thank you goes to Julien Trekel, who was responsible for organising everything in Hamburg.

Text: Ingrid Weatherall, International Office, ‘HAW goes USA’

* ISAP: Internationale Studien- und Ausbildungspartnerschaften:

Article about online module contents


Prof. H. Pat Artis
Virginia Tech

Ingrid Weatherall
International Office
'HAW goes USA'