Master Programme in Spacecraft Design


Read more about this program on the school's website

Program Description

This two-year programme is focused on an exciting and prestigious area - design of a spacecraft. This includes integration of complex technical systems that must work in an extreme environment - space. The course is given in Kiruna, the “space capital” of Sweden.

A space research environment, unique for Europe, has been established in Kiruna. Here you find the Swedish Institute for Space Physics, which builds satellite instruments for distant travel to other planets. Sounding rockets and stratospheric balloons are launched from Esrange. The university has developed a laboratory environment for nanosatellites within the research subject Onboard Space Systems and is developing a Mars-laboratory within the research subject Atmospheric Science. The lectures are in English and guest speakers from the aerospace industry and academia participate.


This programme is a modern and focused program that aims at the rapid development in the space industry towards smaller spacecrafts with short development times. First year courses are necessary for second-year studies as you develop a spacecraft in a computer environment. 

A spacecraft, which also is called a satellite if its orbit is bound to a celestial body, is designed around the payload instruments it shall carry and the environment it shall function in. You learn about the various subsystems which make up the spacecraft and how it communicates with the surrounding world. Furthermore, you get an understanding of the specific space electronics and typical space materials that are required and learn how the on-board computers and the propulsion work. Orbit and attitude dynamics, as well as control of these, are necessary for a successful mission. 

During the first year's spring term, you begin a project work that will continue during the second year's autumn term. In this project, you will in collaboration with other students physically build some instrument that maybe will be launched with a rocket or a high altitude balloon to the stratosphere. You will also work on a computer design of a spacecraft in collaboration with other students during the second year's autumn term. 

Your master thesis work is performed at a space technology company, space organisation, or academic department, in Kiruna or other parts of the world.


Labour market

Students who have completed the programme have continued with research studies or continued within the space industry or within space organisations. 

There is a shortage of engineers within the space industry in the western hemisphere. Space activity is often to a high degree international. Some of the major European space players are ESA, DLR and EADS/Astrium. In Sweden major players are SSC, OHB Sweden AB, RUAG Space AB, and Omnisys Instruments. 


Entry requirements

Successful completion of a basic engineering program or a Bachelor´s degree with a minimum of 180 ECTS in the areas of space technology, aerospace, aeronautics, mechatronics, space physics, physics, electronics, mechanics or equivalent. Course work at the university level must include electronics or mechanics, and a minimum of 22.5 ECTS in mathematics at the university level is required. Course work must include linear algebra, multivariable calculus and ordinary differential equations.

Documented skills in the English language.


The selection procedure is based on academic qualifications, quality and quantity aspects.

Meet an Alumnus

"There were many things that made the programme strong in my opinion"

Kinga Albert is an alumnus of the Master Programme in Spacecraft Design.

Where do you work today?

– I am a first year PhD student at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, in Germany. After finishing my master degree at LTU I had two fields that I felt interested in: on-board data handling for spacecrafts and space instrumentation. I had the great opportunity right after my graduation to become a Young Graduate Trainee at the European Space Agency in the on-board data handling department.

However, during that year I have realised that I wish to continue in academia, and today I am working on a space instrument that will be launched on the Solar Orbiter mission in 2018. I am researching issues related to instrument autonomy, another of my passions, and implementing solutions for autonomous science data calibration in orbit for deep space missions.

Anything in particular that you appreciated with the Master Programme in Spacecraft Design?

– There were many things that made the program strong in my opinion. One of them certainly was the curriculum itself, with a very broad coverage of topics, including several project courses as well. And this was perhaps one of the best things. You have your own funding, create a project concept, build it, conduct the experiments, analyse your results and document them in a scientific form.

During this time you are fairly independent, supervised by project teachers on the necessary level. You have the possibility for much help from different scientific communities on campus or in your surroundings, however, it is up to you to make the most of it. In this time you can face your own problems in your own way, see how you handle stress and conflicts, how you work in a team, do your best and commit your own mistakes without the responsibility for other's people jobs, or for the funding of the group in an academic context. We certainly learned much about ourselves: how we are as professionals, what we like to do, and how we like to work.

What was it like to study and live in Kiruna?

– The word "special" describes it the best I believe. It is certainly an amazing place, with great nature surrounding it. I for one fell in love with the Arctic there, and ever since I left the far North, I miss it.

However, as extreme as it seems, Kiruna is still a decent size city, with all the facilities one needs for a comfortable life. We studied at the Space Campus, where we could not only attend the lectures, have a good work environment, and have access to a great library, but also have insight into the life of the research institute, as the Swedish Institute for Space Physics is housed in the same building as LTU. Furthermore, we had Esrange at about an hour drive away, where we could have field trips, and during the student projects, we could use their launch facilities for stratospheric balloons and rockets.

And then, of course, there are the students, that I must say had a huge influence on me. It is a group of hard-working people, all passionate about space, in a very close community.

Looking back at your education at Luleå University of Technology, what was the most important thing you learned?

– It must be a new attitude towards my profession: hard work and passion. I enjoyed very much sharing projects with other students, we learned much from each other. Seeing different styles of work, a different approach to studying, reading literature, and all doing our best to learn the most possible in the field. This spirit is still with me, and I aim to be part of communities that share the same enthusiasm.

Last updated Jun 2020

About the School

We conduct world-leading research and education with a strong experimental and applied profile. The Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering has 160 employeesincluding 60 PhD s ... Read More

We conduct world-leading research and education with a strong experimental and applied profile. The Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering has 160 employeesincluding 60 PhD students and55 teachers and researchers. You find us in the A-building on campus in Luleå, on Space Campus in Kiruna, and at campus in Skellefteå. Read less
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