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Educational Methods/Aids Used In The Astronautics Core Course At The United States Air Force Academy

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Innovative Teaching in Engineering/Technology I

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.498.1 - 9.498.18

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Paper Authors

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Tim White

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James White

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David Barnhart

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Jerry Sellers

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Kenneth Siegenthaler

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1602

Educational Methods/Aids Used in the Astronautics Core Course at the United States Air Force Academy

Kenneth E. Siegenthaler, David J. Barnhart, Jerry J. Sellers, James J. White, and Tim White

Department of Astronautics United States Air Force Academy


Every cadet at the United States Air Force Academy is required to take a one-semester course in astronautics based on the classic astronautics textbook, Understanding Space, by Jerry J. Sellers, et. al. The major sections of the course include orbital fundamentals, rocket fundamentals, and an introduction to space mission planning/operations. In addition to outside lecturers from the space operations community, teaching aids used in the course include the following:

1. Large and hand-held orbital elements models, (“whiz wheels”) to illustrate orbital fundamentals; 2. Computer-based demonstrations such as STK to illustrate orbital characteristics; 3. Full-size examples and models of past and present satellites and rockets and their subsystems; 4. A demonstrational micro-satellite that has fully functional compartmentalized subsystems.

The micro-satellite is particularly helpful in illustrating the physical concepts, components, and functions of each subsystem of a satellite. This paper discusses the contents and teaching methods/aids used in this undergraduate course on the fundamentals of astronautics.

I. Introduction

About half of the courses taken by every cadet at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) are made up of required specific core courses including at least one course from every one of the 19 departments at the Academy. The core course required in the Astronautics Department is Astro 320, Introduction to Astronautics for the Engineer and Scientist, a course required for technical majors, or Astro 410, Introduction to Astronautics, for non-technical majors. In Astro 410, the textbook is Understanding Space: An Introduction to Astronautics, by Jerry J. Sellers, (USIA)[1]. The main difference in the courses is that in Astro 320 for “Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

White, T., & White, J., & Barnhart, D., & Sellers, J., & Siegenthaler, K. (2004, June), Educational Methods/Aids Used In The Astronautics Core Course At The United States Air Force Academy Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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