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Astronomical Systems Design



  • From scientific objectives to a successfull instrument

This course addresses all aspects of designing and realising an astronomical instrument that meets the scientific objectives of the astronomer, while taking into account the contraints on complexity and financial budget. A successful instrument development requires a system-wide, interdisciplinary approach to the design, implementation and evaluation.
Important topics in the design process will be discussed: functional breakdown, requirements analysis, design drivers, risk analysis, error budgetting, trade-off and concept selection, verification and testing. Students will learn several methods and tools that support the system design process.
The course consists of lectures (some of which by external specialists), examples from current astronomical instruments and various assignments in astronomical system design.

Course objectives

Students will be able to use tools and methods from the field of system engineering and will understand the common way of working in the design and realisation of advanced astronomical instruments.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, presentations, homework assignments.


Knowledge of astronomical observing techniques and having completed the course Astronomical Instruments and Telescopes.


Reading list, selection from:
1. “Spacecraft Systems Engineering”, 4th Edition 2011, Peter Fortescue (Editor), Graham Swinerd (Editor), John Stark (Editor).
2. INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook v3.2.2, 2011.
3. “Systems engineering and analysis”, 4th edition 2006, Benjamin Blanchard, Wolter Fabrycky.
4. “Applied Space Systems Engineering”, 2012, Wiley Larson, Douglas Kirkpatrick, Jerry Sellers, Lawrence Thomas, Dinesh Verma.
5. “Space Mission Analysis and Design”, 3rd Edition 2009, WJ Larson and JR Wertz.
6. “The Design and Construction of Large Optical Telescopes”, 2003, P.Y. Bely (editor).
7. “Systems Engineering Principles and Practice”, 2nd Edition 2011, Alexander Kossiakoff, William N. Sweet, Sam Seymour, Steven M. Biemer.
8. “A Practical Guide to SysML”, 2011, S. Friedenthal, A. Moore, R. Steiner.
9. “Applying systems engineering to astronomical projects”, 2004, Simon C. Craig; Andrew J. Born, Proc. SPIE 5497, Modeling and Systems Engineering for Astronomy.


Take-home exam


Via uSis
More information about signing up for your classes at the Faculty of Science can be found here

Course schedule

See Master schedules

Contact information

Lecturers: N.J. Doelman / Dr. L.B. Venema
Assistant: Pedro Salas Munoz