SBQ401: Fundamentals of Orbits and Getting into Space

Course details

  • Learn the principles of rocketry, the designs in use today, and the essentials of different orbits and how rockets reach them.


To engage in the business of space, you need to have a general understanding how orbits work and how spacecraft get from earth into their designated orbits. We will not go into any mathematics or technical detail, but you will get an overview of:

  • The basics of rocketry: what rockets do and how they do it.
  • Examples of the various types of rocket that enable the space business today.
  • Principles of orbits: how spacecraft move once they are launched into space, and why some orbits differ from others.
  • What rockets need to do to get spacecraft into their proper orbits.


5 lessons
  1. Introduction. Welcome; How to pass.
  2. Rocketry. A simple job (with interactive animation)? What’s in a rocket. Rocket ratings. Why multiple stages (with interactive animation)? Propellants matter. Chemical engines and thrusters. Electric/ion engines. Launch costs - comparisons of past and present vehicles. Reusability - why? New launch technologies - what’s in our future? Quiz.
  3. Examples. V2. Rocket Lab Electron. Ariane 5. Altas V. Falcon 9. Antaries. Quiz.
  4. Orbit Principles. Gravity rules orbits. Orbit experimenter for LEO, MEO, GEO, GTO, and custom orbits. Latitude and longitude review. Circular orbits. Inclination and RAAN are critical for LEO. Sun-synchronous orbits*. Latency (with audio simulation). How far can you see from different types of orbit? Pros and cons of different orbits. Quiz. * Includes 3D interactive animation.
  5. Getting to Orbit. Getting to LEO (with interactive animation). The launch site matters (with 3D interactive animation). Launch direction matters. Getting to MEO and GEO (with interactive simulator). Horizontal launchers. Multi-satellite launches. Ride sharing. Modifying the orbit after launch. How to select a launch provider. Quiz.
This is a sample page from the Rocketry lesson:
Tutorials use an Interactive, 3-D orbit simulator:
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