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Back to Kinematics: Describing the Motions of Spacecraft

Learner Reviews & Feedback for Kinematics: Describing the Motions of Spacecraft by University of Colorado Boulder

319 ratings

About the Course

The movement of bodies in space (like spacecraft, satellites, and space stations) must be predicted and controlled with precision in order to ensure safety and efficacy. Kinematics is a field that develops descriptions and predictions of the motion of these bodies in 3D space. This course in Kinematics covers four major topic areas: an introduction to particle kinematics, a deep dive into rigid body kinematics in two parts (starting with classic descriptions of motion using the directional cosine matrix and Euler angles, and concluding with a review of modern descriptors like quaternions and Classical and Modified Rodrigues parameters). The course ends with a look at static attitude determination, using modern algorithms to predict and execute relative orientations of bodies in space. After this course, you will be able to... * Differentiate a vector as seen by another rotating frame and derive frame dependent velocity and acceleration vectors * Apply the Transport Theorem to solve kinematic particle problems and translate between various sets of attitude descriptions * Add and subtract relative attitude descriptions and integrate those descriptions numerically to predict orientations over time * Derive the fundamental attitude coordinate properties of rigid bodies and determine attitude from a series of heading measurements...

Top reviews


Oct 18, 2017

Brilliant classes! Absolutely brilliant, enjoyed every bit of it. All you need is that you should love Physics and Maths to attend these classes. If you do, it is an enriching experience for you.


Nov 9, 2021

Great professor, and the content is interesting. The assignments where you had to write your own code to determine the spacecraft attitudes were very useful for applying what you had learnt.

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1 - 25 of 99 Reviews for Kinematics: Describing the Motions of Spacecraft

By Musab N A

Feb 8, 2018

Great professor. The material is very focused on space systems, but can easily be used in other robotics applications

By Samuel L

May 3, 2020

Course material is great, Prof Schaub is an excellent lecturer, but one thing that makes this course disappointing is that neither himself nor his TA is ever around to interact with the course mates. I was expecting a bit more activity with the mentorship and some QNA, but all of the cross-checkings of work are between classmates (so it could be the case of the blind leading the blind really...) and we are pretty much left alone. This makes it no different than watching videos on our own on Khan Academy or Youtube (zero interaction really). Otherwise, the content and material is good and well structured. Disclaimer - this is grad level stuff, so make sure your linear algebra and calculus is pretty solid.

By Daniel d S

Oct 16, 2017

A practically useful and wholly positive learning experience from a passionate professor. I am working as an engineer in the space industry already, and took this course to patch up some cloudy areas of understanding. I got quite the bang for my buck.

The material is taught in a style that leans towards applicable theory for the well-educated engineer. The videos are recordings of in-classroom lectures from UC Boulder, a university know for it's tight history of collaboration with NASA everywhere from Mars to Earth's outer Magnetosphere. In this course you will cover the necessary engineering physics to describe orbiting and rotating reference frames, attitude coordinate systems, and methods for determining spacecraft attitude from on-board sensors.

My educational background is from outside an aerospace engineering department, and I had no problem keeping up. I encourage not only aerospace engineers, but anyone working in space (scientists, programmers, operations personnel) to try this course.

By Craig Z

Jul 29, 2019

This a very difficult course but worth it if you put the time into it. This is an advanced graduate-level class and is relies heavily on previous concepts in physics, linear algebra, and calculus. Would not suggest taking it if you are not strong in all three.

By Brian P

Jun 27, 2017

This is a great course for working through the book, "Analytical Mechanics of Space Systems" that I've owned for many years but never got around to working through it at the level of detail involved in working through the problems on paper, instead of just in my head. Prof Schaub does an excellent job of filling in the gaps in the text and making it more understandable, but it does really, really help to have the book to work through along with the class. Even with a background in physics, math, and engineering, I immediately learned something new about how to solve kinematics problems that I should have known but didn't. The concept of generalized/canonical coordinate systems never made sense to me until this class, where for some reason the explanation just clicked and I knew how it worked like flipping a switch. That knowledge alone was worth the price of the certificate. Continuing on to work the follow-on courses and perhaps complete the specialization.

By Deleted A

Jun 3, 2019

if you are an aerospace engineering student and would like to get into orbital mechanics/ control and dynamics of satellites or celestial bodies, it's a decent course (series) to take.

By Troy W

Feb 25, 2018

Good way to teach the course.

Could have been better if the professor could stop the urge to use vectricx notation.

By Konstantinos K

Jul 28, 2018

The course is absolutely amazing! You can learn a huge amount of mathematics and applications in classical mechanics on these 4 weeks, which is crucial for me as a physicist, and there are a lot of challenging exercises so you can fully understand this. The only (for my point of view) disadvantage of this course is that in the last week you need to use/learn some programming skilles which I was not interested in learning (I only wanted to study the physics and math of this course even if programming is also useful in the field of physics).

By Kasper w

Mar 4, 2019

The course is really nice. It gave me a good perspective of the coordinate systems used for attitude control and how they are good and bad in different contexts. It covered valuable topics in new and ongoing work done in the topic with a great lecturer that is engaging with the class.

The topics covered in attitude determination were also valuable and gave an insight in how attitude determination is done on spacecrafts through multiple sensors. Hopefully this knowledge will help in further classes.

By Pratik W

Sep 13, 2017

Great Course! Given the advanced nature of this subject, Prof Schaub has successfully carved out an extremely neat course structure. His lectures provide valuable and clear insights into the concepts at play. The assignments are thorough and engaging as well. This course has already added substantial value to my background in Aerospace. I'm looking forward to enrolling in other similar courses!

By Andrew P

Mar 15, 2020

Professor Schaub is an excellent teacher. The concepts were well organized and delivered. Professor Schaub provided an intuitive understanding of the use of different coordinate systems that would be difficulty to develop from interacting with a textbook.

The coding assignments were worthwhile and helped cement my understanding of the concepts.


Nov 9, 2019

Excellent course, even for non specialist or space professional. High quality course that can become very hard, especially if you haven't been doing maths for a while. However , it's a high reward if you succeed the course with a good grade, as it demonstrates you can handle work intensive assignments and programming.

By Andrea M

Jun 28, 2017

One of the best courses that I have ever done in coursera. Schaub can explain advanced concepts in a very pragmatic and easy-to-understand way. Suggested for professionals already with a Master degree's in Engineering, or student with solid basis of Geometry and Mathematical Programming (e.g. Matlab, Mathematica)

By owais k

Feb 22, 2020

if you want to learn about spacecraft attitude and would like to get experience in describing the motion of spacecraft as well as dynamics of satellites.This course will be first step.

By Mukesh K

Aug 12, 2020

Lectures are great and professor method of teaching is superb i would highly recommend this course for space enthusiasts

By Tanseer H

Jun 26, 2020

The course was difficult yet interesting and challenging. The instructor's teaching methodology is amazing.

By Nicolò C

Apr 26, 2020

I really liked this course, the professor is really good at both explaining and deeply knowing the subject

By Shounak D

Feb 4, 2018

Wish every Professor taught like this guy. Excellent. Fun course.Thank you !

By Tracy B

Nov 30, 2020

I have taken a LOT of college courses at the undergraduate and graduate level and have a doctorate in engineering (just trying to expand and learn some things that could be useful in industry). This professor is definitely one of the better professors I've ever seen lecture. He's very good, engages with the students well asking conceptual questions and clarifying misunderstandings, and generally explains the concepts well.

I have a couple minor complaints. First, the professor made a couple mathematical statements that are strictly wrong. I do not mean he made an error in adding numbers together or anything like that, but he made claims about things like eigenvectors that are just wrong. I also think his mathematical notation is pretty terrible in a few places and I would absolutely not accept his notation if he submitted a paper to a journal I was reviewing.

My other main complaint is that I feel like I mostly just learned the basic ideas about attitude dynamics in this course and then learned how to plug numbers into equations. I didn't actually learn really how to problem solve. This class is teaching you how to be a generic black box engineer. In all my work at the CU Boulder applied math department I felt like I learned how to solve problems and the work was more challenging. In this course you generally get an equation and just plug numbers in and get the answer. I didn't feel like I learned as much as I wanted to in the end.

Still, a very good professor and fairly well taught course. I just wish I would have learned a bit more.

By Clemens R

Dec 27, 2018

Very good course! Few of the quizzes have the wrong answers marked as correct which can be confusing when learning the material (see the discussion forum for specifics).

By M V A

Jul 2, 2020

Though the content is very good, there are many implementation problems from Coursera side.

There is NO HELP from teachers/instructors in the discussion forums at all, you are left with the courtesy of other students.

By Soma D

Sep 17, 2022

The course was excellent, both the explanations and the level of the exercises. I have already worked with quaternions and stuff but now I have a solid background for it. A course about esimation would be also very good., but I could not find it. One critical point: the peer review system in this form is not very good, because the topic is complex and maybe somebody who does not understand the stuff properly and can rate a submission badly which is indeed correct.


Nov 6, 2020

The course is great, all the contents is very interesting. It demands a little more time that it is advised, but it is worth it. All of the topics were new to me, maybe because of that it was harder than I though. I had a lot of fun working on all the quices, the programming parts where particularly enlightening. Also, it was very enriching the peer review process, it helps a lot to asure some concepts.

By Aleksandr G

May 5, 2019

Very useful compilation of attitude determination math. Could be applied in many engineering fields, not only spacecraft control.

Special thanks to lector Dr. H. Schaub. He is really know how to teach. I also recommend to visit he's web page, which is very useful.

By Bruno G

Apr 5, 2020

Very well explained and organized. the professor makes a very good resume of the book in his classes. It has a lot of practical references, despite it is not a programming course, there are a lot of references to "the code" and how to make it more efficient.

I really recommend this course.