pchapin's CIS-5710 Spacecraft Software, Spring 2017


Peter C. Chapin. Office: BLP-415 on the Williston campus. Office hours are by appointment. Phone: 802-879-2367 (voice mail active). Email: pchapin@vtc.edu. I will usually respond to email within 24 hours, not including weekends or holidays. Email is the best way to contact me. I am also sometimes on the VSC Skype for business, or on the FreeNode IRC network under the nickname pcc.

Course Description

The official course outline lists high level course objectives and content.

This is a course about the software used in space missions. It covers both flight software and ground control software. It also covers communication protocols used for space missions and what makes then different than those typically used with terrestrial applications. Finally the course introduces the student to some basic physical and technological concepts related to spacecraft in general, with an emphasis on how those aspects impact the software used.


This is a graduate course and requires graduate standing. There is a significant amount of programming in this course, in various languages. Comfort with at least C is assumed. Some background in math (calculus) and physics (introductory level) would also be useful.


There is no text for this course. However we will be reading several current papers related to the topics covered. These papers will be discussed in class. You will also be provided with a virtual machine with some software preinstalled. You will need to update and modify that virtual machine and use it to complete various programming and simulation exercises

I have created an email distribution list for the class. I will use this list to distribute announcements and other supplementary materials. Be sure to check your mail regularly (daily) or you might miss something important. If you send a question in email directly to me, I may reply to my distribution list if I think that others would benefit from my answer. If you would rather I did not reply to the list you should say so in your message.

My home page contains various documents of general interest. You will find my office hours posted there.


Grading Policy

The grade is based on participation and the submission of selected homework assignments. Each student will also be expected to locate at least one relevant paper and then lead a class discussion about that paper. The final exam will consist of a project selected by the student, with approval of the instructor, that exercises the concepts and methods covered in the course.

Late Policy

Roughly, late submissions are not accepted. If something comes up that prevents you from handing in an assignment on time, contact me, before the deadline if at all possible, to discuss your issue. As a practical matter I can accept a late submission if I have neither distributed a solution nor graded the assignment. Since either of those things can happen at any time after the due date, you should plan on submitting all materials on time.

Copying Policy

I encourage you to share ideas with your fellow students so I won't be shocked to learn that you've been talking with someone about an assignment. In fact if you worked closely with someone else you should make a note on your submission that mentions the names of your associates.

However, I do ask you to do your own work in your final submissions. If two submissions exhibit what I feel to be "excessive similarity" I will grade the submissions based on merit and then divide the grade by two, assigning half the grade to each submission. If I receive more than two excessively similar submissions I will divide the grade by the number of such submissions and distribute the result accordingly.

Since "excessive similarity" is a bit subjective, I may only give you a warning if the similarity is not too excessive—especially for a first offense. However, I do keep records on when I find excessive similarity and I will be much less inclined to be forgiving if I discover it again. If you are concerned about the possibility of submitting something that might be too similar to another student's work, don't hesitate to speak with me first.

If you find material on the Internet or in a book that seems to answer questions I ask in an assignment, you may include such material in your submission provided you properly reference it. If I discover that you have included unreferenced material from such sources, I may not give you any credit for the question(s) answered by such material. You do not need to provide a reference to our text book or to materials I specifically provide in class.

Other Matters

Students with disabilities may request accommodation as provided within federal law. All such requests should be made by first contacting Robin Goodall, Learning Specialist, in the Center for Academic Success on the Randolph campus. She can be reached by phone at (802) 728-1278 or by email at rgoodall@vtc.edu.

Last Revised: 2017-10-19
© Copyright 2017 by Peter C. Chapin <pchapin@vtc.edu>