Course Title: Microgravity Science

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Microgravity Science

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


171H School of Science


Sem 1 2022,
Sem 1 2023,
Sem 1 2024

Course Coordinator: Dr Gail Iles

Course Coordinator Phone: 03 9925 2610

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 014.06.015

Course Coordinator Availability: By appointment, by email

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

Assumed Knowledge

It is assumed that you have studied mathematics OR physics OR engineering at the first-year university level and it is strongly recommended that you have completed at least one physics OR chemistry OR engineering subject at the second-year university level. This course is designed as a third-year university level subject with research project elements.

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the environment of microgravity.  An object in freefall experiences the sensation of weightlessness such as in parabolic flights or in spacecraft. Experiments performed in this environment yield different results from those performed in Earth-based laboratories.  This course will introduce the various microgravity platforms available for scientific experiments such as drop towers, parabolic flights, sounding rockets and space stations. The course includes a grounding in multiple scientific phenomena such as thermodynamics, solid state physics, materials science and electromagnetism and how all these phenomena occur differently in space. For example; a flame on Earth is yellow and forms a tear-drop shape; a flame in microgravity is blue, forms a sphere shape and burns at a much higher temperature. In this course you will learn how and why this happens, explaining the differences in phenomena using physics concepts and equations. 

An extensive practical activity running over the entire course will allow students to work in teams to design, construct and test a scientific payload for experimentation in a microgravity environment. Part of the assessment of the practical laboratories will include preparing space industry design documents and presenting your payload development status to industry experts. You will gain experience using simulation tools such as COMSOL, ANSYS and MATLAB; you will use CAD tools such as Solidworks to design the experiment infrastructure and there will also be the opportunity to design and solder your own electronic circuitry. 

Some teams will work alongside the RMIT student rocket team, ‘HIVE’ or the RMIT student rover team. 

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

This course contributes to the development of the following Program Learning Outcomes in BP330 Bachelor of Space Science:

PLO 1.2 You will demonstrate an understanding of the role and relevance of science and engineering in the field of space science and technology.

PLO 2.1 You will have broad knowledge in space science and technology with deep knowledge in its core concepts.

PLO-2.2 You will have knowledge in at least one discipline other than your primary discipline and some understanding of interdisciplinary linkages.

PLO 3.3 You will be able to choose appropriate tools and methods to solve scientific problems within your
area of specialisation.

PLO 3.4 You will demonstrate well-developed problem-solving skills, applying your knowledge and using your ability to think analytically and creatively.

PLO 5.1 You will develop a capacity for independent and self-directed work.

PLO 5.2 You will work responsibly, safely, legally and ethically.

PLO 5.3 You will develop an ability to work collaboratively.

On completion of this course, you should be able to: 

  1. Apply an intermediate level of knowledge of microgravity platforms
  2. Analyse and solve problems in fields of microgravity science
  3. Design scientific experiments for implementation in microgravity.
  4. Convert a benchtop science experiment into a scientific payload for launch on a microgravity platform. 

You will also gain experience in the application of these concepts to a number of real-life situations, enabling you to make relevant observations, measurements and calculations, to predict the behaviour of nature and to take control over some of its outcomes.

Overview of Learning Activities

The learning activities in this course will include:

  • Recorded lectures where material will be presented and explained, and the subject will be illustrated with demonstrations and examples.
  • Laboratory work to simulate and construct scientific experiments fit to operate within the constraints of the microgravity environment.
  • Private and group study, working through the theory as presented in course material, available texts and notes.
  • Online assignments designed to probe an understanding of presented concepts, and to give feedback on student progress and understanding.

Overview of Learning Resources

RMIT will provide you with resources and tools for learning in this course through myRMIT Studies Course.

There are services available to support your learning through the University Library. The Library provides guides on academic referencing and subject specialist help as well as a range of study support services. For further information, please visit the Library page on the RMIT University website and the myRMIT student portal.

Overview of Assessment

Assessment Tasks

Assessment Task 1: Weekly Assignments
Weighting 30%
This assessment task supports CLOs 1-3

Assessment Task 2: Laboratories
Weighting 30%
This assessment task supports CLOs 2, 3, 4

Assessment Task 3: In class timed test
Weighting 40%
This assessment task supports CLOs 1-3

If you have a long-term medical condition and/or disability it may be possible to negotiate to vary aspects of the learning or assessment methods. You can contact the program coordinator or Equitable Learning Services if you would like to find out more.