675.751.81 - Space Weather and Space Systems

Space Systems Engineering
Spring 2024


This course will explore the space environment in the context of its impact on space system operations. Topics include the impacts of ionospheric variability on HF propagation, satellite communications, and GPS; impacts of energetic charged particles on spacecraft; impacts of auroral precipitation on radar and communication systems; and impacts of varying geomagnetic activity on power grids and space situational awareness. Lectures and homework assignments will prepare engineers to quantify and mitigate space weather impacts, and a final project will consist of a detailed analysis on a system of interest to the student. Prerequisite(s): An undergraduate or graduate degree in a quantitative discipline (e.g., engineering, computer science, mathematics, physics, or equivalent), or with approval of the instructor.


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Joseph Comberiate


Course Structure

The course materials are divided into modules which can be accessed by clicking Modules on the menu. A module will have several sections including the overview, content, readings, discussions, and assignments. You are encouraged to preview all sections of the module before starting. Most modules run for a period of seven (7) days, exceptions are noted in the Course Outline. You should regularly check the Calendar and Announcements for assignment due dates.  The course also has a Group Project with its own module.

Course Topics

Course Goals

Understand the range of space weather effects on space systems over the entire Sun-Earth connection. Use available space weather models and datasets to quantify these effects and system impacts of space weather. Apply this knowledge in-depth to a specific system and perform a detailed analysis of design considerations to mitigate space weather impacts.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)


There is no required textbook for this course.

Optional reading assignments will be posted from:

Bothmer, V., & Daglis, I. A. (2007). Space weather: physics and effects. Springer Science & Business Media.

ISBN-10: 3540239079

ISBN-13: 978-3540239079

This textbook can be downloaded for free (https://link-springer-com.proxy1.library.jhu.edu/book/10.1007%2F978- 3-540-34578-7).

Required Software

This course will use Microsoft Teams for our Discussions and general communication. This is a platform that works in your browser, on your desktop, and has an app for tablets and phones (iOS and Android). This will allow you to participate in the Discussions and ask questions from whatever device you are most comfortable.

To access Teams, click the Microsoft Teams link on the course menu. You can also download the desktop or mobile app. Sign in with your JHU email using @jh.edu (NOT @jhu.edu) and JHU password. You should see our Team listed on the left-hand side with the Team channels (discussion areas) listed below. There are various channels for discussion, including a General channel that is for discussing general topics and a Questions for Office Hours channel for questions related to the course assignments and content. Use the weekly module-based Discussion channels for answering Discussion posts. Be sure to manage your notification settings so you know when there are new posts. Please ensure subscribe to the General channel.

For more information, check out the instructions for getting started with Microsoft Teams. If you have difficulty logging in or accessing Microsoft Teams, please contact the Help Desk at ep-help-desk@jhu.edu.

Student Coursework Requirements

It is expected that each module will take approximately 6–10 hours per week to complete. Here is an approximate breakdown: reading the assigned sections of the texts (approximately 1-2 hours per week) as well as some outside reading, listening to the audio annotated slide presentations (approximately 1-2 hours per week), weekly homework and online discussion assignments (approximately 2–3 hours per week), and completing quizzes and the course project (approximately 2-3 hours per week).

This course will consist of the following basic student requirements:

Weekly Discussion Activities (14% of Final Grade Calculation)

Post your initial response to the discussion questions by the evening of day 3 for that module week. Posting a response to the discussion question is part one of your grade for module discussions (i.e., Timeliness). Part two of your grade for module discussion is your interaction (i.e., responding to classmate postings with thoughtful responses) with at least two classmates (i.e., Critical Thinking). Just posting your response to a discussion question is not sufficient; we want you to interact with your classmates. Be detailed in your postings and in your responses to your classmates' postings. Feel free to agree or disagree with your classmates. Please ensure that your postings are civil and constructive. 

Weekly discussion activities are graded as follows: You will typically get a 100% grade on discussions if you respond thoughtfully to all discussion prompts and reply to two posts from other students. Each missing (or insufficient) post is a 10% reduction in your grade. If your post is not prompt enough to allow other students to reply, your post may be considered insufficient and graded accordingly.

Homework Assignments (28% of Final Grade Calculation)

Homework assignments will include problem sets with a mix of qualitative and quantitative problems. Include a cover sheet with your name and assignment identifier. Also include your name and a page number indicator (i.e., page x of y) on each page of your submissions. Each problem should have the problem statement, assumptions, computations, and conclusions/discussion delineated when required by the problem.

All assignments are due according to the dates in the Calendar.

You are given a one-time 48-hour grace period for a single late homework assignment. This is in recognition of practical concerns (travel, work demands, etc.) that come up occasionally for online students. Beyond this single grace period, late homework will not be accepted unless arrangements are made with the instructor prior to the due date.

Qualitative assignments are evaluated by the following grading elements:

  1. Each part of question is answered (40%)
  2. Rationale for answer is provided (40%)
  3. Examples are included to illustrate rationale (20%)

Examples and/or rationale may not apply for all qualitative homework questions.

Quantitative assignments are evaluated by the following grading elements:

  1. Each part of question is answered (20%)
  2. Assumptions are clearly stated (20%)
  3. Intermediate derivations and calculations are provided (25%)
  4. Answer is technically correct and is clearly indicated (25%)
  5. Answer precision and units are appropriate (10%)

Not all quantitative assignments require assumptions. That portion of the grade will be divided between the other categories for those problems.

Each homework assignment will be graded out of 100% and scaled to be worth 2% of the Final Grade.

Course Project (40% of Final Grade Calculation)

A course project will be assigned as part of the course and will have its own module. Students will work in groups of up to four for the course project.

The course project is evaluated by the following grading elements:

  1. Project topic presentation – due at the end of Module 4. Will be graded on completeness and relevance to space weather and space systems (as described in Course Project Description). (10%)
  2. Group project presentation 1– Zoom presentation to instructor scheduled during the week of Module 7. Will be graded on clarity of presentation, teamwork, and technical merit (as described in Course Project Description). (15%)
  3. Group project presentation 2– Zoom presentation to instructor scheduled during the week of Module 13. Will be graded on clarity of presentation, teamwork, and technical merit (as described in Course Project Description). (30%)
  4. Identification and proper use of relevant space weather models and datasets in Final Project paper (as described in Course Project Description). (15%)
  5. Analysis of relevant design parameters and quantitative impact of relevant space weather impacts in Final Project paper (as described in Course Project Description). (15%)
  6. Thoroughness of Final Project paper. (15%)

Course Project is graded as follows:

100–90 = A—Rich in content; full of thought, insight, and analysis.

89–80 = B—Substantial information; thought, insight, and analysis has taken place.

79–70 = C—Generally competent; information is thin and commonplace.

Quizzes (18% of Final Grade Calculation, 6% for each quiz)

Three quizzes will be available in Modules 5, 9, and 13 respectively. Quizzes will each cover material from the previous four modules. Quizzes are released immediately after the due date for HW 4, 8, and 12 and are due approximately one week later. Quizzes are timed; they must be completed in a fixed period of time (typically 3 hours) from when they are started. You may use any of the course materials to complete the quizzes.

The quizzes may have the following types of questions:

  1. True/False – Select the correct response for credit.
  2. Quantitative Problem Solving – Determine the correct answer and show the steps needed to calculate it for full credit. Partial credit will be given for the correct approach with errors in calculation.
  3. Free response – All parts of the question must be answered and a rationale for the answer provided to receive full credit. Rationales for answers should not exceed a paragraph.

Quizzes are graded as follows:

100–90 = A

89–80 = B

79–70 = C

Grading Policy

Assignments are due according to the dates posted in your Canvas course site. You may check these due dates in the Course Calendar or the Assignments in the corresponding modules. I will (usually) post grades approximately one week after assignment due dates.

We generally do not directly grade spelling and grammar. However, egregious violations of the rules of the English language will be noted without comment. Consistently poor performance in either spelling or grammar is taken as an indication of poor written communication ability that may detract from your grade.

A grade of A indicates achievement of consistent excellence and distinction throughout the course—that is, conspicuous excellence in all aspects of assignments and discussion in every week.

A grade of B indicates work that meets all course requirements on a level appropriate for graduate academic work.

EP uses a +/- grading system (see “Grading System”, Graduate Programs catalog, p. 10). You should contact your Program Chair for guidance on the breakdown used by your program. The grading scale used in this course is:

Score RangeLetter Grade
100-98= A+
97-94= A
93-90= A−
89-87= B+
86-83= B
82-80= B−
79-70= C

Grades are not curved.

Final grades will be determined from the percentage scores of each component by the following weighting:

Item% of Grade
Discussions14% (1% weekly)
Assignments28% (2% weekly)
Course Project40%
Quizzes (Modules 5, 9, and 13)18% (6% each)

Academic Policies

Deadlines for Adding, Dropping and Withdrawing from Courses

Students may add a course up to one week after the start of the term for that particular course. Students may drop courses according to the drop deadlines outlined in the EP academic calendar (https://ep.jhu.edu/student-services/academic-calendar/). Between the 6th week of the class and prior to the final withdrawal deadline, a student may withdraw from a course with a W on their academic record. A record of the course will remain on the academic record with a W appearing in the grade column to indicate that the student registered and withdrew from the course.

Academic Misconduct Policy

All students are required to read, know, and comply with the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS) / Whiting School of Engineering (WSE) Procedures for Handling Allegations of Misconduct by Full-Time and Part-Time Graduate Students.

This policy prohibits academic misconduct, including but not limited to the following: cheating or facilitating cheating; plagiarism; reuse of assignments; unauthorized collaboration; alteration of graded assignments; and unfair competition. Course materials (old assignments, texts, or examinations, etc.) should not be shared unless authorized by the course instructor. Any questions related to this policy should be directed to EP’s academic integrity officer at ep-academic-integrity@jhu.edu.

Students with Disabilities - Accommodations and Accessibility

Johns Hopkins University values diversity and inclusion. We are committed to providing welcoming, equitable, and accessible educational experiences for all students. Students with disabilities (including those with psychological conditions, medical conditions and temporary disabilities) can request accommodations for this course by providing an Accommodation Letter issued by Student Disability Services (SDS). Please request accommodations for this course as early as possible to provide time for effective communication and arrangements.

For further information or to start the process of requesting accommodations, please contact Student Disability Services at Engineering for Professionals, ep-disability-svcs@jhu.edu.

Student Conduct Code

The fundamental purpose of the JHU regulation of student conduct is to promote and to protect the health, safety, welfare, property, and rights of all members of the University community as well as to promote the orderly operation of the University and to safeguard its property and facilities. As members of the University community, students accept certain responsibilities which support the educational mission and create an environment in which all students are afforded the same opportunity to succeed academically. 

For a full description of the code please visit the following website: https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/policies-guidelines/student-code/

Classroom Climate

JHU is committed to creating a classroom environment that values the diversity of experiences and perspectives that all students bring. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Fostering an inclusive climate is important. Research and experience show that students who interact with peers who are different from themselves learn new things and experience tangible educational outcomes. At no time in this learning process should someone be singled out or treated unequally on the basis of any seen or unseen part of their identity. 
If you have concerns in this course about harassment, discrimination, or any unequal treatment, or if you seek accommodations or resources, please reach out to the course instructor directly. Reporting will never impact your course grade. You may also share concerns with your program chair, the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, or the Office of Institutional Equity. In handling reports, people will protect your privacy as much as possible, but faculty and staff are required to officially report information for some cases (e.g. sexual harassment).

Course Auditing

When a student enrolls in an EP course with “audit” status, the student must reach an understanding with the instructor as to what is required to earn the “audit.” If the student does not meet those expectations, the instructor must notify the EP Registration Team [EP-Registration@exchange.johnshopkins.edu] in order for the student to be retroactively dropped or withdrawn from the course (depending on when the "audit" was requested and in accordance with EP registration deadlines). All lecture content will remain accessible to auditing students, but access to all other course material is left to the discretion of the instructor.