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The International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR, play an important role in the U.S. space enterprise. It is essential for space engineering students (also students in other areas, particularly in aerospace) and specialists to understand and comply with ITAR restrictions.

Per aspera (et statuta) ad astra!    Through difficulties (and regulations) to the stars!

Many research and development programs in space exploration, space technology, space applications, and rocketry are controlled by special government export control regulations, including ITAR. (The regulations apply to many other areas of engineering, especially in defense-related fields.)

The USC program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering (MS ASTE) is among largest in the United States focused on space engineering and space technology. Consequently, compliance with ITAR regulations is important to our students. In addition, many our graduates will work in the ITAR-controlled environment.

ITAR, Department of State

These national security regulations will remain in place for a foreseeable future. It is essential to understand and comply with them.

USC Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering (MS ASTE)

About MS ASTE: article in Acta Astronautica, 2015; IAC 2018; AIAA 2007

International students in MS ASTE —  FAQ

USC Astronautics organized a special lecture (March 29, 2017) on export control regulations (ITAR, etc.), with the emphasis on their application in the university environment.

It’s Fundamental! Managing Export Controls at USC

Daniel Shapiro, Director, Research Compliance, USC

Direct link to the lecture video (1 hour) on YouTube is

Presentation slides can be downloaded as pdf.

ITAR and USC program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering (MS ASTE)

The following is an excerpt from an article in Acta Astronautica, 2015, pp. 101, 102

All university classes [at USC], including in astronautics, are open to students without restrictions of their nationality. Outside coursework, participation in research projects funded by external government agencies and industry may have ITAR restrictions, however, requiring involved students to be U.S. persons (in the language of the regulations). In addition, it is harder, but not impossible, for international students to find internships and later, after graduation, employment.

In spite of the ITAR effect, the [USC] M.S. ASTE program awarded degrees to students from at least 16 countries since the formation of the separate department in 2004. These countries included (alphabetically): Canada, China (both the People's Republic of China and Republic of China, Taiwan), Columbia, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Malawi, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, South Korea (Republic of Korea), Spain, and Sweden. Many students continued studies to pursue their Ph.D.s, either at USC or elsewhere, after earning their Master's degrees. To the best of my knowledge, one European student returned to his home country after graduation where he received a prestigious post-doctoral fellowship. In addition a couple students pursued their degrees through fellowships supported by their governments and were obliged to go back. All other graduated international students stayed in the United States.

ITAR effectively limits foreign student participation in civilian commercial projects and in research and development in some areas of space science and space technology. Many industrial leaders and university administrators have been arguing for some time in favor of relaxation of these export control restrictions viewed as counterproductive and for facilitating the path for graduating foreign nationals to obtain permanent residency status and to stay in the United States. The current ITAR arrangements emerged, in part, as a result of the unanimous bipartisan report ("Cox Report") on technology export incidents by the select committee of the U.S. Congress [18]. Continuing violations of ITAR by major defense and aerospace companies [1] weaken such arguments and make it harder for Congress to enact consequential changes in the law. Academe also contributed to violations with one university professor convicted to a jail term in 2009. These realities, often ignored rather than addressed head-on by advocates of relaxation, make the meaningful ITAR reform even more complex and politically controversial.

ITAR and industry and academia

The following is an excerpt from an AIAA paper (2007) AIAA 2007-6042, pp. 6, 7

Not only are graduating foreign nationals largely ineligible for defense contractor employment and the military services, but the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) effectively limit their participation in civilian commercial projects. Foreign students are also excluded from research and development in many areas of space science and space technology. Many industrial leaders and university administrators have been arguing for relaxation of ITAR restrictions and for facilitating the path for graduating foreign nationals to obtain permanent residency status and stay in the United States permanently. It does not make much economic sense to educate foreign students and then send them back to their home countries which sometimes are openly hostile to the values of the free world and to the United States. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to realize that such practice helps those adversarial states in building capabilities in the areas of critical importance to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness.

The issue is a complex one, however. During last several years, major federal civil penalties were assessed for ITAR-related and other similar violations [20] to a number of major space and defense contractors, including Space Systems Loral, Inc. ($14.0M in 2002); Hughes Electronics Corp and Boeing Satellite Systems ($12.0M in 2003); EDO Corporation ($3.0M in 2004); ITT Corporation ($3.0M in 2004); General Motors Corporation ($8.0M in 2004); Orbit Advanced Technologies Inc. ($0.5M in 2005); The Boeing Company ($15.0M in 2006); Goodrich Corporation ($1.25M in 2006); and L-3 Communications ($2.0M in 2006). In March of 2007, ITT pleaded guilty and was fined $100M for transfer of night vision technology to the People's Republic of China. The continuing ITAR violations will certainly weaken arguments for relaxing ITAR restrictions and the recent ITT case in particular may actually lead to strengthening their enforcement.

Accommodating ITAR-restricted research and development programs on campuses, with numerous foreign students and open class enrollments, presents a challenge to university administrators. Supporting ITAR-restricted programs is especially important for maintaining excellence in the areas of space science and space technology. Accommodating classified research in space technology poses even a greater challenge to universities. While some faculty and administrators, particularly from disciplines other than science and engineering, may argue against classified work, restrictions on classified research infringe on academic freedom. Faculty members who are willing, capable, and qualified for such work should be given the opportunity to conduct it.

Science and Engineering Books on Astronautics, Rocketry, and Space Technology

Books on History of Astronautics, Rocketry, and Space

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