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Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering

MS ASTE

Frequently Asked Questions FAQ



USC program  Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering – update (pdf)
usc ms aste update


Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering (MS ASTE)

Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering (MS ASTE)

MS ASTE Overview

MS ASTE Statistics

MS ASTE History, Rationale, Focus, Structure

Alumni, Students, Faculty, and Friends of USC Astronautics on LinkedIn

MS ASTE Contacts


The Astronautical Engineering Department (ASTE) of the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California offers this degree program, Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering, as part of a comprehensive set of degrees (BS, BS Minor, MS, Engineer, PhD, and Graduate Certificate) in astronautical engineering.

Information about program admission, curriculum, faculty, etc. is at MS ASTE web site

MS ASTE Schedule of Courses

USC Master of Science in Astronatical Engineering: Overview (video, 53 min)

USC program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering – news and update (pdf)

about USC MS ASTE in Acta Astronautica, v. 103, pp. 92-104, 2014 (pdf)  –  gruntman acta astronatica 2014

Satellite Launch by North Korea in 2012 (video 18 min)    North Korea space launch 2012


The true story ... Now it can be told    

MS ASTE = Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering
ASTE = Department of Astronautical Engineering
DEN = VSOE's Distance Edication Network (DEN at Viterbi)
GAPP = VSOE's Office of Graduate and Professional Programs
VSOE = USC's Viterbi School of Engineering
USC = University of Southern California

Astronautical, aeronautical, and aerospace engineeirng
degree programs in the United States


Frequently Asked Questions FAQ

MS ASTE schedule of courses


Space engineering program at USC

Master's Degree students

Master's Degree for students residing outside California

Master's Degree through Distance Education

Full-time on campus students

Students working full time

"Nontraditional" students

Students abroad

Jobs for graduates

Other degrees in Astronautical Engineering

Bachelor of Science in Astronautical Engineering

Engineer in Astronautical Engineering

PhD in Astronautical Engineering

Coursework, specializations, schedules

Required coursework

Areas of specialization (concentration)

Coursework for areas of specialization (concentration)

Schedule of courses

Master's Thesis

Webcasts of courses

Webcasts through Distance Education Network

PC vs Mac

Admission to the program

Admission requirements

Limited Student status

Financial aid

Chances to be admitted to the program MS ASTE

Chances to receive TA (Teaching Assistant) or Research Assistant (RA)

BS degree not in astronautical engineering

BS degree in computer science

Transfer from other programs

Transfer from aerospace engineering program

Undergraduate GPA lower than 3.0

Weak credentials

Do not have GRE scores yet

Beginning studies before being formally admitted to the program

Beginning studies before selecting the degree to pursue

Limited enrollment

Number of courses for limited-status students

Course load

Course load for students working full time

Courses  –  waivers, electives, transfers, attendance, etc.

Attending a class meeting on campus by a DEN student

Waiver of the required course

Course credit when transferring to MS ASTE from other USC programs

Course credit when transferring to MS ASTE from other institutions

Choice of technical elective courses

Approval of technical elective courses

Selection of technical elective courses

Courses at summer session (camp) of International Space University (ISU)

International students

Admission of international students to MS in ASTE

Financial aid to international students to MS in ASTE

Coursework and projects open to international students

Job prospects in the United States for foreign students after graduation


Sputnik    Explorer    Vanguard    Astronautics    Missile defense    Baikonur Tyuratam    Rocket equation

Recommended science and engineering books on astronautics, spacecraft, rocketry, and space technology
Books, textbooks, monographs, tutorials

Recommended books on history of astronautics, rocketry, spaceflight, and space technology


Space engineering program at USC

Space engineering programs are usually part of aerospace engineering departments in American universities. At USC, the AME's aerospace program focuses on aeronautical and fluid mechanics parts of aerospace, while all space engineering is in a separate academic department, the Astronautical Engineering Department (ASTE).

Why is this?

A space-focused engineering program (aerospace engineering with specialization in astronautics and space engineering) was established in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering (VSOE) in 1990s. The Master's space program grew spectacularly, focusing on serving educational needs of the space industry and government (NASA, Air Force, IC, etc.) space research, development, and operational centers. The program became one of the largest in the United States.

In 2004, in order to position the Viterbi School of Engineering to take full advantage of rapidly growing opportunities in space, then Dean of Engineering (now USC President) Prof. Max Nikias established a new Astronautics and Space Technology Division (ASTD). ASTD was an independent academic unit within VSOE and it functioned as a regular academic department. Since 2010, it is the Department of Astronautical Engineering (ASTE).

For more details on the history, rationale, structure, and the focus of the USC program in astronatical engineering, please see the AIAA paper AIAA-2007-6042 and a journal article in Acta Astronautica, 2014.

The USC program in astronautics and space technology is a unique, and perhaps the largest, pure-space-focused engineering program (on the Master's level) in the United States.

At this time, Astronautics faculty suggests the following areas of concentration:

Spacecraft propulsion
Spacecraft dynamics
Space systems design
Spacecraft systems
Space applications


Master's Degree for students residing outside California.

I do not live in the Los Angeles area. In fact I reside outside California. Can I earn the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering?

Yes, you can earn the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering online through VSOE's Distance Education Network . In fact, majority of Astronautics students today enroll in the program as online students. Our students hail from many states of the United States. Some our students who are on active duty are stationed abroad. See the map on the right.


Master's Degree through Distance Education

Can I earn the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering taking classes exclusively online through the Distance Education Network?

Absolutely. All required Astronautics required courses and most core elective courses are available online through webcasting by VSOE's Distance Education Network. In fact, majority of Astronautics students today enroll in the program as online students. As a matter of policy, VSOE treats all students – on-campus and online – equally, with identical requirements to the degrees and standards in student admission, coursework, and in evaluating student performance. Although online students watch their lectures remotely from the comfort of their home or office, they are held to the same high standards as all USC VSOE students and are expected to show the same dedication toward their education. This policy is an effective mechanism of quality control.

See MS ASTE at DEN


Full-time on campus students

Can I earn the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering attending classes as a full-time on-campus student?

Certainly. About 30–40% of our students pursue their Master's degrees in Astronautical Engineering as full-time on-campus students. (The remaining 60–70% of the students are employed by the space industry and government space research, development, and operational centers and take their classes online through DEN.)

A full-time graduate student not engaged in research could usually complete the degree in three semesters. Some full-time graduate students also participate in research projects and complete the degree requirements in four semesters.

Some full-time graduate students obtain internships or part-time jobs in the local space establishments during their studies. As a result, they may reduce their courseload. Consequently, it takes more time for them to earn the MS ASTE degrees while working.


Students working full-time

I work full time. Can I earn the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering through the Distance Education Network while working full-time?

Yes. The Master of Science program in Astronautical Engineering particualrly serves students who work full-time while earning their degrees. These students (about 60–70% of the total number) are employed by the space industry and government space research and development centers and take their classes through DEN. The remaining 30–40% of our students are full-time on-campus students.

Most of the students working full time take one or occasionally two courses every semester. The students are highly motivated and their workload at the main job determines the possible course load. Consequently, their typical time of studies ranges from two and half to five years. Many online education students today earn their degree without ever visiting the campus.

Usually Astronautics students desire to get in-depth knowledge in the technical area of their present job. There is another large category of students, however, who concentrate on the areas of technology in which they would like to transfer to in their companies. Specializing (selecting coursework) in the desired areas often facilitates such internal moves. Such structure of the program attracts many students.

The statistics of student enrollment in the program flagship course ASTE 520 Spacecraft Systems Design shows that each year students in this class hail from 10 to 14 states within the United States. Excellent technical capabilities and organization of the Distance Education Network make possible for students from everywhere in the United States to conveniently pursue the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering.

See MS ASTE at DEN


Students serving in the military

I am an Air Force (Navy, Army, Marines, Coast Guard, IC) officer (or civilian) stationed in ... . Can I earn the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering online through the Distance Education Network?

Certainly. In fact, we always have students who serve in the armed forces. While some of them are deployed in "obvious" national-security-space-related units, such as Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at the Los Angeles Air Force Base, others serve in sometimes unrelated-to-space units and capacities (pilots, doctors, logistics, etc). Many officers consider their carrer options after they leave the armed forces and choose astronautical engineering as an area where they would like to work and build their civilian careers.

We also have students stationed overseas. Our students were deployed, during their studies, in England, Greenland, Kwajalein, Iraq, Guantanamo, Bahrain, and many other places.

Accessibility of DEN webcasting is especially advantageous for students who are periodically transferred to various locations. Students can also interrupt their studies when temporarily deployed to the areas with limited broadband connection or other restrictions.

Special care and attention are required for planning for midterm and final exams in classes and their dates are fixed.

See MS ASTE at DEN


"Nontraditional" students

I am what one would call a "non-traditional" perspective student. I work in a space company and I am 40+ years old ... Or, my background was in management engineering projects during the last ten years ... Or, my major and work are mathematics related ... Or, I am an airline pilot ... Or, I am a medical doctor ... Or, I have been working on space policies but never had formal space education ... Or, I am a software entrepreneur ... Or, I am a successful biomedical entrepreneur and plan one day to go to space as a tourist ... ... ... Will I fit into the program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering and be able to earn the degree?

Your case is not unique, though it is special. Our program is large and we always have several students who are in their forties (and occasionally even in fifties), or who were out of school for 10+ or 20+ years, who were mainly involved in managing engineering projects rather than doing engineering in the trenches, etc. We often have a few students with backgrounds outside engineering or physical and chemical sciences or astronomy and mathematics, such as computer science entrepreneurs, biomedical scientists, and even practicing medical doctors. All such students are highly motivated, mature, and successful. You will most likely succeed with motivation and hard work.

If your edcuational background is not in engineering or phjysics, then such a highly motivated student should take first undergraduate courses in physics, mathematics, and chemistry required for all our undergraduate students pursuing engineering degrees. Very often, such courses can be coveniently taken in local community colleges. The decision on admission to the program is based on the totality of the record.


Student abroad

I reside in Germany (Australia, ....). Can I earn the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering online through the Distance Education Network while living outside the United States?

We receive many such requests. It is usually possible for students in Canada or for students elsewhere in the world who work for major U.S. companies.

There are challenges however for arrangements for students in many countries. Please check with the Distance Education Network (DEN) that evaluates such requests. In the past DEN experimented with such arrangements, then discontinued it, then experimented again. Today, there are a few new arrangements in specific cases. So, please check with DEN  – this is a dynamic area.

See MS ASTE at DEN


Jobs for graduates

Where do program graduates work? What are my chances of getting the job?

Most of our graduates eaither alsready work in the space industry, government space research and development centers, and in space operations or will find jobs in such establishments..

We cannot guarantee you a job after graduation. However, you may wish to consider the following: most our (online) students already work full time in the American space enterprise, and they have a choice of which schools to attend and which degrees to pursue. They have chosen USC's program in Astronautical Engineering, MS ASTE. The program grew spectacularly during the last fifteen years (see the article in Acta Astronautica and program statistics). So, our enrollment dynamics clearly indicates that the degree, Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering, meets important and real needs of the space industry and government space R&D and operational centers.


Recommended science and engineering books on astronautics, spacecraft, rocketry, and space technology
Books, textbooks, monographs, tutorials

Recommended books on history of astronautics, rocketry, spaceflight, and space technology


Bachelor of Science in Astronautical Engineering

Does ASTE offer the Bachelor of Science degree in Astronautical Engineering?

Yes. ASTE offers a full set of degrees –  Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science Minor, Master of Science, Engineer, PhD, and Graduate Certificate  – in Astronautical Engineering. For more information, please contact ASTE Student Advisers and ASTE Faculty Advisers of the program of interest.


Engineer in Astronautical Engineering

Does ASTE offer the Engineer degree in Astronautical Engineering?

Yes. ASTE offers a full set of degrees –  Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science Minor, Master of Science, Engineer, PhD, and Graduate Certificate  – in Astronautical Engineering. For more information, please contact ASTE Student Advisers and ASTE Faculty Advisers of the program of interest.


PhD in Astronatical Engineering

Does ASTE offer the PhD degree in Astronautical Engineering?

Yes. ASTE offers a full set of degrees –  Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science Minor, Master of Science, Engineer, PhD, and Graduate Certificate  – in Astronautical Engineering. For more information, please contact ASTE Student Advisers and ASTE Faculty Advisers of the program of interest.


Required coursework

What is the required coursework for the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering MS ASTE?

Students are required to take the total of 9 courses (27 units of coursework; a typical course is 3 units).

1) Four (4) required astronautics courses (12 units), all available through DEN

ASTE 520 Spacecraft Systems Design
ASTE 470 Spacecraft Propulsion
ASTE 535 Space Environment and Spacecraft Interactions
ASTE 580 Orbital Mechanics I

ASTE 520 is also highly popular among students pursuing other (than Astronautics) engineering degrees who intend to work in the space/defense industry and/or government space research and development centers. About 1200 graduate students took this course during the last twelve years.

2) Three (3) core elective astronautics courses (9 units) from the list of astronautics core courses. The current list of core electives (almost all courses are offered through DEN) includes

ASTE 501ab Physical Gas Dynamics
ASTE 523 Design of Low Cost Space Missions
ASTE 527 Space Studio Architecting
ASTE 529 Safety of Space Systems and Space Missions
ASTE 552 Spacecraft Thermal Control
ASTE 553 Systems for Remote Sensing from Space
ASTE 554 Spacecraft Sensors
ASTE 556 Spacecraft Structural Dynamics
ASTE 557 Spacecraft Structural Strength and Materials
ASTE 570 Liquid Rocket Propulsion
ASTE 572 Advanced Spacecraft Propulsion
ASTE 581 Orbital Mechanics II
ASTE 583 Space Navigation Principles and Practice
ASTE 584 Spacecraft Power Systems
ASTE 585 Spacecraft Attitude Control
ASTE 586 Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics

The following other astronautics courses could be approved as core electives  –  please contact MS ASTE Faculty Adviser.

ASTE 505ab Plasma Dynamics
ASTE 524 Human Spaceflight
ASTE 574 Space Launch Vehicle Design
ASTE 589 Solar System Navigation

3) Two (2) technical elective courses (6 units)

Most students choose technical electives from the list of core technical elective courses. Sometimes student's educational objectives require technical elective courses offered by other engineering departments or by science (e.g., physics) departments. We usually approve practically all graduate science and engineering courses as technical electives toward MS ASTE. (A few exceptions include not-purely-technical courses such as those focused on management, economics, team communications, etc.). An approval of a technical elective outside astronautics is straightforward – email your request to the MS ASTE faculty adviser.

See the latest news and update on MS ASTE and the updated MS ASTE course schedule.


Areas of concentration

Are there suggested areas of specialization (concentration)? Do I have to identify my area of concentration?

Presently, Astronautics faculty suggests the following areas of concentration:

Spacecraft propulsion
Spacecraft dynamics
Space systems design
Spacecraft systems
Space applications

These five tracks, or areas of specialization (concentration), within the program do not appear in transcripts or have separate post-codes, and they are used for advising students on different pathways to the degrees that meet their educational objectives. These tracks also help to describe the program to perspective students.

A student does not have to identify the area of specialization (concentration) and can select the courses outside of the suggested tracks.


Coursework for areas of concentration

What are the coursework for suggested areas of specialization (concentration)?

The listed below coursework is in addition the required courses. Presently, Astronautics faculty suggests the following areas of concentration:

Spacecraft propulsion

Choose two core electives from

ASTE 501ab Physical Gas Dynamics
ASTE 570 Liquid Rocket Propulsion
ASTE 572 Advanced Spacecraft Propulsion
ASTE 584 Spacecraft Power Systems

Spacecraft dynamics

Choose two core electives from

ASTE 556 Spacecraft Structural Dynamics
ASTE 557 Spacecraft Structural Strength and Materials
ASTE 581 Orbital Mechanics II
ASTE 583 Space Navigation: Principles and Practice
ASTE 585 Spacecraft Attitude Control
ASTE 586 Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics

Space system design

Choose two core electives from

ASTE 523 Design of Low Cost Space Missions
ASTE 527 Space Studio Architecting
ASTE 529 Safety of Space Systems and Space Missions
ASTE 557 Spacecraft Structural Strength and Materials

Spacecraft systems

Choose two core electives from

ASTE 552 Spacecraft Thermal Control
ASTE 553 Systems for Remote Sensing from Space
ASTE 554 Spacecraft Sensors
ASTE 557 Spacecraft Structural Materials
ASTE 584 Spacecraft Power Systems

Space applications

Choose two core electives from

ASTE 527 Space Studio Architecting
ASTE 553 Systems for Remote Sensing from Space
ASTE 554 Spacecraft Sensors


Schedule of courses

What is the schedule of astronautics courses?

ASTE-offered courses cover a wide range of topics in astronautics and space technology. DEN webcasts most of the courses, although a few courses are on-campus only. All required courses are offered every year or even twice a year. Some elective courses are also offred every year. Many highly specialized courses are offered every other year. The latter arrangement allows us to use the same number of precious DEN slots for a larger number of available courses. Since it takes about four years for most full-time-working students to complete their studies, careful planning of their coursework usually allows students to take all the desired courses.

Always check with ASTE Student Adviser for updated schedules of courses you plan to take.

Preliminary schedule of courses in astronautical engineering for MS ASTE.

The latest MS ASTE program update and news.


Thesis

Is the Master's thesis required?

No, we do no not require the thesis to achieve MS ASTE. However, a student has an option of writing a thesis. Please contact the MS ASTE Faculty Adviser to discuss your options in advance. Four (4) units of coursework are credited for the thesis. This is slightly more than one course but requires a significantly larger effort. Consequently, few students choose to pursue the thesis. One can augment the thesis credit by additionally taking 1–3 units of directed research.


videos on orbital mechanics and space mission design    Videos – satellite orbits    list of videos on satellite orbits

More than 1,000,000 views – yes, >10^6 – on YouTube alone from 2007 to 2016

Some selected videos on satellite orbits

GPS constellation Geostationary GEO) orbit Prograde and retrograde orbits Molniya orbit Effect of solar radiation on satellite orbits Molniya communications relay


Webcasts through Distance Education Network

How many times can I watch webcasts of course lectures?

After a course lecture is delivered, it stays on the university server for the duration of the entire semester. All students enrolled in class  – on-campus and remote online students – have access to lecture webcasts. In fact, ll on-campus students are required to establish access to the class meterials on DEN, as this website supports class for all students. You can watch the lectures as many times as you need.


PC vs Mac

Should I use PC or Mac for watching lecture webcasts?

The Distance Education Network (DEN) streams course videos using Microsoft Windows media encoders and servers. While streaming windows media files are supported by both the latest Mac and PC operating systems, using a Windows based system will usually provide a better experience. Additionally, DEN has recently added video download capabilities using Microsoft’s Digital Rights Management supporting Windows operating systems. Please check the Distance Education Network for the professional advice.


Admission requirements

What are the admission requirements to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering?

The admission to MS ASTE is based on the totality of applicant's record which includes GPA, GRE, and two letters of recommendation.

Required items:

Application – send to Office of Grad. and Int'l Admission
Official Transcript(s – send to Office of Grad. and Int'l Admission
General Record Exam (GRE) – send to Office of Grad. and Int'l Admission
TOEFL (international students only) – send to Office of Grad. and Int’l Admission
Recommendation Letters – send to Office of Grad. and Int'l Admission

Application

All applications should be submitted on-line at http://www.usc.edu/admission/graduate/apply/

Official Transcript(s)

The University requires official transcripts from the accredited colleges or universities the applicant has attended. The MS Degree Program in Astronautical Engineering (Code ASTE) requires a minimum GPA of 3.0.

General Record Exam (GRE)

The Department of Astronautical Engineering requires the general GRE. The GRE must be taken within five years of the application date. USC's ETS code is 4852. Applicants taking the GRE should use this code to ensure official submission of test scores.

TOEFL (International Students only)

Students whose native language is not English must make every effort to acquire English proficiency before beginning graduate study at USC.

Test dates: Please sign up online at the ALI website: http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/ALI/ISE.html

Some students are exempt form taking the International Student Exam (ISE) – please check with ASTE Student Adviser .

Recommendation Letters

Please provide two professional letters of reference (former instructors, supervisors, professional colleagues, advisors, etc.) to be filed through the on-line application process.

Mailing addresses, if needed

Office of Graduate and International Admission
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0911

Department of Astronautical Engineering
ASTE Graduate Program
University of Southern California
854 W. Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1192

Application deadlines

Please check with ASTE Student Adviser

Please note that verification and processing of materials by the Office of Graduate and International Admission may take four to six weeks.


Limited Student status

I plan to apply to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering. The application process takes time and the deadline has been passed for the forthcoming semester. Is there a way for me to begin studies before being formally admitted to the program?

Yes, one can begin studies as a limited student before being formally admitted to the program. Actually, this is a common situation for many our students, particularly recent graduates who have been hired to their first jobs and eager to continue their education. You need to apply for enrollment as a limited status student through the Viterbi School's Distance Education Network DEN. After the application is processed, DEN will allow you to enroll in the classes. Then you can apply for formal admission to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering while already taking courses. Up to three (3) courses taken as a limited status student will be later credited toward your Master's degree when you are formally admitted to the program. It is a win-win situation.

For enrollment as a limited student DEN requires that you have a BS degree in science or engineering with a GPA of at least 3.0 from a regionally accredited university. There will be a time limit for you to complete your GRE tests and apply for admission to the program.


Financial aid

What financial aid is available for students?

Two common types of the financial aid to students are teaching assistantships (TAs) and research assistantships (RAs).

TAships are awarded by academic departments and involve duties in support of classes. Chair of ASTE makes the awards of TAships based on the applicant's record and programmatic needs of the Department. You must apply for financial aid (TA) to be considered for TA. Check with ASTE Student Advisor for the deadlines. TA awards are usually made to full-time on-campus students. The VSOE policy requires making TA awards to students pursuing PhD degrees. The department chairman can also hire students pursuing various degrees as graders and student workers to support administartive tasks.

RAships are awarded by individual faculty members conducting R&D work supported by their grants and contracts. You need to directly contact individual faculty members to inquire whether they are looking for Research Assistants. The VSOE policy requires RA awards to be made to students pursuing PhD degrees. Faculty can also hire students pursuing various degrees on hourly basis.


Chances to be admitted to the MS ASTE program

What are my chances to be admitted to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering?

The admission to MS ASTE is based on the totality of applicant's record which includes GPA, GRE, and two recommendation letters. We cannot and do not assess the chances of applicants to be admitted to the program. One must submit the application.


Chances to receive TA (Teaching Assistant) or Research Assistant (RA)

What are my chances to Teaching Assistantship (TA) or Research Assistantship (RA)?

Two common types of the financial aid to students are teaching assistantships (TAs) and research assistantships (RAs). TAships are awarded by academic departments and involve duties in support of classes. Chair of ASTE makes the awards of TAships based on the applicant's record and programmatic needs of ASTE. You must apply for financial aid (TA) to be considered for TA. Check with ASTE Student Adviser for the deadlines.

We cannot and do not assess the chances of applicants to be awarded TAships. One has to submit the application.

RAships are awarded by individual faculty members conducting R&D work supported by their grants and contracts. You need to directly contact individual faculty members to inquire whether they are looking for Research Assistants.


BS degree not in astronautical engineering

My Bachelor of Science degree is not in astronautical engineering. Can I apply for admission to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering?

The admission requirement to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering is a Bachelor of Science degree in science or engineering. If your degree is in physics, chemistry, astronomy, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, etc., then you are eligible for admission to the program. A degree in computer science (CS) is an exception – see below.


BS degree in computer science

My Bachelor of Science degree is in computer science. Can I apply for admission to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering?

Pursuing the degree of Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering requires background that includes typical undergraduate courses in physics, mathematics, and chemistry. If you took such courses then you may be admitted to the program. The decision to admit to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering is based on the totality of the applicant's record. If your coursework provides the required physics and mathematics background (typical for a graduate in science or engineering) then you may be admitted to the program.


Transfer from other programs

I am currently enrolled in an engineering Master's program other than Astronautical Engineering. I want to transfer to the program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering. What should I do?

The degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering, Code ASTE, is offered by the Department of Astronautical Engineering of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Transfer Process – Engineering Students

Transfer to the program in Astronautical Engineering, Code ASTE, requires an engineering student to fill out a simple form – please contact ASTE Student Adviser for guidance.

Transfer Process – Non-Engineering Students

Transfer to a program in Astronautical Engineering, Code ASTE, requires a non-engineering student to file the USC application for graduate admission to the program in Astronautical Engineering. Processing of the application does not require re-submission of supporting documents (e.g., transcripts) that have been previously submitted to USC. Please contact ASTE Student Adviser for guidance.

Restrictions

Transfer to the program in Astronautical Engineering, Code ASTE, cannot be requested during the first semester of student studies at USC. However, we strongly recommend to discuss your interest with the ASTE Student Adviser as early as possible to finalize your plans.


Transfer from aerospace engineering program

My passion is space exploration and technology. I recently enrolled in the VSOE MS program in Aerospace Engineering. Soon, I have discovered that all astronautics, space technology, and space enginering are in the ASTE Department. What should I do?

The aerospace program in the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering (AME) Department focuses on aeronautical and fluid mechanics parts of aerospace. All space programs are in the VSOE's Astronautical Engineering Department (ASTE).

ASTE offers a full set of degrees (BS, BS Minor, MS, Engineer, PhD, and Graduate Certificate) in Astronautical Engineering, Code ASTE.

Transfer Process
Transfer to a program in Astronautical Engineering, Code ASTE, from AME's program in Aerospace Engineering requires the student to fill out a simple form – pleasse contact
ASTE Student Adviser for guidance.


Sputnik    Explorer    Vanguard    Astronautics    Missile defense    Baikonur Tyuratam    Rocket equation


Undergraduate GPA lower than 3.0

My undergraduate GPA is lower than the required 3.0 for a graduate program at USC. Astronautics is my passion and I work (want to work) in the space industry or a government space research and development center. Is there any way that I can be admitted to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering?

The decision to admit to the program the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering is made based on the totality of the applicant’s record, including GPA, GRE, and recommendation letters. The only way to find out whether you can be admitted to the program is to apply for admission. We cannot and do not assess the chances of admission without evaluating the full application. Obviously, high scores on GRE and strong letters of recommendation become especially important in case of low GPA.

We may grant conditional admission. Conditionally admitted students must satisfy the admission conditions (typically GPA higher than 3.0) during the first semester of studies.


Weak credentials

My credentials (GPA, degree, letters of recommendation, etc) are not strong. Can I enroll as a limited student to prove that I will successfully complete the MS ASTE program?

We appreciate that you may be successful in our graduate program, however eligibility for Limited enrollment absolutely requires indication of admission based on undergraduate performance. Limited enrollment is to provide strong candidates for admission the opportunity to get started, without having to wait for the next admissions cycle. Strong candidacy is indicated by a B.S. in engineering, math or science from a regionally-accredited institution with a GPA of 3.00 or above. DEN does not have the authority to evaluate beyond those three criteria.

Students who do not meet these standards must apply for regular admission. This provides the applicant the opportunity to submit letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose in order to give a complete picture that also includes transcripts and GRE scores. This information will be evaluated by admissions officers and faculty who can best determine a student's qualification. The process can only be undertaken if a student formally applies.


Do not have GRE scores yet

My GPA is OK (>3.0) but I have not passed the GRE yet. Is there any way that I can begin studies towards the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering while preparing for and taking my GRE tests?

There is a good news for you. While you cannot be admitted to the program MS ASTE without the GRE, you can begin taking classes on a conditional basis while preparing for and taking the GRE. You need to apply to DEN for enrollment as a limited student. After your limited-student application is processed, DEN will allow you to enroll in the classes. Then you can apply for formal admission to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering while already taking courses. Up to three (3) courses taken as a limited status student will be later credited toward your Master's degree when you are formally admitted to the program. It is a win-win situation.

Enrollment as a limited student DEN requires that you have a BS degree in science or engineering with a GPA of at least 3.0 from a regionally accredited university. There will be a time limit for you to complete your GRE tests and apply for admission to the program.

Note that the condition of GPA at least 3.0 is not negotiable. If your GPA is less than 3.0, you cannot be admitted as a limited student. Your only option is to apply for admission to the program MS ASTE, providing GRE scores and letters of recommendation.


Beginning studies before being formally admitted to the program

I plan to apply to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering. The application process takes time and the deadline has been passed for the forthcoming semester. Is there a way for me to begin studies before being formally admitted to the program?

Yes, you can begin studies as a limited student before being formally admitted to the program. Actually, this is a common situation for many our students, particularly recent graduates who have been hired to their first jobs and eager to continue their education. You need to apply for enrollment as a limited status student through the Viterbi School's Distance Education Network DEN. After the application is processed, DEN will allow you to enroll in the classes. Then you can apply for formal admission to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering while already taking courses. Up to three (3) courses taken as a limited status student will be later credited toward your Master's degree when you are formally admitted to the program. It is a win-win situation.

For enrollment as a limited student DEN requires that you have a BS degree in science or engineering with a GPA of at least 3.0 from a regionally accredited university. There will be a time limit for you to complete your GRE tests and apply for admission to the program.


Beginning studies before selecting the degree to pursue

I would like to pursue the Master of Science degree in engineering but I have not decided on the area of studies yet. I like the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering but I am not really sure that this is my area. Is there a way to begin studies without being formally admitted to the program in order to better determine my educational objectives?

Yes, you can begin studies before being formally admitted to the program.

You need to apply for enrollment as a limited status student through the Viterbi School’s Distance Education Network DEN. After the application is processed, DEN will allow you to enroll in the classes. Then you can apply for formal admission to the degree program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering while already taking courses. Up to three (3) courses taken as a limited status student will be later credited toward your Master's degree when you are formally admitted to the program. It is a win-win situation. You can decide while taking courses on the area where you want to pursue your degree.

For enrollment as a limited student DEN requires that you have a BS degree in science or engineering with a GPA of at least 3.0 from a regionally accredited university. There will be a time limit for you to complete your GRE tests and apply for admission to the program.


Limited enrollment

What is limited enrollment? Who can enroll as a limited student?

Limited enrollment is to provide strong candidates for admission the opportunity to get started, without having to wait for the next admissions cycle. Strong candidacy is indicated by a B.S. in engineering, math or science from a regionally-accredited institution with a GPA of 3.00 or above. DEN does not have the authority to evaluate beyond those criteria.

Students who do not meet these standards must apply for admission. This provides the applicant the opportunity to submit letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose in order to give a complete picture that also includes transcripts and GRE scores. This information will be evaluated by admissions officers and faculty who can best determine a student's qualification. The process can only be undertaken if a student formally applies.


Number of courses for limited-status students

How many courses can I take as a limited status student?

Limited-status students can take up to three (3) courses. These courses will be credited, after formal admission to the program, toward the Master's degree in Astronautical Engineering (MS ASTE).


Course load for students working full time

I am a student pursuing the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering. I work full time and my job is very demanding. How many classes should I take every semester? How many courses can I take as a limited status student?

Possible course load is very, very individual. My usual advice is to start your studies by enrolling in one course. You will see how this course load is compatible with your job responsibilities. If you see that you can handle more than one course, then you can enroll in two courses next semester. We have seen cases when excellent students, with heavy job responsibilities, enrolled in too many classes and their grades suffered.


Attending a class meeting on campus by a DEN student

I am a student pursuing the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering though DEN. I work in the Greater Los Angeles area. I wonder whether it would be possible for me to occasionally attend a live class on campus?

Absolutely, you are most welcome to attend live class meetings. Actually, some of our distance student do exactly that. In addition, students from far away places occasionally travel to Los Angeles on business and they also stop by. Please make sure to introduce yourself to the instructor. It is always a pleasure to meet a student whom you know only by name.


Waiver of the required course

During my undergraduate studies I took a course similar to (significantly overlapping with) the required course for MS ASTE. Can I have this course requirement waived? (The course must be similar in content and at the same level.)

Yes, you can. Actually, we strongly suggest you do exactly that. We have four required courses, Spacecraft Systems Design ASTE 520; Spacecraft Propulsion ASTE 470; Space Environment and Space Interactions ASTE 535; Orbital Mechanics I ASTE 580. So your course must be either a senior-level undergraduate course or a graduate course.

First, you need to send an email to the MS ASTE Program Faculty Adviser (with a copy to ASTE Student Advisor) stating (1) your name and that you pursue MS ASTE; (2) identify the course you would like to waive; (3) explain which similar coursework during your graduate studies you took. Please provide (3a) course name and number and the course level (graduate, undergraduate); (3b) when you took this course and the grade you received; (3c) course instructor; (3d) brief course description or syllabus as in the catalog; (3e) title(s) and author(s) of the course required textbook(s); (3f) whether you had homework assignments; course projects, and exams in the course.

The MS ASTE Program Faculty Advisor will evaluate your request and make a decision whether to grant your request. He may request an instructor teaching the required course (requested to be waived) to help in evaluation of your request. The Faculty Adviser will email you back the decision which must be added to your file in ASTE by Student Adviser. It is essential to have the decision on file for your graduation.

Note that the waiver of the required course does not diminish the number of course units required for the MS ASTE degree. You will need to take an additional technical elective instead of the waived required course.


Course credit when transferring to MS ASTE from other USC programs

I was originally working on Master's degree in electrical (industrial, aerospace, mechanical, ....) engineering. I want to switch to the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering. Can any of my electrical (industrial, aerospace, physics, electrical, mechanical, ...) courses that I have taken be credited toward my degree in Astronautical Engineering?

Yes, certainly. The coursework for MS ASTE is: 4 required courses (ASTE 520; ASTE 470; ASTE 535; ASTE 580); 3 core elective astronautics courses and 2 technical electives. The courses that you have taken pursuing another engineering degree can be used as technical electives. We usually approve most (with a few exceptions) graduate engineering and hard science courses. Therefore, the coursework that you have already taken in pursuit of Master's degree in electrical (industrial, aerospace, physics, electrical, mechanical, ...) engineering will most likely be approved as technical electives toward MS ASTE. You need to send an email to MS ASTE Program Faculty Adviser (with a copy to ASTE Student Advisor) with the list of courses you took (provide course numbers and titles) and he will advise you by a return email on suitability of these courses as technical electives.


Course credit when transferring to MS ASTE from other institutions

While studying at University of Somewhere – before my transfer to USC's program MS in ASTE – I took several graduate courses. Can some of them be credited toward my degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering?

USC allows the transfer of up to 4 units of coursework from another institution. We will allow transfer of graduate coursework only.

The process is as follows:

First, the MS ASTE Program Faculty Adviser will evaluate the technical content of the course you wish to transfer. Send a request (email) to the MS ASTE Faculty Adviser with the following information: (a) course name; (b) when you took the course, where, and the grade you received; (c) course syllabus (as in the catalog); (d) the required textbook(s); (e) course instructor; (f) whether there were homework assignments (how many?), course projects, term papers, and exams in the course.

Second, after MS ASTE Faculty Adviser evaluates the courses for suitability for credit transfer, please contact ASTE Student Adviser who will request USC Degree Progressvto have the course available for credit transfer and applied to your degree.


Choice of technical elective courses

I am pursuing the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering. Can I take a graduate course in physics (chemistry, astronomy, mechanical engineering, golfing, French literature, cooking, sailing, computer science, business, ...) as a technical elective? I believe this course will help me to achieve my educational objectives.

Most students pursuing the degree Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering choose technical electives from the list of astronautics core technical elective courses. Sometimes student's educational objectives require technical elective courses offered by other engineering departments or by science departments. Practically all graduate science and engineering are usually approved as technical elective toward MS ASTE. (A few exceptions include not-purely-technical courses such as those focused on management, economics, etc.) However, no sailing, cooking, business, or social engineering courses ...

An approval of a technical elective outside astronautics is straightforward – email your request to MS ASTE Faculty Adviser (make sure to include the full course name and number). He will email you back course approval with a copy to ASTE Student Adviser. Please make sure that the approval is added to your file.


Approval of technical elective courses

How do I obtain an approval to take a technical elective course?

The selection of technical elective courses is student's, subject to approval by the MS ASTE Faculty Adviser. The adviser will help you (if you need help) to make the selection that best meets your educational goals.

No special approval is needed for taking an ASTE 500-level (graduate course), including aste-599, as a technical elective.

An approval of a technical elective outside astronautics is straightforward  – email your request to the MS ASTE Faculty AdvisEr (make sure to include THE full course name and number). He will email you back course approval with a copy to the ASTE Student Adviser. Please make sure that the approval added to your file.

Practically all graduate science and engineering courses are usually approved as technical elective toward MS ASTE. (A few exceptions include not-purely-technical courses such as those focused on management, economics, team communications, etc.)


Selection of technical elective courses

Who decides which technical elective courses I take?

The decision is student's, subject to approval by the MS ASTE Faculty Adviser. The adviser will help you (if you need help) to make the selection that best meets your educational goals. But the selection and decision is yours.

No special approval is needed for taking an ASTE 500-level (graduate course), including aste-599, as a technical elective.

An approval of a technical elective outside astronautics is straightforward  – email your request to the MS ASTE Faculty AdvisEr (make sure to include THE full course name and number). He will email you back course approval with a copy to the ASTE Student Adviser. Please make sure that the approval added to your file.

Practically all graduate science and engineering courses are usually approved as technical elective toward MS ASTE. (A few exceptions include not-purely-technical courses such as those focused on management, economics, team communications, etc.)


Courses at a summer session (camp) of the International Space University (ISU)

I would like to attend a summer session conducted by the International Space University. Can the courses be credited toward the MS in ASTE degree?

ISU summer session (camp) coursework cannot be credited toward the degree MS ASTE.


Admission of international students to MS ASTE

I am graduating with the Bachelors degree and would like to apply to the degree MS ASTE. I live in a foreign country and achieving a degree in astronautics and working on space exploration and space technology is my dream. Will my international student and foreign citizen status affect my chances to be admitted to the program MS ASTE?

No, your foreign student status will not affect the decision for your admission to the program. The admission decision is made on the totality of your record, including your undergraduate GPA, GRE scores, and two letters of recommendation. Your citizenship and country of residence play no role in the admission decision.


Financial aid to international students to MS ASTE

I am graduating with the Bachelor's degree and would like to apply to the degree MS ASTE. I live in a foreign country and achieving a degree in astronautics and working on space exploration and space technology is my dream. Will my international student and foreign citizen status affect my chances of obtaining financial aid in ASTE?

You application for financial aid in MS ASTE will be considered in the same way as an application of international students to other engineering graduate programs.

Please see the FAQ on financial aid.


Coursework and projects open to international students

I am graduating with the Bachelor's degree and would like to apply to the degree MS ASTE. I live in a foreign country and achieving a degree in astronautics and working on space exploration and space technology is my dream. Will my international student and foreign citizen status affect the opportunity to enroll in the courses and/or to work on space projects during my studies?

USC courses are open to all students regardless of their citizen/residence status. So, there are no restrictions on enrollment in astronautics courses.

Note that many engineering faculty conduct their research and development work supported by grants and contracts awarded by government agencies and private industry. Some of these R&D projects may have restrictions on the participation of foreign nationals. (You may have read/heard about the ITAR regulations.) You may not be able to join projects with such restrictions. Other projects do not have restrictions on participation of foreign nationals. Note that the participation in R&D projects is in no way required for achieving the degree MS ASTE.

You may want to read about international programs and ITAR effect on the MS ASTE program in http://astronauticsnow.com/2014aste.pdf . Also, visit the web site on ITAR.


Job prospects in the United States for foreign students

I am graduating with the Bachelor's degree and would like to apply to the degree MS ASTE. I live in a foreign country and achieving a degree in astronautics and working on space exploration and space technology is my dream. Will my international student and foreign citizen status affect interships and summer job opportunities during my studies and prospects of finding the job in the space industry after graduation?

Many R&D industrial programs in astronautics and space technology have restrictions on the participation of foreign nationals. (You may have read/heard about the ITAR regulations.) These programs (in companies and government R&D centers) will not be able to hire you unless you have a permanent residency status ("green card").

You may want to read about international programs and ITAR effect on the MS ASTE program in http://astronauticsnow.com/2014aste.pdf . Also, visit the web site on ITAR.

Note that you are not the first in such a situation and certainly not the last one.


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