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Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering


unique program focused on space engineering

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

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

The MS ASTE Program is designed or those with B.S. degrees in science and engineering who work or wish to work in the space sector of the space-defense-aerospace industry, spacecraft oprators, new-space industry, government research and development centers and laboratories, and academia.

The MS ASTE Program combines science and engineering fundamentals with specialized courses taught by Astronautics faculty and adjunct faculty and lecturers from leading space companies and government space R&D centers (Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, Northrop-Grumman, Aeroject Rocketdyne, Aerospace Corporation, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Microcosm, Space Environment Technologies, and others).

MS ASTE Frequently Asked Questions       MS ASTE course schedule

Astronautical Engineering

Astronautical Engineering encompasses the dynamic and cutting-edge fields of advanced science and space technology. Space is increasingly important for our economy and national security as well as exploration. The United States depends on space assets more than any other nation on earth, and we lead the world in exploration and utilization of space. Space engineers design and build rockets and space launchers, communications and direct TV and radio broadcasting satellites, space navigational systems (such as GPS), remote sensing satellites, scientific and application satellites and their sensors, vehicles for human spaceflight, space stations, and planetary probes. They operate complex earth-orbiting space systems and rovers on Mars from sophisticated ground control centers. There is no better academic degree than Astronautical Engineering in which to obtain the education and to acquire the skills needed for space engineers.

USC MS ASTE program is a unique space engineering program in the United States.

See MS ASTE rational, history, focus, and structure in the article in Acta Astronautica, 2014

The program is among largest in the country, with more than 396 Master's degrees awarded from 2004-2015 (on average, 37+ annually during 10 academic years 2005-2015). The program's flagship course ASTE520 Spacecraft Design had almost 1100 graduate students enrolled during the last ten years. See MS ASTE Statistics.

The program meets a challenge to improve space engineering education in the United States.

In addition to full-time on-campus students, the MS ASTE program reaches through the VSOE's Distance Education Network (DEN) students across the United States, Canada, and at military installations abroad. See MS ASTE Statistics.

USC astronauts – Trojans in space     usc astronauts

MS ASTE Program Founder and Director Mike Gruntman

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

USC program Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering: update (pdf)

MS ASTE Overview

MS ASTE Frequently Asked Questions (MS ASTE FAQ)

MS ASTE statistics

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

MS ASTE course schedule

MS ASTE contacts

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

MS ASTE Frequently Asked Questions

Admission requirements

Limited status student

It is possible to begin studies prior to formal admission to the program as a limited student. One needs to apply to the VSOE Distance Education Network (DEN) for enrollment as a limited student. After the limited-student application is processed (it usually takes a week or two), DEN will allow the student to enroll in the classes.

The true story ... Now it can be told    

MS ASTE students

Student educational background

The MS ASTE Program is specifically designed for those with B.S. degrees in science and engineering who work or wish to work in the space sector of the space-defense-aerospace industry, spaceraft operators, government research and development centers and laboratories, and academia. Therfeore, one does not have to have a BS degree astronautical, or aerospace, engineering to be admitted to the program. Our current students have (BS and some MS) degrees in astronautical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, computer engineering,other areas of engineering (nuclear, chemical, systems, industrial, etc.) as well as in physics, astronomy, applied physics, mathematic, and other areas of science (including even medical doctors); also those planning apply for astronaut training. Some engineers from the space industry and government centers with MS degrees consider our MS ASTE as a pathway to positions in system engineering of major space systems.

Applying astronautics coursework to analisys of
North Korean satellite launch in December 2012

Coursework requirement

Total of 27 units or 9 courses (one course is usually 3 units)

Four (4) required astronautics courses

Three (3) core elective courses (selected from the list of astronautics core courses)

Two (2) technical elective courses (selected from courses in astronautical engineering and/or from other science/engineering graduate courses)

The Master of Science Program in Astronautical Engineering (ASTE) never limits choice of technical elective courses to those offered by the home department but rather encourages students to choose engineering and science graduate courses best meeting their educational objectives. The onlyu exception are non-purely technical courses in engineering program management, finances, etc. We usually encourage such students to change their major. Our MS ASTE is a traditional engineering ans science degree program.

Master Degree Thesis

The thesis is optional (possible but not required). Typically only a few students choose to write and defend the thesis each year.

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

Astronautics courses

With the exception of a few PhD-program-focused courses, ASTE space courses are available to online students through the Distance Education Network.

Areas of Concentration

Presently, Astronautics faculty suggests the following areas of concentration


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

Program admission, curriculum, faculty  –  see ASTE's MS ASTE web site
ASTE's Distance Education Network web site for online students.

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

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

Advanced degrees in astronautical engineering for the space industry
Acta Astronautica, vol. 103, pp. 93-105, 2014 (pdf);
gruntman acta astronautica 2014

Another important publication:
The Time for Academic Departments in Astronautical Engineering,
AIAA–2007–6042, Space 2007, Long Beach, Calif., 2007 (