Hey everyone! So this week I’m blogging about my major: Astronautical Engineering. Astro engineering, or ASTE, is the study of all things space related! This means rockets, satellites, space vehicles, etc. USC is one of the only universities to offer this awesome degree, and it began as an official major here about 6 years ago to meet the rising need of highly specialized engineers for the increasingly private space industry. Geographically, USC is at the heart of the new space industry. SpaceX- a company founded by Elon Musk (that guy who also founded PayPal and Tesla Motors), is located just 20 minutes away in Hawthorne, CA. And SpaceX is just one of man space flight companies in Southern California that recruit heavily from USC.

Because of this huge need for astronautical engineers, USC has tailored its coursework to match that which industry has placed a great emphasis on. Some of the courses include “The Space Environment”, “Spacecraft dynamics”, “Spacecraft Design”, and “Spacecraft Propulsion”. These courses are a mixture of theoretical and hands-on approaches to learning the material required in industry. I am currently enrolled in The Space Environment, taught by the department chair, Dr. Dan Erwin. Dr. Erwin is presently teaching us about orbital mechanics and different orbital maneuvers used by spacecraft after they have left earth’s atmosphere.

The main astronautics-related student organization on campus is the USC Rocket Propulsion Laboratory, or USCRPL. This group of students has Dr. Erwin as an advisor, but is entirely student run. The group has had several successful rocket launches in recent years, and a few not-so successful launches; however USC plans to make history this next semester with the launch of “Traveler”- USC’s space-shot rocket. If USCRPL is successful in launching Traveler, the group will be the first student organization to reach space!  And the best part about the group is that anyone can get involved. Freshmen can and do get their hands dirty every year, learning the ropes of RPL. One of the greatest aspects of this group is the willingness and eagerness of its members to share the knowledge they have learned from past generations of USCRPL’ers to continue the line of greatness in USC astronautics!

USC, with its location and industry-directed approach to learning, is definitely the best place for astronautics! There are so many opportunities, whether in research, or in student groups like USCRPL, that it’s impossible not to get excited after stepping on campus!

Below is a picture of one of rocket lab’s launches: