University of Southern California USC Department of Astronautical Engineering The USC Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering USC
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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 broadcasting satellites, space navigational systems, remote sensing satellites, manned space vehicles, and planetary probes. They operate complex earth-orbiting space systems and rovers on Mars from sophisticated ground control centers. There is no better academic major than Astronautical Engineering in which to obtain the education and to acquire the skills needed for space engineers.

Focused, intellectually fit, and blending the science and engineering fundamentals with specialized astronautics knowledge, Astronautical Engineering graduates are well prepared to join the space industry and government space research and development centers.

Ad Astra!
Dan Erwin, Chairman

E. Phillip Muntz Joins Astronautics Faculty

E. Phillip Muntz, member of the National Academy of Engineering and fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, has joined the Astronautical Engineering faculty as a regular professor. Muntz is internationally renowned as an experimentalist in hypersonics and rarefied gas dynamics. He recently led the establishment of ASTE's Collaborative High Energy Flow Facility (CHAFF), a six-meter cryogenically pumped space simulation chamber.

Astronautics Student Wins Best Thesis Award

Darren Garber completed his Ph.D. in Astronautical Engineering in the Spring 2012 semester. His thesis, "Application of the Fundamental Equation to Celestial Mechanics and Astrodynamics," was awarded the Best Thesis Award of the Viterbi School. In it, a new curvature-based method of computing orbital trajectories is presented.

Dr. Michael Efroimsky, Astronomer at the U.S. Naval Laboratory, who served on Garber's dissertation committee, stated that this was the best doctoral thesis he had ever seen.

Garber's advisor was Prof. Firdaus Udwadia of USC's Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department.

Rocket Lab Team Wins Student Paper Award

Three Rocket Lab students, William L. Murray III, Sarah W. Hester, and Steven A. Leverette, won the Best Paper Award at the AIAA Region VI Student Conference in Seattle on March 31, 2012. The work, based on the students' senior design project, demonstrated that the thrust of a solid rocket motor could be increased once ignited by injecting inert gas into the combustion chamber. The thrust increase is a consequence of the increase in chamber pressure which augments the propellant burn rate. Picture courtesy Roger Snider.

Astronautics Student Wins Goldwater Scholarship

Matthew Orr, a sophomore Astronautical Engineering major, has won a nationally competitive Goldwater Scholarship. The Goldwater Scholarship Foundation awards up to 300 scholarships annually to students in science, engineering and mathematics.

Orr has a minor in Astronomy. His career goal is to teach at the university level and to make significant contributions to the fields of plasmadynamics and space propulsion.

USC Nano-Satellite Blasts Off From Cape Canaveral on SpaceX Launch

USC-Northrop Grumman-Applied Minds CAERUS package in 90-minute orbit, testing communications unit

December 09, 2010 - All systems were go -- and went perfectly -- December 8 at Cape Canaveral, with the newly developed Falcon 9 heavy lift vehicle sending into earth orbit NASA's Dragon capsule, accompanied by a number of nanosatellites including a unit developed by the Space Engineering Research Center. SERC is a joint effort between ASTE and ISI, providing critical support to both student involvement and the very fast timeline to develop the spacecraft as well as a mobile ground station equipped with a 3-meter tracking dish.

The nanosatellite, a 3U cubesat called "MAYFLOWER", is a Next Generation Technology Nanosatellite that is a joint effort with Northrop Grumman NOVAWORKS division. USC provided a 1U unit, called CAERUS (the Greek word for "opportunity") to support communications. Its development at USC was originated and led by David Barnhart, with him, his colleague Tim Barrett, and their team working with Northrop Grumman NOVAWORKS division and SERC researchers and students (led by Professors Joseph Kunc and Dan Erwin) to add a compact and robust communication package to the entire 3U nanosatellite bus. Some parts of CAERUS were supplied by Pumpkin Inc., the renowned Cubesat developer. The nanosatellite is orbiting around the earth about every 90 minutes at an altitude of more than 300 kilometers. (Details on the project and its current orbit can be found at http://serc.usc.edu/projects/caerus .)

Barrett, technical specialist Jeff Sachs, and a team of students from ASTE and other departments at USC led by Will Bezouska and Michael Aherne delivered CAERUS in May 2010 just fourteen weeks after receiving authorization to proceed on the project.

This was only the 2nd flight of Space X's Falcon 9 vehicle, with the first launch of the company's "Dragon" man-rated reusable capsule. This was the very first commercial flight of a recoverable capsule demonstrating the ability to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), truly a breakthrough for the private space industry in the United States.

"Indeed, it's a good day for USC," said Joseph Sullivan, Assistant Director at Information Sciences Institute. "It is amazing what can be accomplished in hands-on programs with students with a passion for space" said Joseph Kunc, the Faculty Advisor to the students.

The USC team will go back into space in 2012 with a different satellite project, this time a 3U CubeSat called AENEAS.