With recent approval from the Academic Senate, the Cal Poly Aerospace Master’s Program will now offer a specialization in space systems engineering.

The new specialization will focus on the complex systems of space and launch vehicles, and will be less research-based than the traditional aerospace masters, said aerospace engineering department chair Jordi Puig-Suari.

“Having a specialization in space systems helps people develop that expertise and global approach to the design,” said Amy Hewes, the director of communications for the College of Engineering.

The introduction of the space systems specialization at Cal Poly marks the first of such programs at any of the 23 California State Universities.

The aerospace engineering department has been attempting to get the specialization approved by the Academic Senate for years, said aerospace engineering associate professor Eric Mehiel, chair of the curriculum committee for the space systems specialization. By modifying and further detailing the catalogue, this year they were finally successful.

The department began offering space systems courses in winter 2004, Mehiel said, which means winter 2007 will mark the first group of program graduates.

The aerospace engineering department worked with Lockheed Martin in developing the idea for the specialization. Thanks to a $300,000 grant from Lockheed Martin, implementing the new specialization will cost Cal Poly “zero,” Puig-Suari said.

The program is designed for both on-campus students and distance learners.

Already, a number of Lockheed Martin employees based in Sunnyvale, Calif. have signed up to participate in space system courses.

Cal Poly has two video conference rooms designed for distance learning to accommodate students both on and off campus.

Mehiel said on-campus students are able to get industry perspective from distance learners, while distance learners are refreshed on basic engineering concepts by the on-campus students.

“It really has been good for the students all the way around to have interaction with each other,” Mehiel said.

He added that the department is hoping to expand the distance learning program by attracting more industry students, and perhaps expanding Cal Poly distance learning facilities into Southern Calif.

With over 100,000 people working in California’s space and aircraft industry there is a need for engineers who can understand the diverse elements that go into the development of spacecraft, Mehiel said.

The space systems specialization is geared toward students with undergraduate degrees outside of aerospace engineering who do not yet have an understanding of space systems.The space systems specialization will require the addition of four new courses, which can be taken as electives by students outside the program, Puig-Suari said.

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