Dylan Sun/Staff Photographer

Cal Poly’s aerospace engineering department also has plenty of its own space technology, including a flight simulator.

Samantha Sullivan

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Cal Poly is offering a new type of program that’s “out of this world” — a certificate in space systems technologies.

The certificate was developed in keeping with the idea of the working engineer, aerospace engineering department chair Eric Mehiel said. More specifically, the certificate is aimed at the engineer who works in the aerospace industry but is not an aerospace engineer, he said. The idea is to allow them to learn more about the specific technologies that would traditionally be considered aerospace engineering technologies.

“So somebody who, say, is a programmer with a computer science background,” Mehiel said. “But is working up at one of the big contractors that wants to know more about orbital dynamics, and how all that works, and how their software piece would fit into that spacecraft that’s orbiting the earth.”

The certificate is offered as a hybrid program, similar to many others offered through Cal Poly. The program can therefore be taken online.

Cal Poly facilities will be used to broadcast the class, so students are not required to come to Cal Poly at any point in the program, according to Mehiel. However, they can if they are local, he said.

While the certificate program isn’t the first of its kind, Mehiel said there aren’t many schools doing “purely the space side of the aerospace industry.”

Certificate programs are smaller than regular master’s programs. The space systems technologies program is 16 units. Certificates are also more focused, said Brian Tietje, vice provost of international, graduate and extended education.

“It’s designed to be a pretty narrow, specialized area of expertise,” he said.

Requirements to get into the program include a bachelor’s degree in engineering (or relevant field) with a minimum 3.0 GPA and at least two years of engineering work experience.

The space systems technology program is a self-supported program, meaning the fees students pay cover the full cost of the program. Tietje said they estimate what the enrollment will be, factor in salary for the lecturer along with other costs and charge the students accordingly.

The courses are all graduate courses, so if the student decides to go to a full master’s degree later, credits from the certificate can apply toward it, Tietje said.

According to Tietje, the target audience for the program probably doesn’t live in San Luis Obispo, or they are students who might have a degree from another university. They probably can’t afford to quit their jobs and “live in SLO and pursue their academic pursuits,” he said.

“We’re doing that to meet the needs of the market,” Tietje said.

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