Undergraduate Programs in the Astronautical Engineering Department at USC

Joseph A. Kunc
Professor of Astronautics,  Aerospace Engineering, Physics and Astronomy
Astronautical Engineering (ASTE)
University of Southern California
Email: kunc@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 821-5817

This proposal seeks financial support for undergraduate space technology programs of the Astronautical Engineering Department (ASTE) at the University of Southern California. The support is requested to fund five fellowships for undergraduate students in the programs that have been supported by the CaSGC for several years, and have been quite successful in reaching the educational goals set by the Consortium. This can be seen in the facts that a number of students who were participating in the programs were accepted as PhD students at prestigious institutions (e.g. Caltech, MIT), obtained internships from leading space corporations (e.g. Boeing, Northrop Grumman), and have been employed by top NASA organizations (e.g. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Johnson Space Center). The space technology undergraduate programs were selected last year as one of the best undergraduate programs at USC, and praised by USC Administrators, the University Board of Trustees members and a number of world-class space technology experts, and covered by several major media organizations.

The astronautical engineering program we are seeking funds for in this proposal consists of three continuing projects (Lunar Lander Laboratory, Microsatellite Laboratory, and Rocket Laboratory) where students from Astronautical, Aerospace, Mechanical, Computer, Electrical Engineering and Physics Departments design, build, test and launch various spacecrafts. This program has been in operation for five years now and has been continuously supported by CaSGC. The fraction of under-represented minority students and female students participating in the projects every year has been above the national average in the schools of engineering. The program is well organized and effectively managed. The program has led to the development of two new undergraduate class-based courses (one 200-level and the other 400- level) which have become a part of the undergraduate curriculum of the Astronautical Engineering at USC. The hands-on projects effectively prepare engineering students for a faster transition to the space industry. (New employees in the industry and in the U.S. Government space organizations usually have no hands-on experience with real space systems.) They produce graduates with skills that are sought by the space industry and the government. The hands-on projects are highly multi-disciplinary tasks dealing with spacecraft systems, including structure, propulsion, thermal, electrical control system, guidance algorithms, and other aspects. The projects emphasize integration and test, require students to work individually as well as a team, and develop communication skills, documentation skills, and hands on training in actual hardware development and test environment. The training requires students to learn and understand not only engineering and managerial aspects of the problems put also science needed to solve related problems.