The Place for SpaceCharlie Brennan
A more substantive distinguishing feature is suggested by its complete name — the CU-Boulder Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences.
"We do space science and oceanography and atmospheric science," said Jeff Forbes, PhD, the department chair.
"We integrate science with the engineering in a unique way in our department. We're the only one that has that name, and we're the only one that does that to the extent that we do. For us it's an intentional marriage."
CU's Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences has garnered increasing attention in recent years, having been ranked among the top four schools in the country by the 2010 National Research Council Assessment of Ph.D programs.
"It's a very big deal, as that's one of the metrics that people use for establishing what are the best places to go for a PhD," said Forbes.
U.S. News and World Report this year has ranked the CU-Boulder aerospace program 14th overall and 10th among public undergraduate programs; it was also ranked 12th overall and eighth among public graduate programs.
The ambitious array of 21st Century disciplines represented in the department's curriculum includes aerospace technology and science, astrodynamics and satellite navigation systems, vehicle systems, bioastronautics, structures and material systems, remote sensing, earth and space sciences.
CU aerospace alumni are now working at top companies and research labs, such as the Johnson Space Center, the Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
CU has a long history of placing alumni in space; 19 astronauts with CU ties have flown to date, starting with 1949 graduate Scott Carpenter, who flew on the second manned orbital flight in 1962.
And, with President Obama's National Space Policy directive of June 2010 placing greater emphasis on promoting the commercial aspects of space exploration, CU-Boulder's program is right in step with the changing dynamics of the aerospace field.
The CU program was one of a half dozen collegiate programs named in the wake of the presidential directive as part of an FAA Center of Excellence for commercial space transportation, focusing on areas such as crew and passenger safety, space launch operations and traffic management.
CU's participation in that program dovetails neatly with its ongoing partnership with the Sierra Nevada Corporation of Louisville, which helps sponsor CU's eSpace: The Center for Space Entrepreneurship. eSpace includes an aerospace business incubator, as well as the Straight to Space program, which steers job candidates from traditional and non-traditional backgrounds into the aerospace industry.
Another commercial orientation for the CU aerospace community includes its BioServe Space Technologies, specializing in microgravity life science research, design and development of space flight hardware.
A pending application by the state of Colorado to the FAA asking to be designated as a spaceport, facilitating creation of a facility for launching space-bound payloads, is one more reason for growing excitement around the CU program.
"We are one of the few departments in the country that is very much into this commercial space activity," said Forbes.
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