Master of Science in Space Studies

Course content

Human activities in space play an ever increasing role in our society. Space missions have evolved from merely showcase events that explore new technologies in new environments to utilitarian operations that serve various purposes such as telecommunications around the globe, weather prediction or advanced research in zero gravity. In order to illustrate this, the European Space Agency (ESA) has estimated that only 5% of the space related industry is involved with the manufacture and launch of satellites! Therefore, space industry has grown over the past 50 years from a high profile niche activity to an economically very significant player in our society. As a consequence, it is also an important employer.

Whereas in the early years the industry trained its staff on an ad hoc basis in a developing and growing research environment, nowadays new employees enter a well-established technological and business world. This implies that the space industry preferably recruits people that already have acquired the basic skills and knowledge that the industry itself has developed over the past decades. This is a considerable challenge, since the space industry estimates that in the coming years over 40,000 people that belong to the pioneer generation will retire and consequently will have to be replaced by new employees.

In order to help fill this need, the K.U.Leuven and the UGent have joined efforts in offering a Master of Space Studies. This master is intentionally not an exclusively technological study, but is set up interdisciplinary. It is intended to form people who have at the end of their study basic knowledge of all aspects of space activities, and who are qualified to enter the space industry where they will acquire the more specific skills necessary for their particular job. The master has an international scope and audience and is taught in English.

Course structure

The programme is conceived as a postgraduate (master-after-master) programme and as such addresses students who have successfully completed an initial master programme in either the humanities and social sciences, exact sciences and technology, or biomedical sciences.

The interdisciplinary nature of the programme is set by the requirement that all students follow a common trunk of 30 credits of introductory courses. The goal is to get the students acquainted with the different aspects that form the foundation of space-related activities. Special attentions goes to the combination of a high level of knowledge transfer with the diverse backgrounds of the students.

Depending on their background and interest, students have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge through more domain specific optional courses, for a total of 15 credits, covering the three domains of Space Law, Policy, Business and Management, Space Sciences, and Space Technology and Applications.

For the Master's Dissertation (15 credits) students are embedded in a research team of one of the organising universities, or in an external institute, organisation or industrial company, in which case an academic supervisor is assigned as a coordinator. The master's dissertation should form a final piece of work of the interdisciplinary programme, in which the acquired knowledge and abilities are applied to a complex and specific project.

Career perspectives

The technological challenges and innovative programmes that typically characterise space projects make the space industry an essential vehicle to help keep our society at the forefront of innovation and research. The international character of many space projects makes the space industry also a very important element in the positioning of Europe worldwide. Therefore space industries will, for the foreseeable future, remain a growing and in some areas even booming business, with many career opportunities. On the Flemish level, there is the 'Vereniging van Vlaamse Ruimtevaartindustriƫlen' (VRI), which fosters the growth of the local industries. As already mentioned, there is ESA that works on a European level, but there is also growing involvement of the EU, in particular on policy issues and earth observation, telecommunication, global positioning and defense.