University of Southern California The USC Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering USC Astronautics
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Courses of Instruction

The USC Catalogue is the official source of information on USC's academic programs. In the event that information on this website conflicts with that in the Catalogue, the Catalogue must be considered to be authoritative.

Schedule of ASTE Classes for Fall 2023
Schedule of ASTE Classes for Spring 2024
Schedule of ASTE Classes for Summer 2024

Schedule of SAE Classes for Fall 2023
Schedule of SAE Classes for Spring 2024
Schedule of SAE Classes for Summer 2024

ASTE 101L Introduction to Astronautics (4 units)
Gateway to the major in Astronautical Engineering. Introduction to space, space exploration and the space business. Elements of orbits, spacecraft systems, rocket propulsion, and communications. Laboratory: Introduction to graphics, computation and simulation.

ASTE 280 Foundations of Astronautical Engineering (3 units)
Coordinate systems and transformations. Spherical trigonometry. Orientation angles. Spacecraft orbits and orbital maneuvers. Introduction to rocket propulsion, spacecraft attitude dynamics and control, and space environment.  Prerequisite: MATH 226, PHYS 152L.

ASTE 291 Team Projects I (1 unit)
Participation in ASTE undergraduate student team projects. Intended for lower-division students or those with little prior project experience.

ASTE 301ab Thermal and Statistical Systems (3 units, 3 units)
Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics; kinetics of atoms, molecules, and photons; compressible fluid dynamics.  Prerequisite: MATH 245, PHYS 153L.

ASTE 305 Astronautical Gas Dynamics (4 units)
Introduction to compressible and rarefied gas flows with applications to rocket propulsion and the dynamics of supersonic and hypersonic vehicles and spacecraft; ionized gases and plasmas.  Prerequisite: (PHYS 153L or PHYS 163L) and AME 310; corequisite: MATH 245.

ASTE 330 Introduction to Spacecraft Systems and the Space Environment (3 units)
Spacecraft systems: attitude determination and control, power, thermal, command and data handling, telecommunication, structures and mechanisms, propulsion. Space environment: atmosphere, gravity gradients, radiation.  Prerequisite: ASTE 280, PHYS 153L.

ASTE 331ab Spacecraft Systems Engineering (3 units, 3 units)
Introduction to spacecraft systems: propulsion, attitude dynamics and control, structures, communications, power, thermal control. Space environment. Systems engineering as applied to spacecraft.  Prerequisite: ASTE 280; corequisite: PHYS 153L; recommended preparation: Skill in MATLAB programming and spreadsheets.

ASTE 404 Computational Programming and Numerical Methods (3 units)
Development of simulation code with high-performance languages such as C++ and Fortran; numerical techniques for continuum and rarefied gas flows, GPU utilization; data visualization, machine learning.  Recommended preparation: Basic programming experience with Matlab, C/C++, Python, or other programming languages, and/or similar exposure on the level of ITP 115 or ITP 165.

ASTE 421 Space Mission Design (3 units)
Capstone, team-oriented space systems design course. Competing teams of 5-6 students, depending on total course enrollment, will respond to an instructor-provided mock-RFP for a space system. The mission specification will be different each year.  Prerequisite: ASTE 330. Senior standing.

ASTE 445 Molecular Gas Dynamics (3 units)
Physical description of kinetic nature of gas flows; distribution function; introduction to the Boltzmann equation; free-molecular flow; surface and molecular reflection properties; Monte Carlo flow calculations.  Recommended preparation: AME 309 or ASTE 301b.

ASTE 470 Spacecraft Propulsion (3 units)
Introduction to rocket engineering. Space missions and thrust requirements. Compressible gas dynamics. Propellant chemistry and thermodynamics. Liquid- and solid-fueled rockets. Nuclear and electric propulsion.  Prerequisite: senior or graduate standing.

ASTE 475 Rocket Propulsion (2 units)
Liquid-fueled and solid-fueled rocket engines; adiabatic flame temperature; duct flows with area change, heat addition, mass addition; rocket heat transfer; staging; and electric thrusters.  Prerequisite: PHYS 152 and (ASTE 305 or AME 309). Duplicates credit in ASTE 470, ASTE 575.

ASTE 480 Spacecraft Dynamics (3 units)
Two-body motion, rigid-body motion, attitude dynamics and maneuvers, spacecraft stabilization: gravity gradient, reaction wheels, magnetic torques, thruster attitude control.  Prerequisite: senior standing.

ASTE 490 Directed Research (2-8 units)
Individual research and readings. Not available for graduate credit.

ASTE 491 Team Projects II (1 unit)
Participation in ASTE undergraduate student team projects. Intended for students with prior project experience.

ASTE 499 Special Topics (2-4 units)
Course content to be selected each semester from current developments in astronautics, space technology, and related fields.

ASTE 501ab Physical Gas Dynamics (3 units, 3 units)
a: Molecular structure; radiative processes; microscopic description of gas phenomena; translational, rotational, vibrational, and electronic freedom degrees; particle energy distributions; microscopic representation of thermodynamic functions. b: Kinetic concepts in gas physics; thermal non-equilibrium; intermolecular potentials; transport of radiation and particles in high-temperature gas; dissociation and ionization equilibrium; energy relaxation.  Prerequisite: a: graduate standing or departmental approval; b: ASTE 501a.

ASTE 505ab Plasma Dynamics (3 units, 3 units)
Charged particle dynamics. Kinetic fluid theories. Rarefied and collisional plasma flows. Plasma-surface interactions. Waves, instabilities, turbulence. Applications in engineering and space technology.  Recommended preparation: Graduate standing in engineering or physics.

ASTE 520 Spacecraft System Design (3 units)
System components; vehicle structure, propulsion systems, flight dynamics, thermal control, power systems, telecommunication. Interfaces and tradeoffs between these components. Testing, system reliability, and integration.  Prerequisite: graduate standing in engineering or physics.

ASTE 523 Design of Low Cost Space Missions (3 units)
Reviews all aspects of space mission design for practical approaches to reducing cost. Examines "LightSat" mission experience and potential applicability to large-scale missions.  Prerequisite: graduate standing in engineering or science; recommended preparation: ASTE 520 or some experience in space engineering.

ASTE 524 Human Spaceflight (3 units)
Engineering, technologies, and systems for human spaceflight. Life support, space environments, crew accomodations. Mission operations, safety. Astrodynamics, launch and space vehicles, space stations, planetary bases.

ASTE 527 Space Studio Architecting (3 units)
Programmatic/conceptual design synthesis/choice creation methods for complex space missions. Aerospace system engineering/Architecture tools to create innovative projects. Evaluated by faculty/industry/NASA experts.  Prerequisite: graduate standing in engineering or science; recommended preparation: ASTE 520 or experience in space industry.

ASTE 528 Reliability of Space Systems (3 units)
Reliable space system design and operations for human and robotic space, applications, and commercial space. Reliability of space systems, subsystems, hardware, software and human reliability.  Recommended preparation: ASTE 520 or equivalent course on fundamentals of space systems.

ASTE 529 Safety of Space Systems and Space Missions (3 units)
Engineering methodology and analysis techniques for safety certification and mission assurance of robotic and human space systems and space missions by government and commercial industry.  Prerequisite: open only to Engineering graduate students; recommended preparation: ASTE 520 or some experience in space engineering.

ASTE 535 Space Environments and Spacecraft Interactions (3 units)
Space environments and interactions with space systems. Vacuum, neutral and ionized species, plasma, radiation, micrometeoroids. Phenomena important for spacecraft operations.

ASTE 541 Partially Ionized Plasmas (3 units)
Review of microscopic processes involving particles and radiation, and their impact on properties of high-temperature gases and plasmas in local thermal equilibrium and non-equilibrium.

ASTE 545 Computational Techniques in Rarefied Gas Dynamics (3 units)
Particle-based computational simulation methods for rarefied, high-speed flows. Molecular collision kinetics. Monte Carlo direct simulation and related techniques.  Recommended preparation: ASTE 501a and skill in FORTRAN programming.

ASTE 546 Computational Plasma Dynamics (3 units)
lasma simulation techniques; particle-in-cell (PIC); PIC with Monte Carlo; computational electromagnetics; computational magnetohydrodynamics. Parallelization. Applications in engineering and space plasma physics.  Prerequisite: ASTE 505a.

ASTE 552 Spacecraft Thermal Control (3 units)
Spacecraft and orbit thermal environments; design, analysis, testing of spacecraft thermal control system and components; active and passive thermal control, spacecraft and launch vehicle interfaces.  Prerequisite: graduate standing in science or engineering.

ASTE 553 Systems for Remote Sensing from Space (3 units)
The operation, accuracy, resolution, figures of merit, and application of instruments which either produce images of ground scenes or probe the atmosphere as viewed primarily from space.  Prerequisite: graduate standing in engineering or physics.

ASTE 554 Spacecraft Sensors (3 units)
Spacecraft sensors from concept and design to building, testing, interfacing, integrating, and operations. Optical and infrared sensors, radiometers, radars, phased arrays, signal processing, noise reduction.  Prerequisite: Graduate standing in engineering or science; recommended preparation: ASTE 520.

ASTE 556 Spacecraft Structural Dynamics (3 units)
Applied analytical methods (vibrations of single and multi degree of freedom systems, finite element modeling, spacecraft applications); requirements definition process; analytical cycles; and design verification.  Prerequisite: graduate standing in science or engineering.

ASTE 557 Spacecraft Structural Strength and Materials (3 units)
Spacecraft structural strength analysis and design concepts overview; spacecraft material selection; analysis of composite materials; finite element method; spacecraft configuration; structural testing; bolted joint design.  Prerequisite: Open only to master's, professional, and doctoral students.

ASTE 561 Human Factors of Spacecraft Operations (3 units)
Engineering fundamentals and experimental methods of human factors design and evaluation for spacecraft which incorporate human-in-the-loop control.

ASTE 562 Spacecraft Life Support Systems (3 units)
Engineering fundamentals of spacecraft systems design and analysis to support human life in the space environment.  Prerequisite: ASTE 524.

ASTE 566 Ground Communications for Satellite Operations (3 units)
Theory, practice, architecture, operations of ground satellite communications with satellites. Practical implementation of satellite communications system and reception and analysis of satellite transmitted signals.  Prerequisite: ASTE 520. Open only to USC Viterbi School of Engineering students.

ASTE 570 Liquid Rocket Propulsion (3 units)
Liquid-propelled rocket propulsion systems. Capillary devices for gas-free liquid acquisition in zero gravity. Ground and in-orbit operations. Propellant life predictions and spacecraft end-of-life de-orbiting strategies.  Prerequisite: ASTE 470.

ASTE 571 Solid Rocket Propulsion (3 units)
Fundamental concepts, implementation and applications of solid rocket propulsion. Propellants, performance, ballistics, structures and systems used for space launch vehicles, sounding rockets and rocket motors.  Prerequisite: ASTE 470 or ASTE 575.

ASTE 572 Advanced Spacecraft Propulsion (3 units)
Nuclear, electric, sails, and far-term propulsion systems. Overviews of nozzles, heat transfer, electromagnetics, rarefied gases, and plasma physics. Analysis of electrothermal, electrostatic and electromagnetic thrusters.  Prerequisite: graduate standing in engineering or science; recommended preparation: ASTE 470.

ASTE 574 Space Launch Vehicle Design (3 units)
Fundamentals, technologies, and design of space launch vehicles. Propulsion, trajectory analysis and optimization, static and dynamic structural loads, stability, control, and safety.  Recommended preparation: ASTE 470 or equivalent course work in spacecraft propulsion.

ASTE 575 (3 units)
Space missions, rocket dynamics, and propulsion requirements. Thermodynamics and combustion; compressible gas dynamics in nozzles. Liquid- and solid-propellant rockets; launch systems. Advanced propulsion. Open only to graduate students. Duplicates credit in ASTE 470.

ASTE 577 Entry and Landing Systems for Planetary Surface Exploration (3 units)
Multi-disciplinary engineering theory, simulation techniques, and unique technologies for landing robotic and human space vehicles on the surface of planets and moons.  Recommended preparation: ASTE 520 or similar course in fundamentals of space systems.

ASTE 580 Orbital Mechanics I (3 units)
Physical principles; two-body and central force motion; trajectory correction maneuvers; position and velocity in conic orbits; Lambert's problem; celestial mechanics; orbital perturbations.

ASTE 581 Orbital Mechanics II (3 units)
Theory of perturbations of orbits; numerical methods in orbital mechanics; satellite dynamics; averaging methods; resonance; mission analysis.  Prerequisite: ASTE 580.

ASTE 583 Space Navigation: Principles and Practice (3 units)
Statistical orbit determination: (weighted) least squares, batch and sequential (Kalman) processing, illustrative examples; online ephemeris generation: potentially hazardous asteroids, comets, satellites; launch: vehicles, payloads, staging.  Prerequisite: graduate standing in engineering or science; recommended preparation: ASTE 580.

ASTE 584 Spacecraft Power Systems (3 units)
Introduction to solar arrays, batteries, nuclear power sources, mechanical energy storage. Application theory of operation, practical considerations. Subsystem topologies and performance. Design optimization techniques.  Prerequisite: graduate standing in engineering or science.

ASTE 585 Spacecraft Attitude Control (3 units)
Review of attitude dynamics, gravity gradient stabilization, attitude stabilization with a spin, attitude maneuvers, control using momentum exchange devices, momentum-biased stabilization, reaction thruster control.  Prerequisite: AME 451 or EE 482; recommended preparation: a course in dynamics.

ASTE 586 Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics (3 units)
Dynamics of systems of particles and rigid bodies; spacecraft attitude systems; attitude maneuvers (spin, precession, nutation, etc.); attitude stabilization and attitude determination; simulation methods.

ASTE 589 Solar System Navigation (3 units)
Free-return trajectories for exploration of the moon, optimization and control of interplanetary trajectories, and mission design using the Interplanetary Superhighway.  Prerequisite: ASTE 580; recommended preparation: Proficiency in use of MATLAB for exercises on standard desktop and laptop computers.

ASTE 599 Special Topics (2-4 units)
Course content to be selected each semester from current developments in astronautics, space technology, and related fields.

ASTE 683 Advanced Spacecraft Navigation (3 units)
Advanced topics in spacecraft navigation: rendezvous, frozen/sun synchronous orbits, stationkeeping. Nonlinear filtering for orbit and attitude determination. Optical navigation. Mission applications.  Prerequisite: ASTE 580 and ASTE 583; recommended preparation: skill in MATLAB programming.