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Space Studies Program

Your gateway to space

The Space Studies Program (SSP) offers an intensive nine-week course hosted each year in the timeframe June-August in different locations around the world. It provides courses in all space disciplines, as well as hands-on education through workshops and professional visits. This program offers a unique curriculum designed specifically for professionals starting or changing direction in their space careers.

The SSP is intended for people working in space-related fields who wish to broaden their knowledge base. During the SSP, participants work on team projects to address current and future challenges in the space sector. Since 1988, the SSP program exposes participants to broad new perspectives on the world’s space activities.

Paola Breda

“I enrolled for ISU’s Space Studies Program 2021 in Strasbourg while changing my career from being an academic researcher to become a space propulsion engineer. The extraordinary people that I met, from young professionals to executives, contributed to my personal and professional growth. This experience boosted my career further into the NewSpace business. After SSP21, I started working as space licensing and system engineer at HyImpulse GmbH – currently working on the development of the sounding rocket and in-orbit propulsion systems.”

PAOLA BREDA, SSP21, RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ENGINEER AT HYIMPULSE​

SSP 2024

Houston, Texas, USA

June 8th - August 3rd 2024

The International Space University’s 36th annual Space Studies Program (SSP) session will convene in Houston, Texas, USA from June 8th – August 3rd 2024.

The program will be hosted by two partners:

“Rice hosted the ISU SSP with the support of NASA Johnson Space Center in 1997. This continuing collaboration resonates with NASA’s and JSC’s Strategic Objectives guiding the future of space exploration and the Artemis program and foster international cooperation” said ISU president, Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund.

“Rice is privileged to be a partner in pursuits related to space exploration and to be part of a historic collaboration with NASA that supports some of the world’s most important research and educational outreach,” said Rice President Reginald DesRoches.  “Hosting the International Space University on Rice’s campus will be a great opportunity to amplify the work that is being done worldwide in the space exploration field and to strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones.”

With Rice and JSC’s combined efforts, participants of the SSP24 can expect enriching tours and hands-on engagements that tap into the depths of space exploration and its future prospects.

SSP Course Structure

The interdisciplinary curriculum of the SSP, with its emphasis on international cooperation, exposes participants to broad new perspectives on the world’s space activities – perspectives otherwise reserved for those with many years of diverse professional experience. The program is packed with a wide variety of activities, including lectures by renowned experts, hands-on activities and projects, team work and professional visits.

SSP PHASE 1

Phase I of the SSP curriculum ensures participants have a basic grounding in the fundamentals of all the disciplines that are relevant to space programs — and that they understand the rela­tionships between these disciplines in any space-related activity. All partic­ipants attend the core lecture series, which creates a basic framework of knowledge to prepare participants for informed and balanced judgment.

A series of lectures in each field of study that is designed primarily for non-experts is presented. Thus, med­ical specialists can understand the lec­tures on propulsion and engineers and lawyers can understand the lectures on the effects of weightlessness on the human body.

Core lectures are often grouped in clusters. Questions from participants and group discussions with the lectur­ers are encouraged.

Knowledge gained from the core lec­tures allows participants to:

  • Understand the very large range of factors, both technical and non-tech­nical, involved in space activity
  • Apply good decision-making and management skills to projects
  • Appreciate the relevance of all dis­ciplines during the development and exploitation of space activities

SSP Workshops are activities de­signed to enhance and complement the knowledge acquired during core lectures through more active learning in smaller groups. Participants choose activities based on their interests. A number of activities are conducted in parallel and participants must sign up in advance. Topics may be offered more than once so as many people as possible are able to benefit.

Workshop activities offered in SSP19 included:

  • Advanced communication skills
  • Design thinking
  • Space debris
  • Spacecraft sensing and instrumentation
  • Space, a new frontier for ethical interrogation
  • Media training and crisis communication
  • Robotics
  • Artificial gravity
  • Astronomy and Civilization : a look through time and space
  • Visit to l’Observatoire de Strasbourg
  • Business model canvas
  • Space business coo-petition
  • Stimulation and perturbation
  • Radar image processing
  • Startup pitching

SSP PHASE 2

Department activities encourage ex­change of knowledge, ideas and opin­ions through debate and discussion, as well as hands-on activities. De­partments have more time to go into greater depth with activities such as:

  • A seminar and discussion that go into greater depth following a core lecture
  • Visiting a space-related facility in the area
  • Building and operating very low frequency radio receivers
  • Remote sensing projects using local imagery and involving ground truthing
  • Examining barriers to technology transfer
  • Presentations by participants on their own work or interests
  • Building and launching a small rocket and payload
  • Hands-on experience with data systems or experimental hardware
  • Debates on space exploration’s impact on society

Department activities provide an im­portant opportunity for participants to interact with faculty members and lecturers and build their professional network. They also provide a means for participants to become sensitive to the cultural differences that govern personal interactions in a group set­ting and to adapt and develop presen­tation and negotiation skills in light of this cultural diversity.

The department chair will work with each participant to define a short ex­ercise or project as part of the depart­mental activities. These projects may be done individually or in small teams and include an oral presentation of professional research or a professional paper and presentation on current is­sues for a conference.

During the SSP, departments make professional visits to space agencies, companies, and space-related research institutes/universities. The activity varies based on the available local re­sources.

Some example of SSP19 professional visits and activities are:

  • CERN, Switzerland
  • European Astronaut Center (EAC), Germany
  • Institute of Space Systems of the University of Stuttgart, Germany
  • SES (Luxembourg)
  • European Space Operations Center (ESOC), Germany
  • iSpace, Luxembourg
  • Spire, Luxembourg
  • SEMIA incubator, France

SSP PHASE 3

In Phase III of the SSP, participants work in international, interdisciplinary and intercultural teams to produce a comprehensive analysis and proposals for an international space project or on a topic of relevance to the professional space sector. Participants choose one from multiple team project topics and work on that topic for the duration of the SSP. This element of the program has three main objectives:

  • To encourage participants to put into practice what they have brought from their own educational and/or professional background, plus knowl­edge and skills they learn from lec­tures, workshops and other presenta­tions during the SSP.
  • To experience decision-making and organizing work in sub teams. Also, to learn how to converge on solutions and recommendations while working in multidisciplinary and intercultur­al teams- where conflicting require­ments emerge and compromises must be made.
  • To produce a comprehensive report of professional level and present it in a public session at the end product of the team project. The report covers all aspects – technical, financial, organiza­tional, political, schedule and risk.

Many ISU reports have served as re­sources for the world space commu­nity (see the ISU Library Website for Team Project reports). The structure of team projects depends to some extent on their subject matter, but certain as­pects are common to all team projects:

  • An early phase of exploratory or brainstorming discussion of the project
  • A series of factual lectures specific to the team project topics Research and an intensive fact finding period
  • A challenging period of wrestling with different ways of organizing the study effort
  • Extensive opportunities to engage departmental faculty members and lecturers in discussion of team project issues
  • An interim presentation and review where expert advice and comments will be given
  • A period of very intense work to complete the final report.

“Growing up, being involved in space was just a childhood dream of mine. Attending the ISU was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of. Learning about such a broad range of topics alongside such talented individuals was an experience second to none. I would not be exaggerating to say that almost all of the fantastic opportunities I have received since attending are in some way due to the program, and for that I will always be grateful. To anyone looking to turn their childhood ambitions into a reality, the ISU is a must.”

JOHN TOOP-ROSE, SSP21, ALGORITHMIC ENGINEER AT HYPERGANIC GROUP

SSP Admissions

Applicants are assessed on the basis of their academic and professional qualifications and their achievements, as well as on their proficiency in English. The decision on admission is made by the ISU Admissions Committee.

Applicants must have a Bachelor’s Degree or the equivalent by the start of the SSP, including 3 years of studies as a minimum, awarded by an accredited university. Information on academic qualification equivalencies may be obtained from the ISU Admissions Office.

Under exceptional circumstances, appropriate professional experience in fields relevant to the main academic content of SSP could be considered by the Admissions Committee as contributing to achieving the equivalence of the required academic qualification.

Preference is given to applicants holding higher academic degrees and to applicants with professional experience in industry, government agencies or academic institutions.

Reference letters for the SSP should be provided by current or former academic supervisors or employers.

The essay (about 500 words) should explain the candidate’s motivation to attend the program.

Application deadline in

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In a typical SSP about 250 lecturers and experts academia from space agencies, industry and from all over the world provide instruction to the student body.

The SSP curriculum is coordinated by the Core, Department, and Team Project chairs and supported by members of the ISU Faculty.

Click here to view a list of invited lecturers and experts for SSP21.

Applications for the Space Studies Program (SSP) are processed through a rolling deadline system. Only full applications are considered, and candidates who miss a deadline will be evaluated after the following deadline.

Early applications are recommended, and partial scholarships for candidates in need of financial aid will be granted on a first come first served basis until they run out.

Application deadlines:

31 January 2024 (for applicants requesting scholarships and applicants in need of a visa for the USA), 30 April 2024 (final application deadline) 

www.isunet.edu/apply-online/

If you are interested in the online version of the SSP, please check our Digital Education page

Each participant’s academic performance is evaluated on the basis of:

  • Performance on the examination of the fundamental concepts of the core lecture series
  • Participation in departmental activities and the individ­ual or team assignment
  • Contribution to the team project

Participants are required to obtain a satisfactory evaluation in each of these three elements in order to obtain a Certifi­cate of Completion for the program.

The full fees for SSP24 are EUR 20,000.

Payment may also be made in US dollars at the inter-bank exchange rate on the date of payment.

This fee is inclusive of tuition, accommodation, and meals. Travel to and from the SSP host site and medical insurance are not included.

Host the SSP in your country!​

The International Space University (ISU) has organized the Space Studies Program (SSP) annually since 1987. The SSP is held in different countries around the world with an institution or consortium serving as its Host.

The program brings over 300 professionals representing 40+ countries for a duration of 8 weeks to the host country.

ISU is seeking proposals from interested organizations in serving as the host of the 38th, 39th, and 40th SSP which will be held in 2026, 2027, and 2028.

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