Master in Space Studies


Read more about this program on the school's website

Program Description

“NASA has had a long and productive relationship with Rice University beginning at the establishment of Johnson Space Center. This collaboration continues today. As part of NASA's overall mission, we are dedicated to education at all levels with special emphasis on education programs that meet our workforce needs. Rice has historically educated our outstanding scientists and engineers.

The Professional Master's degree in Space Studies fits within our workforce needs as it provides training across technical areas, from science to practical engineering and management. These types of programs can enhance our workforce as we continue in the 21st-century transformation of human space flight. We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with Rice and your program."

– Craig Stencil, Deputy Director of Space Life Sciences, NASA, Johnson Space Center

The Space Studies track is geared to help individuals increase their knowledge of space engineering, science, program management, and policy. The program includes advanced engineering, biological and physical science classes and introduces students to economics, public policy, and management disciplines, which impact space commercialization and national policy. This program focuses on training scientists and engineers interested in program management providing them with the tools to face the complex challenges inherent in US space policy, human and robotic space exploration, and the role of science in space exploration and technology development.

In addition to science and engineering courses, students will take a solar systems overview course, a Space Studies Seminar taught by industry experts and cohort courses with students involved in the other tracks listed in this brochure. These courses include a Science Policy and Ethics course, a management course and a corporate seminar. These courses are designed to equip students with the skills needed to connect advanced scientific concepts in a business or governmental setting.

Students are educated in the scientific approach to problems, while simultaneously being trained in vital business concepts, policy and ethics issues, verbal and written communication, and rounding out their education with advanced practical training in the field of their interest. This unique combination of an interdisciplinary curriculum and hands-on experience enables students to move seamlessly into the scientific/technical workforce.

The Rice Space Institute, led by Dr. David Alexander, provides a unique collaborative environment in which to meet the educational, research and technological challenges faced by the human and robotic exploration of space.

Rice University has a proud and distinguished heritage of collaboration with NASA and the nation’s space program, recently celebrating 50 years of science and engineering partnership with the Johnson Space Center. As we embark on the first steps of the next 50 years, the Rice Space Institute is working to strengthen our ties with JSC and the broader Houston space community, to foster deeper research collaborations within this community, and facilitate multidisciplinary research to address the most pressing scientific and technological problems facing the exploration of space.

Space exploration has impacted society and culture across the globe in many diverse and imaginative ways, changing how we view the world, how we interact with it, and how we imagine our place within it. Increasingly, research in the humanities and social sciences is addressing this impact and exploring the cultural context in which it occurs. The Rice Space Institute aims to foster these discussions and to bridge the disciplines as we seek to understand the societal and cultural impact of space exploration.

Education is the cornerstone of our activities as we strive to produce the next generation of scientists, engineers, and scholars. Education at all levels is a crucial component of the mission of the Rice Space Institute and our goal is to expand our efforts in undergraduate and graduate level study while enhancing our participation in Rice’s broad range of outreach programs and community engagement.



This program will give students a deep background in science and engineering complemented by courses in economics, policy, and management to foster their understanding of how each of these areas contribute to the design and organization of space and related technology and engineering projects. Their coursework will provide them with research and study skills to enable them to develop strategies for managing complex engineering projects and to understand the connections between programmatic/scientific objectives and their implementation.


Rice University and NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) have strategic partnerships in many areas of mutual interest. Senior leadership from Rice and NASA JSC’s Mission Operations Directorate have developed a special curriculum enhancing the educational experience of NASA scientists and engineers.

Recommended Background

Applicants for the Professional Master’s in Space Studies must have:

  • B.A. or B.S. degree in a related science or engineering program that included coursework in general physics, chemistry, calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations.
  • Scores from the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
  • Strong quantitative abilities.
  • Statistics, introductory economics, and computer skills are preferred.

This program requires 39 Credit Hours for completion:

Five Cohort Courses/Requirements (9 Hours)

NSCI 511 Science Policy and Ethics (S)
NSCI 610 Management for Science and Engineering (F, S)
NSCI 501 Master Seminar (F, S)
NSCI 502 Space Studies Seminar (F or S)
NSCI 512 Internship Project Report/Presentation

Five Science courses: (15 Hours)

ASTR 570 Solar System Physics (F)
STAT 615 Intro to Regression and Statistical Computing (F)
MECH 572 Aerospace Systems Engineering (S)

With two courses to be chosen from the list below:

ASTR 554 Astrophysics of the Sun (S)
BIOC 415 Experimental Physiology (S)
BIOC 540 Metabolic Engineering (F)
ESCI 540 Physics and Chemistry for the Atmosphere (F)
ESCI 660 Geological and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (S)

Two Statistics/Computation Courses (6 credit hours): The analytical competency requirement provides career-enhancing, marketable skills in finance, economics, and computation. Students can choose courses as follows:

Choose two courses from:

CAAM 453 Advanced Numerical Analysis

CEVE 528 Engineering Economics

MECH 554 Computational Fluid Mechanics

PHYS 416 Computational Physics
STAT 502 Neural Machine Learning

STAT 310 Probability and Statistics
STAT 541 Multivariate Analysis
STAT 605 Statistical Computing and Graphics
STAT 640 Data Mining and Statistical Learning
ESCI 650 Remote Sensing (not offered every year)

Note: Depending on background, other courses can be chosen with permission of advisor.

3 Electives according to student’s interest: (9 Hours) These course electives reflect individual academic interests and career goals.

Focus: Engineering

CEVE 504 Atmospheric Particular Matter

CEVE 505 Eng. Project Development& Management
CEVE 511 Atmospheric Processes
CEVE 576 Structural Dynamics and Control

COMP/ELEC/MECH498 Intro to Robotics
MECH 572 Aerospace Systems Engineering

MECH 591 Gas Dynamics (S)
MECH 592 Aerospace Environments (F)
MECH 599 Human Factors in Space (S)
MECH 599/Sect 2 Spacecraft Navigation (S)
MECH 599/Sect 3 Design for Aerospace Environments
MECH 691 Hypersonic Aerodynamics (F)
MECH 454 Computational Fluid Mechanics

Focus: Sciences (Astro Science/Earth Science/Life Sciences)

ASTR 542 Nebular Astrophysics
ASTR 554 Astrophysics of the Sun
ASTR 555 Protostars and Planets
ASTR 565 Compact Objects
BIOC 524 Microbiology and Biotechnology
BIOC 540 Metabolic Engineering
BIOC 544 Developmental Biology
BIOC 545 Advanced Molecular Biology and Genetics
BIOC 570 Computation with Biological Data
BIOC 580 Protein Engineering
ESCI 667 Geomechanics
ESCI 672 Numerical Methods Earth Systems
ESCI 540 Earth's Atmosphere
ESCI 581 Topics in Planetary Dynamics

...and others

NOTE: FOCUS AREAS IN EARTH SCIENCE, PHYSICS AND LIFE SCIENCES can be chosen - depending on student’s background. Students will consult with an academic advisor about appropriate selection of their elective science courses. 30 credit hours have to be in the 500-level and above.

Focus: Management

MGMT 734 Technology Entrepreneurship
MGMT 629 Business Plan Development
MGMT 601 Financial Statement Analysis
MGMT 618 Complexities of People and Organizations
MGMT 658 Applied Risk Management
MGMT 619 Corporate Governance ... and others

NOTE: This listing doesn’t reflect all courses available every year. Also note, not all courses are offered every year. Students are requested to consult with their academic advisors before enrolling.

A 3 – 6 months internship: Practical experience is offered via a 3 – 6-month work immersion. The internship will be under the guidance of a hosting company, government agency, or non-profit organization. A summary of the internship project is required in both oral and written form as part of the Professional Master’s Seminar.

The General Announcements (GA) is the official Rice curriculum. In the event that there is a discrepancy between the GA and any other websites or publications, the GA shall prevail as the authoritative source.


Career Opportunities for Graduates:

When developing this new program track, government and space-related agencies, and corporations involved with NASA and space science were contacted to get feedback on industry interest in a program such as the new space track.

The space track targets:

  • employees within aerospace industries, such as NASA, and related organizations, who intend to broaden their knowledge and skill base.
  • employees in the space-related industry, government agencies, and possibly foreign markets who seek career advancement within their industries.
  • science students interested in working in related positions in the space industry, non-profit space-related organizations, government organizations, and academic institutions.

Space Studies graduates could pursue careers in a variety of different areas in space-related occupations, for example, as space technicians, payload specialists, etc., or

Find positions in the commercial space sector, national laboratories, science/research organizations, law firms, medical centers, education sector, military, and public relations.

Companies who have offered positions to graduates from similar programs are:

  • Southwest Research Institute;
  • Ad Astra Rocket;
  • NASA/Space Life Sciences,
  • Lockheed Martin Space Systems;
  • Lunar and Planetary Institute;
  • Wyle Houston;
  • Boeing; and others.

PSM Board of Affiliates for Space Studies track:

Eugena Bopp - Wyle Corp, Integrated Science, and Engineering.
Jim Burch - Space Science and Engineering Div. Southwest Research Inst.
Mark Craig - SAIC, retired.
Franklin Chang Diaz - Ad Astra Rocket.
Helen Lane - NASA, JSC Space and Life Sciences.
Laurence Price - Lockheed Martin.
Steve Deiker - Kairo Aerospace.
Kamlesh Lulla - NASA, University Collaboration, and Partnership Office.
Steve Mackwell - Director, Lunar, and Planetary Institute.
Stewart O’Dell - Halliburton.
John Scott - NASA, JSC Energy Conversion Branch.
Darcie Durham - Boeing.
Joy Kelly - Jacobs Engineering.


Admission to graduate study in Space Studies is open to qualified students holding a bachelor’s degree in a related science or engineering program that included coursework in general physics, chemistry, calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations. Good scores from the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE), good critical thinking and communication skills and strong quantitative abilities. Statistics, introductory economics, and computer skills preferred. Department faculty evaluate the previous academic record and credentials of each applicant individually and make admission decisions.

To apply, please send the following items:

  • Completed application (apply online).
  • Three personal letters of recommendation - recommenders can now submit their letters online.
  • General GRE scores (use the code 6609 for Rice; do not worry about a department code).
  • Official transcripts from all universities attended.
  • TOEFL scores (if required).

Cost & Fees

The Professional Master's Program requires three semesters of tuition (total of $54,000) and a nominal fee to continue full-time student status during the semester that the student is involved in his or her internship.

Last updated Aug 2019

About the School

Today, the Wiess School is still pioneering educational frontiers by incorporating research into more classes and undergraduate students into research laboratories. In the majority of Rice labs today, ... Read More

Today, the Wiess School is still pioneering educational frontiers by incorporating research into more classes and undergraduate students into research laboratories. In the majority of Rice labs today, undergraduates can be found working side by side with faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to advance the boundaries of human understanding in astronomy, biochemistry, cell biology, chemistry, earth science, ecology, evolutionary biology, mathematics and physics. Read less
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