Embry-Riddle to offer first ever commercial space degree

Last Updated: Sunday, February 17, 2013, 8:02 AM EST

A new, groundbreaking degree from a local university could mean more job opportunities in the rapidly expanding commercial space sector.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has announced plans to launch the nation's first ever bachelor's degree in Commercial Space Operations.

The announcement was made Wednesday at the 16th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington.

The new degree program would be offered at Embry-Riddle's campus in Volusia County. The school said the program will supply the commercial spaceflight industry with skilled graduates in the areas of space policy, operations, regulation and certification, as well as space flight safety, and space program training, management and planning.

"As a leading innovator and service provider within the aerospace industry, Embry-Riddle is committed to building an academic program that supports the emerging needs of commercial space enterprise," Richard H. Heist, chancellor of Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach campus. "This first-of-its-kind degree program would continue to solidify our students’ spot at the forefront of an industry that is sure to grow for decades to come."

Embry-Riddle said graduates will have the qualifications needed to fill jobs in management, training and education, policy, safety, program and project planning, human factors, regulation, flight planning and operations.

Final approval for the program, slated to begin in the fall, is pending approval by the Board of Trustees, expected in March.

"Embry-Riddle's new Commercial Space Operations degree is one of the most innovative non-engineering degrees in the aerospace industry," said program coordinator Lance Erickson, a professor of applied aviation sciences at Embry-Riddle. "It is an important link between Embry-Riddle's expertise in aerospace education and the needs of commercial space industries and regulatory agencies."

"When we were planning this degree, our advisors from the commercial space industry said they couldn't wait to hire our graduates," Erickson added.

The rapid expansion of commercial spaceflight operations is fostered by NASA's commercial cargo and crew development programs and by entrepreneurs developing capabilities for suborbital spaceflight, orbital space habitats, space resource prospecting and other commercial ventures. The industry has also seen the growth of FAA-licensed spaceports nationwide and is moving toward an entirely new regulatory regime to ensure public safety and national security.

Information from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University was used in this report.