Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is going where no school has gone before now. The university is offering an undergraduate degree in Commercial Space Operations; it's the first of its kind in the country.
Chancellor Dr. Richard Heist helped announce the program on Wednesday morning at the 16th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, D.C.
"I'm proud to be associated with an institution that's not afraid to do something," said Dr. Richard Heist.
Dr. Heist said the school is helping fuel the growing industry.
"If you can get anywhere on this Earth in a period of four hours or five hours, that's a big deal," said Dr Heist. "You gotta get a kidney to Japan or a heart to Moscow or other sensitive items, that's going to be sub-orbital transportation."
The new degree program, which would be offered at the Daytona Beach campus of the world's largest accredited aviation and aerospace academic institution, will supply the commercial space flight 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.
One professor and several students, such as ERAU senior Rebecca Zgorski, started discussing the idea two years ago.
"We met with SpaceX, for example," said Zgorski, also a research specialist. "We went down to the Cape to talk to them in person about what they needed."
"They got their input, and it was overwhelming," said Dr. Heist. "Yes, we can look down the road. We can see this. You guys need this. You guys needs to do this!"
Graduates of the new degree program 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.
"Embry-Riddle's new Commercial Space Operations degree is one of the most innovative non-engineering degrees in the aerospace industry," said Erickson, professor of applied aviation sciences at Embry-Riddle and creator of the program. "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.
Dale Ketcham, director of the Spaceport Research and Technology Institute, said the program allows Florida to become the focus of commercial launch activity.
"It's good," said Ketcham. "It makes sense that it happened here. We have the people, the legacy, the mindset, the community understands that business so it's encouraging all the way around."
Final approval for the program, slated to begin in Fall 2013, is pending Board of Trustees approval in March.