When Florida Institute of Technology was founded in 1958 (known in those early years as Brevard Engineering College), its goal was to bring higher education in engineering and science to the growing legion of space technicians employed at Cape Canaveral a few miles away. The Space Race was underway by then and headed toward its apotheosis a decade later, an accomplishment that remains one of the United States’ most powerful success stories: the Apollo 11 mission that put men on the moon and brought them back to Earth.
As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of that stellar achievement, Florida Tech is once again in the vanguard of higher education with a celestial focus. Florida Tech and other national and global universities help produce engineers, rocket scientists and space hardware technicians, but as the space industry evolves, so, too, must the curriculum. A well-rounded business leader will bring a wide knowledge-set to the table, including an understanding of policy, the global marketplace and existing infrastructure, and in many cases, the skill of pitching a startup. For students eyeing leadership in the future of commercial space, formal training and industry-specific mentorship in the dynamics of doing business in space had been harder to come by. No longer.
A Vision for a New Kind of Education
In June, a select cohort of students began studies in the first-ever session of the Center for Space Entrepreneurship, a collaboration between the International Space University (ISU) and the Aldrin Space Institute at Florida Tech. The two institutions partnered to form the ISU-CSE Commercial Space Program. The program allows ISU, which holds space studies programs annually in rotating locations around the world, to establish a more permanent fixture in North America, and to connect in new ways with Florida Tech, a renowned institution of higher education, with a global reputation for excellence.
“ISU began with a vision of creating a new kind of education dedicated to the advancement of space exploration and development, and the creation of a cohesive community of space advocates,” said Dr. Greg Autry, professor of clinical entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California and a member of the of ISU-CSE faculty this summer.
Dr. Andy Aldrin, director of the Center for Space Entrepreneurship, believes ISU-CSE is perhaps his most important venture in a lifetime spent in space research, industry and advocacy. “Our educational system does a wonderful job of training the best engineers and business people in the world,” he explained. “This program is intended to provide the context and tools to grow great technicians into the next generation of innovators, leaders and entrepreneurs in the dynamic space industry.”
Joining Autry and Aldrin are a team of space experts from industry and academia. Dr. Angie Bukley of the Aerospace Corporation; Chad Anderson, CEO of Space Angels, a venture capital firm supporting early-stage startups in the commercial space industry; Dr. Peter Ekart, a space industry consultant and ISU alumnus; and Dr. Henry Hertzfeld of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute. A number of guest lecturers from industry and beyond round out the faculty.
Location, Location, Location
The program’s location is an asset as well. Of the United States’ 34 orbital space launches in 2018, 20 of them took off from Florida’s Space Coast – and that number is predicted to grow. Students enrolled in ISU-CSE will gather for six weeks at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on the Space Coast, where they will experience an intensive curriculum of four fully-accredited graduate level courses amid the excitement and energy of this thriving space site.
“The area here is ripe with people doing very interesting things in the area of space entrepreneurship,” noted Dr. Chris Sallaberger, chairman of the board at ISU.
The multidisciplinary student cohort represents several countries and multiple academic and industry backgrounds, but they are united by their passion for the future of the space industry and the shared goal of being best-prepared to support it. Students who successfully complete all four classes offered – Space Technology and Systems Management, Global Commercial Space Programs, Global Space Policy and Law, and Technological Entrepreneurship in Space – will earn a graduate certificate in Commercial Space Programs.
Students at ISU-CSE may spot a road that stretches to the launch where men, including Aldrin’s dad, Buzz, first rocketed to the moon. The road is named Space Commerce Way. Once an empty stretch, it has come to life in the last few years. Well-known companies like Blue Origin, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, who employ hundreds of people in the area, have been joined by newer, smaller companies like OneWeb and Firefly Aerospace in opening offices and production facilities on the Space Coast.
With the future of the space industry depending on the people who are completing their education today, where better to learn than a place illuminated by the glow of history?
Brought to you by Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce