Commercial Spaceflight Operations (CSO) Curriculum & Lab

Curriculum Background

Created in 2011 by Bradley Cheetham and Dr. George Born
Prioritized industry input to build course content
Lecture first offered fall 2011
Based on industry feedback, designed for graduate engineering students
Curriculum includes 1-semester lecture and 1-semester lab
"Commercial" includes established (satellite) and emerging (human) industry sectors


Lecture offered fall 2011, fall 2012, fall 2013
Lab offered spring 2013, spring 2014 (scheduled)
Registration to-date: 81 students

Curriculum Objectives

Course shall serve as a bridge between theory and application to prepare real world problem solvers
Comprehension of total mission sequence
Understand constraints on design and operations
Understanding of and insight into current industry practices
Provide overview of project management and team dynamics

Lecture Evolution

Lecture content is continuously updated to incorporate industry developments and student feedback
Currently structured as 1/3 aerospace engineering, 1/3 satellite telecommunications, 1/3 industry guest lectures
The satellite telecommunications content is provided by Dr. Ray Nettleton and the CU Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program (ITP)
Lecture topics include:
Industry background/context
Technical fundamentals (subsystems and systems)
Telecommunication Fundamentals (satellite/spacecraft communications)
Industry insight on operations and emerging trends

Student Work Products

Independent open-ended briefings on industry trends and/or constraints
Technical and business focussed labs
In-depth research paper addressing possible improvements to spaceflight operations

Distance Learning

All lecture content and participation available for distance students
Distance learning supported by the Center for Advanced Engineering and Technology Education (CAETE)
See contact information below for more information

Commercial Spaceflight Operations Lab

Custom designed and built for CSO Graduate curriculum
Financed by CU Boulder with help from CU Engineering Excellence Fund
Includes 12 state-of-the art computer workstations to support teaching and research
Advanced spaceflight operations software contributed by industry partners
Extensive visualization capabilities enable collaboration

Lab Curriculum

Curriculum built around operatonis of GEO communications satellite
Lab 1:Pre-launch and launch operations
Lab 2:Satellite orbital transfer
Lab 3:On-orbit attitude determination/control
Lab 4:Orbit determination and stationkeeping
Final Project: Apply lessons learned to concept-of-operations for student selected reference mission

FAA Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation (COE CST)

The development and dissemination of this curriculum is supported by the FAA COE CST
The FAA COE CST is a partnership between academia, industry, and government
The goal of the COE CST is to create a world-class consortium to address current and future challenges for commercial space transportation
The partnership is established to last 10 years
The FAA contributes grant funding through this program in support of:

Further Information

More details on the FAA COE CST can be found online at


Although the FAA has sponsored this project, it neither endorses nor rejects the findings of this research. The presentation of this information is in the interest of invoking technical community comment on the results and conclusions of the research.
Figure Figure


Fall 2013 Course Overview
Presentation to the 2013 AIAA Space Operations and Support Technical Committee
FAA COE CST 2nd Annual Technical Meeting Presentation
Paper submitted to the 2012 International Astronautical Congress
Presentation to the 2012 International Astronautical Congress
FAA COE CST 1st Annual Technical Meeting Presentation

Contact Information

For more information please contact:


This curriculum and lab would not be possible without the contributions of the following people:
Juliana Feldhacker
Steve Hart
Emil Heeren
Jon Herman
Matt Rhodes