Graduate Education

The Space Policy Institute offers graduate courses on U.S. space policy.

The basic course in the fall term, International Affairs 6996.10: "U.S. Space Policy", is an overview of U.S. space activities in their international context; the spring course, International Affairs 6158.14:"Issues in U.S. Space Policy", each year focuses on an in-depth examination of one or more current issues in space policy.

Other courses, offered under the general course number International Affairs 6158, focus on topics such as space and national security and space law.

Many students pursue a Master of Arts degree in International Science and Technology Policy with a focus on space issues, under the auspices of GW's Elliott School of International Affairs; space policy also serves as a course and dissertation focus for several Ph.D. candidates in public policy, political science, and history.

Full-time study prepares students for exciting career opportunities in the space policy field. Part-time graduate study is also possible, and many of those who enroll in the Institute's courses already are working professionally in the space field. Their exposure to space policy issues provides a broader context for their current work as well as expands their future career choices.

Students affiliated with the Space Policy Institute have the continuing opportunity to participate in the myriad space policy-related activities which take place in Washington. Students have served as research assistants on Institute projects or as interns at The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Office of Management and Budget, NASA's Offices of External Relations, Space Flight Operations Mission Directorate, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, and Science Mission Directorate, the Washington Office of the German Space Agency DLR, the Science and Technology Policy Institute of the RAND Corporation, Futron, DFI International, Satellite Industry Association, and other space-oriented organizations in Washington.

Please find syllabi of those courses described below that are currently being offered on the CISTP website under Courses.


Recent Courses Offered by the Space Policy Institute


IAFF 6996.10 - U.S. Space Policy

Dr. Scott Pace

This course is an examination of the origins, evolution, current status, and future prospects of U.S. space policies and programs. It will cover the civilian, military, and national security space programs of the U.S. government and the space activities of the U.S. private sector, and the interactions among these four sectors of U.S. space activity. This examination will be cast in the context of the space activities of other countries, and of international cooperation and competition in space. The goal of the course is to give the student an exposure to the policy debates and decisions that have shaped U.S. efforts in space to date, and to the policy issues that must be addressed in order to determine the future goals, content, pace, and organization of U.S. space activities, both public and private.



NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden speaks with the Fall 2009 U.S. Space Policy Class. SPI Director Dr. Scott Pace is to his right. Guest speakers from the various offices that are responsible for the different aspects of space policy such as the State Department, OSTP, NSC, the Pentagon, in addition to NASA visit campus and are valued by graduate students as part of their unique experience at the Space Policy Institute.


IAFF 6158.14 - Issues in U.S. Space Policy: Tools and Scenarios

Dr. Scott Pace

This course will address international space policy issues facing the United States. Currently, U.S. space programs have a myriad of concerns with regard to dual-use technologies, including export controls, spectrum management, and licensing of commercial remote sensing systems. The class will place these issues in the larger context of technological advances and a changing international strategic environment. Strategic choices facing other nations in space activities, including continued dependence on U.S., European, and Russian space capabilities, developing indigenous space programs, and reliance on commercial space capabilities will also be examined.


IAFF 6158.10 - Space and National Security

Dr. Peter Hays

As shown by military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo, space capabilities have become increasingly important to the U.S. military in recent years. The many broad interrelationships between space and national security have also been under careful examination recently. The Space Commission Report, for example, found that because U.S. military and economic security has become so dependent on undefended space assets, the nation could face a "space Pearl Harbor." Others argue that the United States should act to establish space control, defined as U.S. ability to access and use space in its interests and to deny such access to U.S. adversaries. In addition, there is a growing debate over the wisdom and feasibility of stationing force application systems - "space weapons" - in orbit. This course will examine these and other issues associated with U.S. strategy, policy, and organization for the national security uses of space.


IAFF 6158.11 - Space Law

Dr. Henry Hertzfeld

Space activities operate in an international and global environment. The foundations of international legal principles are found in five treaties developed within the framework of the United Nations. Many nations participating in space activities also have domestic laws that provide direction to government space programs as well as laws that regulate commercial and private space activities.

This course will review the underlying principles of international space law. The emphasis will be on issues that will be of particular concern in the future as the uses of space for exploration, commerce, and security increases. Such legal issues include:

- liability for accidents,
- property rights in space and on celestial bodies,
- the use of space for military and security purposes.

The course will also review and compare the national space laws of different countries with an emphasis on the laws and regulations of the United States including recent developments in commercial human spaceflight.

Looking to the future, there are numerous legal uncertainties in space law that overlap and are intertwined with international relations, international law, commercial law, and the relationship between governmental civilian and defense space activities. This course will provide an overview to theaw important, and as yet, unresolved legal issues that will confront the space community in the years ahead.


EHS 6227: Introduction to Human Health in Aerospace

Dr. Kris Lehnhardt

This course is taught through the Medical School and is designed to introduce aerospace medicine concepts in an interdisciplinary fashion to anyone who is interested in human spaceflight.  There will be elements of physiology, medicine, law, policy, engineering, and history incorporated into the course.  Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to: 

-Outline the effects of spaceflight on human physiology and the medical issues that may arise during space travel, 
-Compare and contrast daily life on Earth with living and working in space,
-Critically analyze the impact of both long duration and long distance spaceflight on human health,
-Evaluate the medical requirements for commercial space endeavors,

-Analyze the increasingly interdisciplinary and international nature of human spaceflight.


EMSE 6026: Technical Enterprises

Dr. Zoe Szajnfarbe

Technical Enterprises (EMSE 6026) is an introductory course about the ways in which the policy process interacts with the systems design process in the context of a technical organization. It has been designed to give engineers a more complete understanding of their role at the interface of technology and policy. It will be particular useful for technically trained students who plan to make their careers in the Washington DC area, where government interaction is an important part of practice at ever level of an organization. The course will explore political, institutional, engineering processes and their interactions in the Aerospace and Defense, Healthcare and Energy domains. Scholarly research, case studies and participatory games will be used to clarify core concepts. Students will also have the opportunity to apply these concepts to analyze a system design case study of their choosing. Substantial in-class participation will be expected.

If you have any questions, please contact Prof. Zoe Szajnfarber at


IAFF 6158.13 - Geospatial Law and Policy

Professor Kevin Pomfret

Spatial data (data that places a person or object at a particular place) is now commonplace as a result of technologies such as navigation devices, GPS-enabled phones, web-based mapping services, location-based services, commercial satellite imagery and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. As a result, governments, businesses and consumers have embraced spatial (or location) data in their daily operations. Unfortunately, the legal and policy communities have not kept pace with the proliferation of this technology. Therefore, IT and telecommunication companies, internet commerce and social networking businesses, government contractors, law enforcement and a wide range of other government agencies are looking for help in understanding how to collect, use and distribute spatial data for operational purposes.

In this course, students will learn the important legal and policy issues associated with the collection, use and distribution of spatial data. Through discussion of important cases and differing viewpoints on important policy matters, we will explore some unique attributes of spatial data, the relationship of data quality and potential liability, the concept of privacy from a location standpoint, and potential national security concerns. We will also consider issues of licensing or transferring spatial data, including intellectual property rights, representations and warranties, and metadata.

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to understand both the legal issues associated with the use of spatial data within their business or government agency as well as the implications of policy as it develops around this increasingly important technology.


Note: This course is not a replacement of IAFF 258.12, Space Law, the 3-credit course taught by Professor Hertzfeld. This is a 1-credit course focusing on a specialized area of the law.



Former SPI student Andy Frick with the Mars Curiosity Rover testbed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory


»SPI Director, Scott Pace is quoted in the Politico article How Elon Musk eposed billions in questionable Pentagon spending discussing the role of ULA in American space capabilities.

»SPI Director, Scott Pace, testifies in front of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment on NOAA Utilization of Commercial Remote Sensing Data.

»SPI Director, Scott Pace, testifies in front of the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation committee on U.S. Human Exploration Goals and Commercial Space Competitiveness. His testimony is available online.

»On October 16, 2015, the Space Policy Institute hosted an informal discussion during which Dr. Philippe Brunet, European Commission Director for Space Policy, Copernicus, and Defense Industry described the plans of the European Union to become the primary European actor in space policy and programs.

»Current SPI Graduate Student Zack Hester's article NASA's Lessons Learned in Long-Duration Spaceflight: The Shuttle-Mir Program was published in Quest Vol. 23, No. 1, 2016.

»SPI Alum Mia Brown wrote an article titled Launch Dilemna: The role of the commercial sector in America's space program which was published by the Brookings Institution.

»Prof. Jack Burns, Vice President Emeritus at the University of Colorado, presented a distinguished lecture "Exploring the Universe from the Moon". It can be viewed online

»Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute, spoke on The Implications of U.S. Space Policy Choices at the California Institute of Technology. A video of the lecture is available for viewing here.

»Dr. Scott Pace, Visiting Scholar Deganit Paikowsky, and four SPI alumni attended the 2015 International Astronautical Congress in Jerusalem.

»Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund, SPI Research Professor, became Chair of the Executive Board of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Read the announcement here.

»SPI Alum, Stephanie Wan, has been elected as Co-chair of the Space Generation Advisory Council. Congratulations Stephanie! Further information is available online.

»SPI hosts "Careers in Space Policy: A Panel Discussion" with the American Institute of Astronautics and Astrophysics National Capital Section Young Professionals Committee and the GW AIAA Student Chapter.

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Fax: 202.994.1639

Space Policy Institute
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