Aerospace Engineering Sciences

The mission of Aerospace Engineering Sciences is to provide quality education, including hands-on learning, and to conduct foremost research in aerospace engineering sciences. These goals are accomplished through fundamental and multidisciplinary research and by preparing aerospace engineering students to meet the needs of 21st-century society through the conception, design, and application of aerial and spacecraft systems.

Educational Objectives

During their first three to five years after graduation, Aerospace Engineering Sciences graduates will have: 

  • established themselves in professional careers or received a graduate degree; 
  • demonstrated ethical leadership, project management, and/or innovation; and 
  • played significant roles in the research and development of engineering systems and products.

Desired Outcomes

Students completing the undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering will be knowledgeable in the following areas:

  • the professional context of the practice of aerospace engineering and expectations of new graduates in aerospace engineering organizations, including an awareness of ethics issues, economics, and the business environment;
  • the history of aerospace engineering, providing a perspective on current events; 
  • aerospace engineering as a highly multidisciplinary endeavor, requiring a systems perspective to integrate technologies and manage complexity; and 
  • major principles and scientific methods underlying the technologies comprising aerospace vehicles and systems. 

Upon graduation, students will have developed the following general skills and abilities:

  • written, oral, and graphical communication skills;
  • an ability to quantitatively estimate, model, analyze, and compute;
  • an ability to define and conduct experiments using modern laboratory instruments, and to interpret experimental results;
  • an ability to seek out and gather information, enabling independent and lifelong learning;
  • interpersonal and organizational skills that enable individuals to work effectively in teams and assume leadership positions;
  • an ability to identify needs, requirements, and constraints, and to design appropriate reliable engineering solutions;
  • an ability to formulate technical problems clearly, and to correctly apply appropriate methods and procedures for their solution; 
  • an ability to program computers, and skills in the use of modern engineering analysis, simulation software, and operating systems; and
  • an ability to understand societal needs, business issues, and the ethical concerns and responsibility of the industry.

Bachelor's Degree Program(s)

Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering Sciences

Degree Requirements

The undergraduate curriculum, Aerospace Curriculum 2000, is designed to prepare students to advance to a distinguished professional career in the aerospace industry or for graduate school, consistent with our stated Program Educational Objectives. In particular, this involves providing students with an interdisciplinary systems perspective of aerospace engineering. The curriculum accomplishes these goals by: 

  • providing a strong basis in mathematics, science, and engineering fundamentals; 
  • extending these fundamentals to advanced topics in aerospace engineering; 
  • complementing the engineering education with sufficient exposure to the humanities and social sciences; and 
  • beginning and ending in major design experiences that stress an interdisciplinary systems perspective. 

AES students are also encouraged to consider a technical minor or double major in electrical engineering, computer science, applied math, engineering physics, astrophysical and planetary sciences, or atmospheric and oceanic sciences. In most cases, the junior- and senior-level courses required for the above-mentioned minors can be applied to the professional area elective requirements. 

For students having sufficient ability and interest, planning for graduate study should begin by the start of the junior year. Such a plan should consider the foreign language requirements of appropriate graduate schools and an advanced mathematics program. Students who wish to combine the business and aerospace engineering sciences curricula are advised to consider obtaining the BS degree in aerospace and a master’s degree in business rather than a combined BS degree. Space in the undergraduate aerospace engineering program is limited; some restrictions may apply.

Bioengineering Option/Premedical Curriculum

Courses can be specifically designed for students who wish either to attend medical school or to enter graduate work in bioengineering after receiving the BS degree. Students should consult their advisor regularly to assure the adequacy of their curricula. 

Curriculum for BS in Aerospace Engineering Sciences

The BS curriculum in aerospace engineering sciences is revised annually to keep up with new advances in technology, to make use of new educational methodologies, and to satisfy updated program accreditation criteria. A total of 128 semester credit hours is required.

Required Courses and Semester Credit Hours

Freshman Year
Fall Semester—14

  • APPM 1350 Calculus 1 for Engineers—4
  • CHEM 1221 Engineering General Chemistry Lab—2
  • CHEN 1211 Engineering General Chemistry—3
  • GEEN 1400 Engineering Projects/ASEN 1400 Gateway to Space—3
  • GEEN 1500 Introduction to Engineering—2

Spring Semester—17

  • APPM 1360 Calculus 2 for Engineers—4 
  • PHYS 1110 General Physics 1—4
  • Computing requirement: GEEN/CSCI 1300/ECEN1030—3 
  • Humanities or social science elective—6

Sophomore Year 
Fall Semester—14

  • APPM 2350 Calculus 3 for Engineers—4
  • ASEN 2001 Introduction to Statics, Structures, and Materials—4
  • ASEN 2002 Introduction to Thermodynamics and Aerodynamics—4
  • ASEN 2012 Experimental and Computational Methods in AES—2

Spring Semester—17

  • APPM 2360 Introduction to Differential Equations with Linear Algebra—4 
  • ASEN 2003 Introduction to Dynamics and Systems—5
  • ASEN 2004 Aerospace Vehicle Design and Performance—5
  • Humanities or social science elective—3 

Junior Year
Fall Semester—16

  • ASEN 3111 Aerodynamics—4
  • ASEN 3112 Structures—4
  • ASEN 3113 Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer—4 
  • PHYS 1120 General Physics 2—4

Spring Semester—18

  • ASEN 3128 Aircraft Dynamics—4
  • ASEN 3200 Orbital Mechanics/Attitude Determination and Control—4
  • ASEN 3300 Electronics and Communications—4
  • College-approved writing course—3
  • Humanities or social science elective (upper-division)—3

Senior Year
Fall Semester—16 

  • ASEN 4013 Foundations of Propulsion—3
  • ASEN 4018 Senior Projects 1: Design Synthesis—4
  • Professional area electives—6 
  • Humanities or social science elective (upper-division)—3

Spring Semester—16 

  • ASEN 4012 Aerospace materials—3
  • ASEN 4028 Senior Projects 2: Design Practicum—4
  • Professional area electives—6
  • Free elective—3

Courses selected must meet humanities and social science requirements as detailed at

Professional Area Electives

  • Any ASEN course at the 4000 level or above that is not a required course can be used as a professional area elective.
  • A professional area elective is generally a course in math, engineering, or science at the 3000-level or above. Elective courses most likely to help an aerospace engineer’s career development are ASEN, math, CSCI, ECEN, and physics courses. It is suggested that students secure advance approval for professional area elective courses from their advisor.
  • Independent study is acceptable for up to 6 credit hours of professional area elective credit. The upper-division ROTC courses AIRR 3010, NAVR 3030, and NAVR 3040 are acceptable for 3 semester hours of professional area elective credit. 

Prerequisites and Passing Grades

The minimum passing grade for a course that is a prerequisite for another required course is C. If a grade of C- or lower is received in a course which is a prerequisite to another, the student may not register for the subsequent course until the first grade has been raised to a C or higher. 

The minimum passing grade for a course that is not specifically a prerequisite for another required course is D-

The AES department reserves the right to drop students enrolled in ASEN courses who have not met the minimum prerequisite requirements. It is the student’s responsibility to communicate with the department if summer course work and/or transfer credit will be used to meet the prerequisite requirement. 

Course code for this program is ASEN.

Graduate Degree Program(s)

Graduate Degrees in Aerospace Engineering Sciences 

The Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado is one of the top aerospace engineering departments in the nation with annual research expenditures that exceed $10 million. Aerospace engineers work on Earth and in space not only to extend frontiers but also to understand more fully and to preserve our terrestrial environment. Few fields offer more exciting and diverse careers: becoming an astronaut (15 graduates to date have become astronauts), designing the next generation of aircraft and spacecraft, monitoring our global habitat via remote sensing from space, in situ sensing with unmanned vehicles, and helping to develop environmentally clean energy and transportation systems. 

Aerospace graduate students often formulate degree plans on the basis of the student’s interests and needs. Portions of the program are designed to promote the student’s engineering and professional development. Graduate students are admitted into a specific focus area that provides research advising, financial support, and sets specialized admission and program requirements and recommendations for course work within and outside the department. The four focus areas are: 

  • Aerospace Engineering Systems
  • Astrodynamics and Satellite Navigation Systems 
  • Bioastronautics
  • Remote Sensing, Earth and Space Science 

Each focus area has defined the required characteristics of its successful graduates at the MS and PhD level, and defined the required and elective courses that support its educational program.

Aerospace-related research centers in the college include the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, the Center for Aerospace Structures, the Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles, and BioServe Space Technologies. Other research centers within the university that are involved in space-related research activities are the Center for the Study of Earth from Space, the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, the Laboratory for Atmos-pheric and Space Physics, JILA, and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

Requirements for Advanced Degrees

Graduate students applying for admission to aerospace engineering sciences are required to submit the results of the analytical, quantitative, and verbal sections of the general examination, Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

The department offers graduate programs leading to the MS and PhD degrees in aerospace engineering sciences. Portions of the program are designed to promote the student’s engineering and professional development.

Courses below the 5000 level in aerospace engineering cannot count toward graduate degree requirements; up to 6 credits at 4000 level relevant courses from approved departments outside aerospace may be accepted for master’s degree credit if they fit with the student’s degree plan. Such courses must have academic content consistent with graduate study in aerospace engineering sciences. 

Advising. Once students have selected a research area for the thesis, academic advising is done by their thesis advisor. 

Master of Science Degree (Plan I/II)

  • A total of 30 semester hours (including both course and thesis hours), at least 24 semester hours of which must be completed at the 5000 level or above, and no more than 12 semester hours can be outside of ASEN.
  • Two to four required courses (6–12 semester hours) must be taken in the student’s primary focus area and one course (3 semester hours) must be taken in a second focus or thrust area.
  • One graduate level math course (3 semester hours) in ASEN, APPM, or MATH. 
  • Students may take a 5000/6000 level seminar for credit only once (1 semester hour). 
  • Students may take a 6000 level seminar (where they present research) once (2 semester hours).
  • Students must complete 6 semester hours consisting of either (1) MS thesis (Plan I), (2) approved certificate or program (Plan II), or (3) a two-semester team projects course (Plan II). The Plan I project culminates with an oral presentation and/or written report or oral examination.
  • Completion of all degree requirements within four years of the date of commencing course work, normally completed in one to two years.
  • Master’s degree residence requirements can be met only by residence on the CU-Boulder campus for two semesters or three summer sessions, or a combination of at least one semester and two summer sessions.
  • Pass all courses with a grade of B- or better.

Doctoral Degree

Course Requirements. A minimum of 36 semester credit hours of courses numbered 5000 or above (at least 18 of these must be in ASEN) with a minimum of 3.250 GPA, and 30 credit hours of thesis credit are required for the degree. A maximum of 21 credit hours may be transferred from another accredited institution and applied toward a PhD degree if approved by the graduate committee of the department and the Graduate School. All courses taken for the master’s degree at the 5000 level or above at the University of Colorado may be applied toward the doctoral degree at the university. The formal course work must include a minimum of 18 hours of courses or their equivalent in aerospace engineering sciences.

Preliminary Examination. Students must pass a preliminary examination by no later than the end of the third semester if the student already has an aerospace master’s degree upon entry to the program, or the fifth semester if the student does not have an aerospace master’s degree. The exam is administered by a committee consisting of three regular or research aerospace faculty members, two of whom must be from the student’s main focus area and the third from a secondary focus or thrust area. The exam will include a written and an oral element, as determined, prepared, and evaluated by the exam committee. 

Comprehensive Examination. By no later than the fifth semester, or seventh semester, students must also pass an oral examination before the student’s doctoral committee of five or more graduate faculty members chosen by the student and approved by the department and the Graduate School. This should be preceded by individual examinations or interviews, either written or oral or both, by every committee member. The oral examination before the committee is based primarily on a written proposal for the thesis research provided by the student to committee members in advance. 

PhD Thesis. Students must write a thesis based on original research conducted under the supervision of a graduate faculty member. The thesis must fulfill all Graduate School requirements. After the thesis is completed, an oral final examination on the thesis and related topics is conducted by the student’s doctoral committee.