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Outer Space Propulsion

  • Thread starter Winzer
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My B.S. will be in Engineering Physics. Suppose I want to go into the study of new/developed propulsion systems used for outer-space travel. Take for instance nuclear propulsion. Would a master's in nuclear engineering would be sufficient to get started? What other degrees besides physics, mechanical, and electrical would fit this field?
Thanks in advance.
 

Vanadium 50

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I think it's a mistake to plan one's education assuming the success of a particular unproven technology. An aero/astro degree looks to me to be the right direction.
 
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An aero/astro degree looks to me to be the right direction.
I 2nd this, seems like the most straightforward way to me. But if you have ambitions to invent a truly revolutionary propulsion system, maybe the wider knowledge about physical phenomena that comes with a physics degree might be useful ?

By the way, you might be interested in MIT's space propulsion course (freely available lecture notes and assignements):

http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Aeronautics-and-Astronautics/16-522Spring2004/CourseHome/index.htm [Broken]
 
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Winzer: I think you actually are in the right track. If you want to do something totally new, you shouldn't do a aero/whatever oldtech degree. Then you should do a nuclear engineering or stuff like that, it will give you something to build on. But most of the research you will be doing yourself.

But if you don't find it tempting to work in the nuclear industry, then maybe do a degree more into your tastes.

Some of the things you need are probably a lot of computational experience (to simulate things), a lot of fundamental physics (to understand what is happening) and a lot of energy/machine-engineering to know where to start. All of this you could get on your own, or as a part of a Phd.
 

Vanadium 50

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Winzer, I think Fearless is giving you bad advice. (And would encourage you to read his other posts in this section and the community's reaction to his advice).

Betting one's education on a particular unproven technology being successful is foolish, because by definition, you don't have enough information to make an informed choice - that's what you want the education for. "Unproven" is perhaps a little too polite - "couldn't make it work so the program was canceled - twice" is maybe closer to the truth.

One also needs to look at the issues involved - is the problem that we don't know how to make nuclear reactors on the ground, or is the problem that we don't know how to make them fly? Given that, does it make more sense to study how to build better reactors on the group, or does it make sense to study how to make things fly?

I think you also have to look at potential employers - is NASA or JPL more likely to hire someone with an aero/astro degree or with a nuke E degree? One can make a lot more progress in a field with the right job and the wrong degree than the wrong job and the right degree.
 

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