The syllabus presents the objectives, structure, guidelines, and policies for the course. The policies are intended to guide students enrolled in the course.

Welcome to the Space Policy seminar! We're pleased to have you, and hope you find the class both informative and enjoyable. This course is designed to be interactive and participatory. We welcome questions and suggestions for course improvements at any time.

Course Objectives
  • Understand the importance of space policy.
  • Understand the stakeholders in the space enterprise.
  • Understand the history of the space enterprise.
  • Understand the body of law that governs what we do in space.
  • Gain a feel for current space policy issues.
Reading List
There are two required texts for the course:

McDougall, Walter A. The Heavens and the Earth:  A Political History of the Space Age. New York: Basic Books, 1985.

Launius, Roger D., and Howard E. McCurdy. Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership.  Urbana:  University of Illinois Press, 1997.
Other required readings will be photocopied and handed out from time to time from:
Stone, Deborah A. Policy Paradox:  The Art of Political Decision Making. New York : W.W. Norton, 1997.

Spires, David N.  Beyond Horizons:  A Half Century of Air Force Space Leadership. US Government Printing Office, 1997.

Albert D. Wheelon. "Space policy: How Technology, Economics and Public Policy Intersect" Working paper, MIT Program in Science, Technology and Society, 1988.

Reynolds, Glenn H., and Robert P. Merges.  Outer Space: Problems of Law and Policy. Boulder: Westview Press, 1989.

There are several web sites for space policy-related information you may find useful to check out.  The following are for space policy "players."  Additional links will be provided throughout the course.

Assignment Types

There are three kinds of assignments for the seminar:

  • Reading. Most weeks there will be extensive reading assigned.  Please come to class prepared to discuss the readings for the week.
  • 1-pg Memos. A 1-page memo on a relevant topic will be due almost each week. These 1-page memos are meant to be no more than 1 page, and are typical of what a high-level decision maker would expect when they ask you for background information or your recommendation.
  • Group Term Project. Includes researching the issue, writing a paper/model, making a presentation to the class, and preparing reading materials for the class in preparation for the presentation. The group project will be a study of the technological, architectural and policy options associated with developing a new reusable launch vehicle.
Grading Breakdown
  • Decision Memos: 50%
  • Term Project: 40%
  • Class Participation: 10%
Detailed Description of 1-pg Memo Assignments

Memos must be clearly written, succinct, and give make a reasoned case to a decision-maker. They will be graded for spelling and grammar as well as good aesthetic presentation.

Memo based on Stone's reading
You are a special assistant to the President of the United States for Space Matters and you have only been on the job for one day. The President has just read the first two chapters of the Stone book "Policy Paradox" and likes the cake story. He wants a one page memo from you that pairs each of the cake distribution methods cited with a government policy (past or present) that is based on that method. He would like you to use space policies but would understand if you cannot.

Satellite Flyover Memo
It is 1956. You are the National Security Advisor to President Eisenhower, and the President would like to understand the implications of overflight of US sovereign territory by satellites of foreign origin. Since this has never happened before, he has asked you for a 1 page memo describing the potential courses of action (responses) the US could take if the Soviet Union were the first to overfly the US with a satellite. He wants the memo on his desk in the Oval Office in one week.

Moon mission architecture based memo
It is 1963 and you are the Science Adviser to the President. The President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), which you chair, has recommended the development of an earth orbit infrastructure for the lunar missions. This will develop infrastructure for the long term but delay the moon landing. President Kennedy has asked you for a 1 page memo advising him on what to do about the PSAC recommendation- should he take it or reject it?

Apollo Memo
It is 1970. The Congress is considering terminating the Apollo program, and discontinuing all missions after Apollo 17. You are a Committee Staffer for the House Science Subcommittee on Space, and have been asked by the Subcommittee Chair to write a 1-page memo detailing the important reasons to continue the Apollo Program. In the memo, you should also address the chief arguments for terminating the Program and rebut these. The Chair eagerly expects your memo in one week, at which time he goes to battle with opposing Subcommittee members.

Challenger Memo
It is late afternoon on January 28, 1986. In wake of the Challenger explosion that morning, the NASA Administrator has appointed you head of a select NASA committee chartered to recommend a course of action for the Agency in response to the tragedy. The Administrator has asked you for a 1-page memo describing what NASA should do to reestablish the American people's faith in the space program and get the space shuttles flying safely again as soon as possible. He is particularly concerned with what attitude NASA should portray to the American people, and how much they should know about the accident. He wants your memo in one week.

ISS Hab Module Decision Memo
You are the Special Assistant to the NASA Associate Administrator for Space Station. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has recommended to President Clinton that NASA discontinue funding for the International Space Station Habitation Module as currently planned, and instead procure a habitation module commercially. The Associate Administrator has asked you for a 1 page memo detailing what course of action NASA should pursue and why.  Specifically, she needs to know if she should concur with the OMB recommendation or go against it.

Moon Treaty Decision Memo
You are a Committee Staffer for the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space. The UN Moon Treaty has been passed to your Subcommittee for review and comment. The Chairman of this Subcommittee, Senator Frist, has asked you for a 1 page memo on whether or not the Senate should ratify the Treaty. As always, he expects a sound justification to back up your recommendation. He is meeting with the full Subcommittee soon, and wants your recommendation at that time in order to present it to the subcommittee members.

Next US Space Endeavor Memo
You are the Assistant Director for Space at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Your boss, the Science Advisor to President Bush, has been asked by the President for a recommendation on the next space project the US should undertake. Your boss has asked you for a 1 page memo describing several project options, and recommending which one the OSTP should back. He reminds you that you work for the President, and any projects should support his agenda for the country. He needs the memo in a week, as he has an afternoon meeting with the President a week from today and will need a some time to review your recommendations.

Term project for AY 03

A strategy for the development of a reusable launch vehicle.

The Shuttle was developed in the late sixties. It's operational life can take it through 2025. Many have called for NASA to develop a new reusable launch vehicle that will substantially reduce the cost of launch to orbit. However, this has been tried before with a great deal of money spent before the project was cancelled (X-33). This project will develop the strategies to develop a new reusable launch vehicle in the 2025 timeframe.


  • A publishable, scholarly research paper. Due: Lec #12.
  • A detailed outline of the research paper. Due: Lec #8.
  • A bibliography of all sources consulted. Due: Lec #9.
  • A presentation for the class that summarizes the research paper and leads the group in a scholarly discussion of the issue. Due: Lec #11.
  • A set of readings to be distributed to all visitors, to provide them with background. Due: 1 week prior to presentation.

The project will accomplish the following tasks:

  • Review past NASA and Air Force attempts to develop a reusable launch vehicle.
  • Assess the possibilities for international cooperation in the development of such a vehicle.
  • Determine the potential commercial viability of such a system.
  • Study the potential NASA/Air Force joint requirements for such a vehicle.
  • Propose (cost-effective) strategies for the development of such a vehicle.