Space Systems Design Certificate Program (SSD)

Space Systems Academic Group

Program Length: 1 year | Starts: Fall | Curriculum: #253

Program Overview

The Space Systems Design Certificate provides a top-level overview of basic spacecraft design. The four-course sequence is intended to convey to students—who may have limited or no space experience—the knowledge required to incorporate new and existing technologies into space systems, derive and articulate design requirements, and firmly understand the mission design life cycle. The certificate course sequence covers the major spacecraft subsystems within the construct of spacecraft cost, reliability estimates, and common spacecraft acquisition issues. The specific subsystems include structures, thermal, power, attitude control, propulsion, and telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C). The military applications of existing space systems will also be examined, providing an opportunity for the students to apply the spacecraft design concepts.

Certificate Program

The Space Systems Design Certificate program (253) is a 12-month, part-time program, with one course offered per quarter for four consecutive quarters, delivered asynchronously using web-based instruction (ONLINE). The web-based courses are paced week-to-week by the instructors, but students have great flexibility to do coursework at times of their choosing during each week.

The Space Systems Design Certificate is designed to broadly expose students to Spacecraft Design and to provide skills and tools that they can immediately apply in current assignments requiring critical thinking and analytical skills.

A new Space Systems Design Certificate program is scheduled to begin each Fall quarter (September). The programs can be delivered virtually anywhere to any qualified applicant. AE4831 is a group-based project, so the student will need to participate collaboratively with the class.


Program Announcements

Call for Applications: Space Systems Design Certificate Program
Commencing the week of 25 September 2023 (curriculum 253)

The Naval Postgraduate School’s Space Systems Academic Group is pleased to announce that it is currently accepting applications for its distance learning Space Systems Design Certificate (curriculum 253). The Space Systems Design Certificate program is primarily targeted at Navy and Marine Corps Officers but is also open to enlisted personnel, other uniformed services, federal civilians, and defense contractor civilians when space is available. The program is designed to provide students with foundational knowledge in spacecraft design.

Deadline for application is 05 July 2023. For more information, visit the website below or contact the Academic Associate, Stephen Tackett, at



  • AE4830 – Spacecraft Systems I
  • AE4831 - Spacecraft Systems II
  • SS3051 (SECRET) - Military Applications of DoD and Commercial Space Systems

AE4830 emphasizes the various spacecraft bus subsystems. AE4831 forms the class into a project team and develops a basic spacecraft design. SS3051 covers joint space doctrine and military applications of DoD and commercial systems. SS3011, Space Technology and Applications is a prerequisite for AE4830. Hyperlinks above provide more information on each course.

For additional information, please visit the NPS catalog.


Eligibility and Admissions Standards

Baccalaureate degree with completion of basic algebra, geometry, trigonometry and logarithms, and college level physics and a SECRET clearance.

The following are eligible for this program:

  • US Military Officers*
  • US Government Civilians (GS)
  • Enlisted Personnel
  • Select Department of Defense Contractors

*Per OPNAVINST 1520.23C, Naval active duty service members will incur a 1 year service obligation upon completion or withdrawal from the Design Certificate



NPS Mission-funded Tuition

NPS is mission-funded to provide tuition-free graduate education to active duty Navy and Marine Corps officers. Students are required to purchase their own textbooks.

Sponsor-reimbursed Tuition

The open enrollment tuition price is dependent upon military, government employee and defense contractor affiliation. Seats not filled by active duty Navy and Marine Corps officers are available for open enrollment to enlisted personnel, other uniformed service members, Federal Government civilians, and contract employees employed by SECNAV approved Department of Defense contractors under the sponsorship of their organization.

Refer to the tuition page regarding general information on tuition for DL programs and contact the NPS Tuition POC at:


Contact Information

Program Officer
Richard Arledge, CDR, USN
Watkins Hall, Room 107
(831) 656-2033, DSN 756-2033

Academic Associate
Steve Tackett, Lecturer
Code SP/Ta, Bullard Hall, Room 204
(831) 656-2944, DSN 756-2944

Educational Technician
Ms. Susan Lichtenwalter
Watkins Hall, Room 115
(831) 656-2491, DSN 756-2491

For information regarding admissions or distance learning contact the NPS Admissions Office at


NPS Follow-on Resident Programs:

Space Systems Operations - Resident Degree Program (Curriculum 366)

The Space Systems Operations curriculum prepares the graduate to plan and manage military space systems and to develop the necessary requirements, strategy, and doctrine. Students will gain knowledge of and appreciation for military opportunities in space and acquire the practical and theoretical skills required for the execution of space-based operations. Included are both the space-based and terrestrial components of military systems employed for communications, surveillance, navigation, electronic warfare and environmental sensing.

Space Systems Engineering - Resident Degree Program (Curriculum 591)

The Space Systems Engineering program provides officers, through graduate education, with a comprehensive scientific and technical knowledge of military and Navy space systems. This curriculum is designed to equip officers with the theoretical and practical skills required to design and integrate military space payloads with other spacecraft subsystems. Graduates will be prepared by their education to design, develop and manage the acquisition of space communications, navigation, surveillance, electronic warfare and environmental sensing systems.


Additional SSAG certificates:

Space Systems Certificate- Distance Learning – (Curriculum 273)

The Space Systems Certificate provides the foundation to understanding the integration of space capabilities across combined armed forces, involving networks, sensors, and weapons. The certificate course sequences covers MILSATCOM, remote sensing, physics of the space environment, and orbitology, providing knowledge, and insight to exploit the combat advantage provided by current and future space-based resources.

Space Nuclear Command, Control and Communications Certificate Program- Distance Learning – (Curriculum 298)

The Space Nuclear Command, Control & Communications (NC3) Certificate is designed to give students a basic foundation to understand Space capabilities and their integration into the U.S. NC3 architecture involving networks, sensors and communication fundamentals relevant to U.S. strategic nuclear operations, deterrence and assurance. The students will understand various nuclear systems and communication nodes to the technical level. Upon completion students will understand the NC3 system basic modes of operation in various scenarios (such as peace time vs conflict). Students will be equipped to make informed recommendations regarding future NC3 system updates based on accepted design principles, past lessons learned, evolving deterrence needs, and new technology.

Space Control, Tactics, & Operations (SCTO) Certificate – Distance Learning – (Curriculum 266)

The Space Control, Tactics, & Operations (SCTO) Certificate is a four-course sequence that focuses on space control, specifically rendezvous and proximity operations. It is designed to serve the DoD Space community and increases the ability to meet DoD Space mission objectives. It provides a technical basis in orbital mechanics and space systems modeling and simulation, as well as the implications of operating space systems in a contested environment.