Best MSc courses for space engineering careers in the UK

If you tuned in to watch the NASA Perseverance Rover land on Mars last week (or you’re following the other current ground-breaking missions to the Red Planet) you are no doubt excited about prospect of future space missions.

Indeed, the space mission scene hasn’t been this active or ambitious since the middle of the 1900s! There’s certainly plenty of scope for those with the right academic skills and qualifications to work on a wealth of exciting space projects over the coming decades.

Indeed, future exploration cannot take place without the engineers who design and develop the spacecraft that enable the missions. Taking an astronautics or spacecraft engineering postgraduate degree in the UK could be your first step towards a fulfilling future space role.

However, as an international student it can be difficult to know which UK universities best prepare you for an engineering role in the space sector. However, our resident space sector expert Dr Ross Burgon is on hand to give a rundown of some of the top space engineering MSc courses in the UK:

Cranfield University

This unique, wholly postgraduate, university specialises in engineering. Originally founded in 1946 as the ‘College of Aeronautics’ you will find generations of Cranfield graduates working across the global aerospace and space industry.

Cranfield’s students benefit from small group teaching and research projects, access to industrial scale facilities on campus, and strong links with space companies and organisations around the world.

One of Cranfield’s flagship programmes is its MSc in Astronautics and Space Engineering.

This was one of the first courses of its kind in the UK and it is the perfect option for students wanting to gain a thorough understanding of, and expertise in, all the key technologies for space missions.

The University also offers a number of other specialist MSc courses which align well to a space engineering career. These include Aerospace Vehicle Design, Power and Propulsion, Advanced Mechanical Engineering, Systems Engineering and Advanced Composite Structures.

University of Surrey

The University of Surrey has become a world-leading university when it comes to space. The University developed the UK’s most successful space-sector ‘university spin-out company’ (Surrey Satellite Technologies Ltd – or SSTL) which Elon Musk has described as: "probably the world leader in small satellites”. SSTL is now wholly-owned by Airbus Defence and Space but the University continues to provide a steady stream of graduates for the industry.

The University has a strong focus on robotics and rover technologies and, as the only UK university that has launched its own satellite into space, has its own spacecraft operations centre, enabling its students to gain first-hand experience of controlling an actual spacecraft in orbit!

Two of its best space MSc courses are its MSc Space Engineering and its MSc Satellite Communications

University of Strathclyde

The University of Strathclyde, based in Glasgow, boasts the “largest space engineering group in Europe”. Its space engineering courses have been built around an exceptional expertise in mechanical engineering. You can choose from a variety of specialist mechanical engineering courses which include a strong focus strongly on the space environment. These include:

MSc Advanced Mechanical Engineering

MSc Advanced Mechanical Engineering with Aerospace

MSc Advanced Mechanical Engineering with Materials

The advantage of these courses is that you will study within one of the world’s most active space engineering research environments but also maintain flexibility to pursue a future career across a range of non-space sectors.

University of Southampton

The University of Southampton is slightly newer to the field of space engineering. Like Strathclyde, it has traditionally been more well known for its naval and marine engineering expertise, however, it has fast become one of the UK’s leading space universities. Systems engineering is one of the University’s strengths and it has combined this with expertise in the space environment, robotics, control engineering and materials to deliver a top MSc course in Space Systems Engineering

The University has also developed a world-leading expertise in rocket propulsion and boasts it's own unique rocket propulsion test facilities.

Other Universities There are a number of other UK universities that have global reputations in Engineering and Technology which can also provide a fantastic preparation for a career in space engineering. There are also careers which involve working on the science instrumentation, payloads for space missions and even a ramge of non-STEM roles.

If you would like to apply to any of the courses above, or any other postgraduate course in the UK, create our free account on Student Central today!

If you'd like to talk about your postgraduate options in more detail book a consultation with our team.

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Dr Ross Burgon
Ross has an MSc and PhD in spacecraft engineering. He has worked on space projects at the University of Cambridge, Cranfield, the OU, and the University of Leicester.
Published on 21 February 2021
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