University establishes master’s program for space entrepreneurship

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Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

The University is planning to offer a master’s degree in space entrepreneurship beginning in May.

The program will be a part of the larger Masters of Science in Technology Commercialization program, which began in 1996, according to program director Gary Cadenhead. The space entrepreneurship degree, first announced earlier this semester, will be tailored directly to students who want to learn about combining space exploration and business management.

Cadenhead said he believes it is important to teach students how to both work with technology and use it for profit.

“We felt it was important that we had a program that would train individuals to be able to identify space technology with the potential … to take them to market,” Cadenhead said.

Cadenhead said recruitment efforts are expected to begin in the near future in a joint effort with the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

“We will be sending out information about our program to the 400-plus companies in the U.S. that are in the new space industry,” Cadenhead said. “We are supporting the Austin Chamber of Commerce, which is trying to recruit some of those 400 companies to either move to Austin or expand into Austin.”

Scott Hickle, mechanical engineering senior, said there is a difference in the space industry between “New Space,” which companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic exemplify, and “Old Space,” which is comprised of more established companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

“It seems to me like the space entrepreneurship program … is a program to feed into ‘New Space,’ whether that means producing entrepreneurs or just ‘New Space’ leaders,” Hickle said.

Hickle said most people only remember the scientific aspects of space exploration when they think about space, but said the science is only one part of the equation.

“I want to promote space exploration in any and all ways possible, and a big part of space exploration is the business side of it, and people don’t really appreciate that,” Hickle said. “It’s not just a science or engineering project. Space really is as much a government and policy and business problem as it is an engineering problem.”

Hickle, a member of the Planetary Society, a nonprofit founded to pursue space exploration, said Texas has the potential to push the space industry to new levels.

“Texas has always been huge pioneers in space and  is going to continue to be,” Hickle said. “UT Austin’s role in it really could grow in the coming years because we are in the Silicon Valley of the South.”

Physics freshman Lilian Nguyen said she feels that many students stand to benefit from the space entrepreneurship program.

“I think it would be useful in terms of putting what you learn, mathematically, into the context of a business,” Nguyen said. “I wouldn’t be interested in it because I feel that sort of knowledge is better learned through experience more than just being taught in class. But I could see why other people would benefit from that — if they need that sort of direction.”

Hickle said UT has the potential to become a leader in the space industry.

“We really could see more Longhorn involvement in space,” Hickle said.