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Graduate students join the SSDL as either M.S. or Ph.D. degree candidates. Many start as Masters candidates and may continue to receive their Ph.D. degrees. All students perform research while attending graduate school. Doctoral candidates will complete their dissertation while Masters candidates conduct research through a Masters thesis or independent project. Most SSDL students are enrolled in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering and are obligated to satisfy all requirements put forth by the AE School ( and Graduate Studies Office (

M.S. Program

The requirements for Masters degree are stated below:


Students opting for the Thesis option must select their topic in their first year and pass both a Thesis proposal and a Thesis defense. 

AE Ph.D. Program

The Georgia Tech AE doctoral curriculum includes coursework, research, a qualifying examination, an approved thesis proposal, and an approved thesis defense. The following table summarizes the credit requirements for a Ph.D student:


SSDL students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. typically take the qualifying examinations in their second/third year of graduate work. They select System Design Optimization (Space Vehicles) and a secondary area which is relevant to their research. More information about the quals can be found here.


SSDL students usually take a mixture of AE and MATH classes that are relevant to their research, along with classes from other departments such as ME, ECE, CS, EAS etc. Below is a partial list of suggested classes that our students may take depending on their research topic:


Typically Offered Every Fall Semester (check class schedule for availability)

AE 6353 : Orbital Mechanics

AE 6530 : Multivariable Linear Systems and Control

AE 6705 : Introduction to Mechatronics (also ME 6405)

AE 8801 : Graduate Seminar 


Typically Offered Every Spring Semester (check class schedule for availability):

AE 6210 : Advanced Dynamics I

AE 6310 : Optimization for the Design of Engineered Systems

AE 6450 : Rocket Propulsion

AE 6520 : Advanced Flight Dynamics

AE 6580 : Nonlinear Control Systems

AE 8801 : Graduate Seminar


Offered Periodically (approximately every other year)

AE 6354 : Advanced Orbital Mechanics 

AE 6355 : Planetary Entry and Descent

AE 6505 : Kalman Filtering

AE 6511 : Optimal Guidance and Control

AE 8803 : Spacecraft Attitude Determination and Control


Recommended Classes in Other Departments:

ECE 6390 : Satellite Communications and Navigation Systems

ECE 6552 : Nonlinear Systems

ECE 6553 : Optimal Control

ECE 6555 : Optimal Estimation

ECE 6563 : Networked Control Systems

ISYE 6739 : Statistical Methods

ME 6401 : Linear Control Systems

ME 6402 : Nonlinear Control

ME 6441 : Dynamics of Mechanical Systems


Some Undergraduate Classes that may be relevant:

AE 4361 : Space Flight Operations

AE 4580 : Introduction to Avionics Integration

INTA 3043 : Space Policy

MATH 4305 : Linear Algebra


The class schedule is updated every semester and there are many other worthwhile classes in other Departments, so please explore the class schedule each semester and consult with your faculty advisor on recommended classes.