AST 101: Fundamentals of Astronautics

AST 101: Fundamentals of Astronautics



AST 101 ‘Fundamentals of Astrodynamics’ introduces the student to scientific human spaceflight as a systemic problem. Specifically, AST 101 introduces the student to the design and training aspects integral to noctilucent cloud tomography on suborbital commercial space vehicles in support of Project PoSSUM. AST 101 will provide the principles of the PoSSUM Program and gain a general understanding of the mesosphere, noctilucent cloud dynamics, observational methods and history, noctilucent cloud structures, aerospace physiology, and life support systems relevant to suborbital flight.

AST 101 includes a fully-immersive program that provides the skills required to effectively conduct research on the next generation of commercial space vehicles as part of Project PoSSUM. Designed and instructed by former NASA astronaut instructors and PoSSUM team scientists, AST 101 also serves as a prerequisite to many other courses offered through the IIAS by introducing key training elements. AST 101 is a pre-requisite for enrollment into all citizen-science courses administered by the IIAS including AER 103, BIO 103, BIO 104, EVA 103, EVA 104, and OPS 104. IIAS Credit will be granted for AST 101 for either of the two programs administered in partnership with Project PoSSUM which may be used towards the Applied Astronautics Credential.

1: PoSSUM ‘Scientist-Astronaut Qualification Program

PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Candidates are trained and qualified to participate in PoSSUM graduate specializations, become a PoSSUM educator or space suit technician, or to fly to space as a PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut. Basic qualifications for the PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Program include:

  • Current FAA Class III Flight Physical
  • SCUBA Experience
  • Bachelor’s Degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) field

2: Advanced PoSSUM Academy

Advanced PoSSUM Academy graduates are equivalently trained and qualified to participate in PoSSUM graduate specializations. Upon graduation with a qualifying B.S degree, Advanced PoSSUM Graduates may take a free evaluation for equivalency as a PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Candidate. Basic qualifications for the Advanced PoSSUM Academy include:

  • Current FAA Class III Flight Physical
  • SCUBA Experience
  • Demonstrated academic success in a STEM field

Both the PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Qualification Program and the Advanced PoSSUM Academy exceed the standards established for flight crew as part of FAR § 460.5(b) for the PoSSUM researcher. Specifically, that the researcher will “demonstrate an ability to withstand the stresses of space flight, which may include high acceleration or deceleration, microgravity, and vibration, in sufficient condition to safely carry out his or her duties.” For noctilucent cloud tomography missions, the PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut duties include effective operation of the PoSSUMCam system, real-time identification of noctilucent cloud micro-features of greatest scientific interest, real-time optimization of camera settings at cloud altitudes, proper use of crew resource management techniques to assure proper vehicle attitude at all times during the mission, and the effective activation of MCAT and MASS instruments at cloud altitudes. Duties for other PoSSUM research missions are determined as missions are conceived.


AST 101 is administered through three-weeks of webinar and self-study followed by a one-week intensive program held at Florida Tech in Melbourne, FL. or at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. Except where noted, AST 101 studnets enrolled in either the PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Program or the Advanced PoSSUM Academy provide the following academic and training elements

Academic Topics:

  • The Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere (MLT) Environment
  • Fundamentals of remote sensing
  • Remote sensing and aerospace cinematography
  • Spaceflight simulation and operations
  • Crew Resource Management (CRM) techniques
  • Hypoxia awareness and mitigation
  • Spacesuit operations, including donning, doffing, pressure regulation, contingency operations, decompression, smoke and hazardous environments, egress and sea survival systems, and ejection systems overview.
  • High-G analog and mitigation methods
  • Zero-G and changing-G physiology
  • Introduction to aerospace physiology and life support systems
  • Celestial navigation and atmospheric scattering
  • Use of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) for science
  • Science communication and public outreach

Individualized Training Elements:

  • Introduction to suborbital space flight simulation
  • Mission simulation and Crew Resource Management Training in PoSSUMSim
  • High-G and microgravity Space Physiology indoctrination flight using an aerobatic aircraft.
  • Airborne scientific imagery training flight using Piper Twin aircraft (Scientist-Astronaut Program only)
  • Anti-G Garment and AGSM training
  • High Altitude mission training in a full altitude chamber facility using simulation for slow-onset hypoxia scenarios.
  • Initial Spacesuit Training (don, doff, regulating pressure, basic mobility, fine motor skills, flight system control)
  • Introduction to Spacesuit Contingency Operations (contingency operations, decompression, smoke and hazardous environments, post-landing scenarios, egress and sea survival systems, capsule egress fundamentals, and aircraft ejection systems)
  • Full Scientist-Astronaut Mission simulation training in spacesuits in PoSSUMSim
  • Introduction to Virtual Reality technologies for space mission training
  • Individualized instruction on PoSSUMCam and scientific video camera systems

Day-One Training Elements:

Academic instruction including an overview of the PoSSUM program (1 hr), science of the mesosphere (1 hr), fundamentals of remote sensing (1 hr), basic noctilucent cloud science (1 hr), PoSSUM instrumentation operations (1 hr), imaging noctilucent clouds from suborbital spacecraft (1 hr), aerospace physiology (1 hr), life support systems (1 hr), and PoSSUM suborbital simulator operations (2 hrs).

Day Two Training Elements:

1)     Understanding of PoSSUM instrumentation and operational concepts. Comprehensive training geared towards the effective use of the PoSSUMCam system and other PoSSUM instrumentation in a classroom environment.

2)     Hypoxia awareness training at altitudes equivalent to 25,000 feet in a high-altitude chamber at our Melbourne, Florida. Flight Operations Facility, capable of simulating space missions in hypoxic or hyperoxic environments. Recognize off-nominal environments and your own physiological responses to contingency environments in a spacesuit.

3)     Space suit safety training

Day Three Training Objectives:

1)    Comprehensive training in mission-qualified spacesuits where you will learn to don and doff a spacesuit, pressurize a spacesuit, perform safety checks, and conduct basic operations using a spacesuit.

2)    Crew Resource Management (CRM) training in PoSSUM mission simulation of actual noctilucent cloud research missions.  Trainees will learn how to operate PoSSUM instrumentation in a real-time analog environment.

3)     Space suit contingency operations training including principles of decompression, smoke and hazardous environments, post-landing scenarios, egress and sea survival systems, capsule egress fundamentals, and aircraft ejection systems.

Day Four Training Objectives:

1)     To perform optimally in a high-G environment, mitigating G-induced blackouts through the use of mechanical countermeasures and AGSM breathing techniques in an Extra 300L Aerobatic aircraft. Indoctrination to high-G and changing-G environments analogous to suborbital spaceflight. Exposure to Gx, Gy, and Gz accelerations. Execution of above maneuvers with student flying the aircraft using an Extra 300 aerobatic aircraft.

2)     Effective use of servo-controlled camera systems and employ proper Crew Resource Management techniques in an airborne imagery training flight using a Piper Cherokee 6 aircraft.

3)     Anti-G Garment training and introduction to Anti-G Breathing Maneuver (AGSM) training.

4) Use of proper communication and Crew Resource Management (CRM) techniques in-flight.

Day Five Training Objectives:

1)     Introduction to Virtual and Augmented reality for space missions

2)     To introduce specialized topics pertaining to aeronomy and astronautics and to review and evaluate academic instruction administered through the previous four days.

3)     To complete all objectives which could not be completed in the previous days due to inclement weather or other contingencies.

4)     Final Evaluation

Also Included:

  • Personalized PoSSUM/OTTER flight suit
  • PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Manual
  • Welcome reception and Keynote talks from industry experts
  • Graduation certificate, PoSSUM T-shirt, and silver-plated pin

2021 Course Schedule


17apr(apr 17)6:30 pm21(apr 21)5:00 pmPoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Class 2001 and 2002

19apr(apr 19)8:00 am23(apr 23)5:00 pm2020 PoSSUM Academy - Red Sprite Group

24apr(apr 24)6:30 pm28(apr 28)5:00 pmPoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Class 2003 and 2101

26apr(apr 26)8:00 am30(apr 30)5:00 pm2020 PoSSUM Academy - Blue Jet Group


01may8:00 am05(may 5)5:00 pmOPS 102 Spacecraft Egress and Rescue Operations On-SiteOn-site compliment to OPS 102 course providing aircraft egress and sea survial training to complement post-landing human space flight system engineering instruction

06may(may 6)8:00 am09(may 9)5:00 pmFeaturedBIO 104: Advanced Egress - Spacesuit Landing and Post-Landing Testing

10may(may 10)8:00 am12(may 12)5:00 pmOPS 104 On-Site Mission Simulation TrainingOn-Site compliment to OPS 104 Orbital Mechanics and Mission Simulation using the IIAS Orion simulator to provide high-fidelity simulation of ISS rendezvous and docking missions.

13may(may 13)8:00 am16(may 16)5:00 pmEVA 105 Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory EVA Operations CampaignOn-Site compliment to EVA 105 Fundamentals of Underwater EVA Operations using the IIAS Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. This NAUI-certified prepares on to evaluate actual EVA space suits in analog underwater conditions.

17may(may 17)8:00 am21(may 21)5:00 pmFeaturedBIO 103 Microgravity Research CampaignMicrogravity Research Campaign supporting the IIAS BIO 103 Program

25may(may 25)8:00 am28(may 28)5:00 pmEVA 102 Operational Space Medicine Field CampaignField component to cover wilderness medicine in extreme environments, culminating with a 4-day on-site lab portion devoted to triage, scenarios and skills pertaining to wilderness medicine

29may01junEVA 103 Planetary Field Geology Field CampaignEVA 103 course covers the requirements and design considerations for EVA systems and tools for conducting planetary field geology


06jun(jun 6)8:00 am12(jun 12)5:00 pmFTE 102 Fixed-Wing Performance Flight Test CampaignOn-Site compliment to FTE 102 Fixed-Wing Performance Flight Testing using Turbo Mooney aircraft.

13jun(jun 13)8:00 am19(jun 19)5:00 pmFTE 103 Fixed-Wing Stability and Control Flight Test CampaignOn-Site compliment to the FTE 102 Fixed-Wing Stability and Control Flight Test Course using Turbo Mooney, Piper Twin, and Pitts S2B aircraft.


10julAll Day20FeaturedAER 103 Noctilucent Cloud Imagery Field Research CampaignField campaign as part of AER 103, Airborne Noctilucent Cloud Imagery course to study noctilucent cloud formations through coordinated ground, airborne, and balloon observations.


01nov8:00 am05(nov 5)5:00 pmFeaturedEVA 104 Gravity-Offset EVA Space Suit Evaluation CampaignGravity-offset research campaign to evaluate the Final Frontier Design EVA space suit by applying the tools and techniques developed through EVA 102 and EVA 103 courses

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