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Taught Postgraduate Programme

MSc in the field of Space Science


space science poster

The Department of Physics is offering an exciting new Taught Postgraduate Master of Science in the field of Space Science. Modern Space Science is a highly multi-disciplinary field that encompasses a broad range of sub-disciplines, from astrophysics, to aerospace engineering, electronics, remote sensing, and space exploration. China has recently been investing heavily in Space Science, launching 39 satellites in 2018 alone, over twice as many as in 2017 and more than any other country in the world. Given its status as a global metropolis, its strong international links, and its location in the “Greater Bay Area” (GBA), Hong Kong is ideally placed to capitalize on the growth of China in the area of Space Science. The establishment, in 2016, of the Laboratory for Space Research (LSR) under the Faculty of Science at The University of Hong Kong (HKU), combined with our strong ties to leading space institutes across the world and in Mainland China1 makes HKU the ideal place for a Taught Master Programme in Space Science. Our programme taps into our strengths in high-energy astrophysics, planetary sciences, statistics, and engineering, while leveraging our connections with elite Mainland and global partners. Our MSc will provide a basic foundation to enter this exciting field, with promising employment opportunities, both in the public and private sectors, in China, and worldwide.


1Nanjing University (NJU, China), Zhejiang University (ZJU, China), National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC), Shanghai Academy of Space Flight Technology (SAST), CNNC and Chinese Institute for Atomic Energy (CIAE), Beijing Institute for Science and Mechanical Electricity (BISME), DFH Satellite Company LTD (China), Dongguan Science & Technology Bureau, Greater Bay Area Alliance (GBA, China), Joint Innovation Centre for Space Science (China), China Space Utilization, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CSU, CAS), Padova-CISAS (Italy), Natural History Museum (UK)

Admission Requirements

To be eligible for admission to the programme, you should have:

  1. A Bachelor's degree with honours of this University, or an equivalent qualification;
  2. Applicants should possess a Bachelor's degree in a relevant science (e.g. Physics, Astronomy, Earth Sciences) or Engineering (e.g. Aerospace, Electrical, Mechanical), or a related subject; and
  3. Fulfil the University Entrance Requirements.


For 2020-21 intake:

The closing dates for non-local and local applications are 12:00nn (HKT), June 15, 2020 (extended) and 12:00nn (HKT), June 30, 2020 respectively. Applications can be submitted via our on-line application system here.

For non-local students, they are advised to apply as early as possible to ensure completing all entry visa requirements prior to the commencement of the programme (It may take up to 3 months to process the entry visa).


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the Master of Science in the field of Space Science Programme

(Please read the FAQ before making an application)



Fees for 2020-21 intake:

The composition fee for the full-time programme for 2020-21 intake will be HK$210,000# and that for the part-time programme is HK$105,000# per year for two years. The fees shall be payable in two instalments over one year for full-time study or in four instalments over two years for part-time study. Additional expenses for field travel and studies are possible.

In addition, students are required to pay Caution Money (HK$350, refundable on graduation subject to no claims being made) and Graduation Fee (HK$350).

# Subject to approval

Scholarships available for this programme. For details, please click HERE

Programme Highlights

  • English as the medium of instruction
  • Either 1 year (full-time) or 2 years (part-time)
  • offered by the Department of Physics, with contributions from the Department of Earth Sciences, Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science and the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering under the auspices of the LSR
  • Key partners in Mainland China (ZJU, NJU, CASC) and Europe (Padova-CISAS, Italy) and National History Museum (NHM, U.K.)
  • Highly multi-disciplinary degree, convering broad areas of science, engineering, and statistics, as related to space science and technology
  • Strong focus on Chinese Space Science programme
  • Elite guest lecturers
  • Internship opportunities in top space science laboratories in the Mainland and globally
  • Promising employment opportunities, in public and private sectors
  • Scholarships available



A. Programme Structure


Regulations and Syllabuses*


Our MSc programme is composed of 60 credits of courses. Students must enroll in 6 courses (36 credits) of “core” (compulsory) courses, offered mainly in the first semester. Students may then choose 3 “elective” courses out of a broad range of courses. In addition, students must carry out a “capstone project” by enrolling in the 6-credit course SPSC7031. Students are encouraged to approach faculty members in their areas of interest to choose a project. The final project will typically be undertaken over the course of the second semester. The curriculum of the MSc in Space Science is the same for both full-time and part-time modes of study.


* Subject to approval


Master of Science in the field of Space Science
Compulsory Courses (36 credits)
SPSC7001 Space flight propulsion (6 credits)
SPSC7002 Introduction to space weather (6 credits)
SPSC7003 Remote sensing (6 credits)


Radiation detection and measurement (6 credits)


Space science entrepreneurship (6 credits)
SPSC7006  Small satellite design (6 credits)
Elective Courses * (18 credits)


Introduction to space plasma physics (6 credits)



Climate change (6 credits)



Habitable planets and the origin of life (6 credits)

SPSC7014 Big data, AI and machine learning in space science(6 credits)
SPSC7015 Introduction to planetary science (6 credits)
SPSC7016 Overview of space astrophysics (6 credits)
SPSC7017 Introduction to astrochemistry and astrobiology (6 credits)
SPSC7018 Project management for space science (6 credits)
STAT6014 Advanced statistical modelling (6 credits)
STAT6016 Spatial data analysis (6 credits)
ELEC6008 Pattern Recognition and machine learning (6 credits)
ELEC6026 Digital signal processing (6 credits)
ELEC6065 Data compression (6 credits)
ELEC6100 Digital communications (6 credits)
Elective Courses (choose 3)Elective Courses (choose 3)Capstone Project  



 Space science final project (6 credits)


* Timetabling of courses may limit availability of some electives. The actual offering of such electives will be based on student demand.


B. Course Description

Core Courses

SPSC7001 Space flight propulsion (6 credits)

This course covers an introduction to the basic concepts of space flight propulsion. Topics include: Mechanics of particle motions under central forces, Newton’s law applied to the orbital mechanics of particles under central forces, orbital transfers, dynamics of mass-varying system, an application of kinetic principles to rocket and jet propulsion via the first-order differential equations, multi-stage design for energy efficiency, particles under velocity-dependent resistance, terminal velocity and its application to parachute and small particulates, peak deceleration of spacecraft re-entry trajectories.

Assessment: 40% coursework, 20% midterm examination, 40% final examination

SPSC7002 Introduction to space weather (6 credits)

Our modern lifestyles rely on satellite technology which can be severely affected by the Earth’s local particle environment. Much of this is due to the influence of the Sun, which emits large quantities of radiation and charged particles that interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. This course will cover the fundamentals of space weather, from its origins, to its effects, and forecasting.

Assessment: 40% coursework, 20% midterm examination, 40% final examination

SPSC7003 Remote sensing (6 credits)

This course is focussed on the theory behind, and practical application of, planetary remote sensing. The course covers the use of visible, infrared, radar, and laser remote sensing data to analyse planetary surfaces. Specific applications will include compositional and morphological analyses to support geological studies, landing site characterisation, and exploration for natural resources in space.

Assessment: 40% coursework, 20% midterm examination, 40% final examination

SPSC7004 Radiation detection and measurement (6 credits)

This course will provide an overview of the various ways in which we can detect radiation to make physical measurements. The course will cover the fundamentals of radiation interactions, properties of radiation detectors, including some of the most commonly used ones (e.g. Proportional Counters, Geiger-Mueller Counters). The course will include discussions of the principles of detection and some practical applications.

Assessment: 40% coursework, 20% midterm examination, 40% final examination

SPSC7005 Space science entrepreneurship (6 credits)

Unlike the early days, space science in modern times is not driven just by governments. Businesses like SpaceX, Blue Origin, or Virgin Galactic are not only capturing people’s imagination, but also proving that space provides big business opportunities. This course will cover the basics of designing, launching, and running a business, with a special emphasis on the space industry.

Assessment: 25% coursework and written assignment, 20% midterm examination, 40% final case study and presentation 15% Group discussions, attendance, and class engagements.

SPSC7006 Small satellite design (6 credits)

Small satellites (sometimes referred to as microsatellites, CubeSats, etc.) are becoming increasingly popular. Once proposed mainly for educational purposes, due to their low cost and shorter development time scales, these days many such satellites are being proposed and launched with a range of cutting-edge scientific goals. This course will cover the practical aspects of designing a small satellite, based on the principle of purchasing “off-the-shelf” components, and benefitting from “open source” solutions to many of the technical challenges. Topics include: science instruments and payloads, satellite subsystems, ground networks, space science data and software, ground networks, launchers, and operations.

Assessment: 50% coursework, 50% project

Elective Courses

SPSC7011 Introduction to space plasma physics (6 credits)

Most of space is filled with plasma, the fourth state of matter where freely moving charges from ionized gas interact with (and generate) electric and magnetic fields, leading to a complicated set of phenomena. This course will provide an introduction to the field, covering such topics as orbit theory, electromagnetic waves in cold plasmas, collision theory, magnetohydrodynamics, force-free magnetic-field configurations, stochastic processes, and interaction of particles and waves. The course will emphasize some of the applications of plasma physics in the fields of geophysics and astrophysics.

Assessment: 40% coursework, 20% midterm examination, 40% final examination

SPSC7012 Climate change (6 credits)

Global warming is one of the biggest challenges faced by this generation, posing potentially an existential threat to the planet: since 2001, the Earth has experienced 16 of the 17 warmest years in recorded history. The study of climate change from space has been one of the key goals of NASA going back to the 1960s. This course will cover the evidence for human-caused climate change, explaining the causes, including sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The course will explore all the various ways in which satellites are providing the necessary measurements, provide possible solutions. Topics include: Climate conditions on Earth, the greenhouse effect, satellite observations, climate modeling, future prospects for climate change mitigation.

Assessment: 40% coursework, 20% midterm examination, 40% final examination

SPSC7013 Habitable planets and the origin of life (6 credits)

The discovery of large numbers of exoplanets has provided the first solid piece of evidence that our Earth may not be as unique as our ancestors believed. The next step in humankind’s quest for the search of the origin of life will involve finding planets that are close enough in their conditions to Earth to harbour life similar to our own. This course will examine the quest for life outside our planet, including the search for planets in the so-called habitable zone. The course will also cover the origin of life outside our solar system and describe the various space observations being carried out in this effort.

Assessment: 40% coursework, 20% midterm examination, 40% final examination

SPSC7014 Big data, AI and machine learning in space science (6 credits)

These areas overlap, are interdependent and increasingly influential in the real world under the broad umbrella of data science. Big data and data analytics have been widely used in different fields of physics and other sciences. They have direct application in Space and satellite technologies. This course introduces the basics of all these areas. Data analytics is the science of analyzing raw data to make conclusions, a particular challenge in the Big data era, while Machine learning (ML) is a technique enabling computers to learn without being explicitly programmed and is part of the broader concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Key concepts across these overlapping and interdependent fields will be explored including practical processes, techniques and algorithms. There will be a focus on real-world examples with specific emphasis on applications in space and planetary sciences. The course will also cover some ML software packages in Python and R including basic techniques in supervised, unsupervised, and reinforcement learning. Examples in all areas will be drawn from fields such as astrophysics, particle physics and complex systems, including rare source identification from vast data, training sets, smart classification, time series, imaging and spectral analyses.

Assessment: 40% coursework, 20% midterm examination, 40% final examination

SPSC7015 Introduction to planetary science (6 credits)

We live in a golden age of planetary science, with new missions being proposed at an unprecedented rate by all the major space agencies. This course will provide an overview of planetary science, covering the major topics of the field: planetary dynamics, planetary properties, solar heating and energy transport, planetary atmospheres, planetary surfaces, planetary interiors, magnetospheres, meteorites and asteroids, comets, planet formation, and the search for extrasolar planets.

Assessment: 40% coursework, 20% midterm examination, 40% final examination

SPSC7016 Overview of space astrophysics (6 credits)

Astrophysics from space was historically proposed to cover those parts of the electromagnetic spectrum not visible from earth (e.g. X-rays, gamma rays), however, almost every part of the spectrum can benefit from space observations, removing the obstacles posed by our atmosphere. Some of the most iconic astrophysical images have been produced by the Hubble Space telescope, a relatively modest (in size) instrument which has made some stunning discoveries over the course of its almost 30-year lifetime. This course will provide an overview of past, present, and future astrophysical space missions, including their major science goals and achievements, and the technologies that made them possible.

Assessment: 40% coursework, 20% midterm examination, 40% final examination

SPSC7017 Introduction to astrochemistry and astrobiology (6 credits)

The notion that life may have originated in space has gained support in recent decades from the discovery of large numbers of complex molecules in space. How are these molecules detected? Where do they come from? Can these molecules eventually lead to the building blocks of life? This course will explore the tools, methods, and major results of astrochemistry and astrobiology, exploring in the process the origins of life in space.

Assessment: 40% coursework, 20% midterm examination, 40% final examination

SPSC7018 Project management for space science (6 credits)

The course will cover the fundamental aspects of project management, as they apply to space projects. Topics will include: initiation of a project, performance specifications, technical aspects of a project cycle, project planning, project execution, risk assessment and mitigation, project closure. The course will introduce students to hands-on aspects of project management, including management tools.

Assessment: 80% coursework, 20% final examination

STAT6014 Advanced statistical modelling (6 credits)

This course introduces modern methods for constructing and evaluating statistical models and their implementation using popular computing software, such as R or Python. It will cover both the underlying principles of each modelling approach and the model estimation procedures. Topics from: (i) Generalized linear models; (ii) Mixed models; (iii) Kernel and local polynomial regression; (iv) Generalized additive models; (v) Hidden Markov models and Bayesian networks.

Assessment: 40% coursework, 20% midterm examination, 40% final examination

STAT6016 Spatial data analysis (6 credits)

This course covers statistical concepts and tools involved in modelling data which are correlated in space. Applications can be found in many fields including epidemiology and public health, environmental sciences and ecology, economics and others. Covered topics include: (1) Outline of three types of spatial data: point-level (geostatistical), areal (lattice), and spatial point process. (2) Model-based geostatistics: covariance functions and the variogram; spatial trends and directional effects; intrinsic models; estimation by curve fitting or by maximum likelihood; spatial prediction by least squares, by simple and ordinary kriging, by trans-Gaussian kriging. (3) Areal data models: introduction to Markov random fields; conditional, intrinsic, and simultaneous autoregressive (CAR, IAR, and SAR) models. (4) Hierarchical modelling for univariate spatial response data, including Bayesian kriging and lattice modelling. (5) Introduction to simple spatial point processes and spatio-temporal models. Real data analysis examples will be provided with dedicated R packages such as geoR.

Assessment: 50/% coursework, 50% final examination

ELEC6008 Pattern recognition and machine learning (6 credits)

This course aims at providing fundamental knowledge on the principles and techniques of pattern recognition and machine learning.

Specifically, the course covers the following topics: Bayes decision theory; parametric and non-parametric methods; linear discriminant functions; unsupervised learning and clustering; feature extraction; neural networks; context-dependent classification; case studies.

Assessment: 25% coursework, 75% written examination

ELEC6026 Digital signal processing (6 credits)

This course provides an introduction to the fundamental concepts of digital signal processing (DSP) including a wide variety of topics such as discrete-time linear time invariant systems, sampling theorem, z-transform, discrete-time/discrete Fourier transform, and digital filter design. Furthermore, the course will also discuss in detail about other advanced topics in digital signal processing such as multidimensional signals and systems, random processes and applications, and adaptive signal processing.

Assessment: 20% coursework, 80% written examination

ELEC6065 Data compression (6 credits)

This course provides an introduction to the state-of-the-art compression techniques for typical media including files, digital images, videos and audios. Specifically, the course will discuss in detail about the coding and quantization techniques commonly used for images, videos and audios. Finally, the course will cover basic concept and terminologies of common image, video and audio standards.

Assessment: 20% coursework, 80% written examination

ELEC6100 Digital communications (6 credits)

This course aims at enabling the fundamental understanding of the digital communication systems. After an overview on basic probability and random processes, the module will cover different modulations and their optimal decision rules, with an emphasis on signal space representation. Then, performance analyses under additive white Gaussian noise channel and fading channel are examined. This is followed by topics on spatial diversity and channel equalization.

Assessment: 30% coursework, 70% written examination

Capstone Project

SPSC7031 Space science final project (6 credits) [Capstone project]

Students must carry out a research project in space science, under the guidance of a faculty member. Students are encouraged to approach faculty members in their areas of interest, in order to choose an appropriate project, which they will typically carry out over the course of the second semester. If students cannot choose, they will be offered a project (in consultation with the programme director), supervised by a member of our faculty. A final (oral) presentation is required and a report must be submitted.

Assessment: 25% oral presentation, 75% final report

Programme Director

Dr Jason C S Pun

Department of Physics

Dr Jason Chun Shing Pun is a researcher in the field of space astrophysics who specializes in the studies of supernovae, supernova remnants and X-ray binaries. He is also involved in the research in neutrino physics and cosmic-rays. Recently he has started research work on using remote sensing data from satellites to study of impact of artificial light on our night sky. Dr Pun is a co-recipient of the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and he was also awarded the 2018 Dark Sky Defender Award by the International Dark-Sky Association.


Co-Programme Director

Dr Pablo Saz Parkinson

Department of Physics
Laboratory for Space Research

Dr Saz Parkinson has been PI on projects with all the major high-energy astrophysics observatories over the last two decades (e.g. Chandra, Fermi, NICER, NuSTAR, XMM) and has authored over 170 refereed publications with > 25,000 citations. Dr Saz Parkinson has over 20 years of experience working on space projects, dating back to his PhD work on the Unconventional Stellar Aspect X-ray experiment at SLAC (Stanford University). After spending over a decade at the University of California, Santa Cruz working on various projects, including the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, he moved to HKU in 2013, where he is currently based, at the Laboratory for Space Research (LSR).


Staff List

The University of Hong Kong

Zhejiang University

  • Professor S C Chan (EE), BSc (Eng); PhD HK, MIEEE, Digital Signal Processing
  • Dr Stephen W K Cheung (PHYS), BS Wisconsin; MS, PhD U Virginia, Space Science Entrepreneurship
  • Professor Lixi Huang (ME), BSc, MS BUAA; PhD Cambridge, Space flight propulsion
  • Dr Simon K C Cheung (STATS), BSc HK; MSc ANU; PhD CUHK, Advanced Statistical Modelling
  • Dr Y K Chung (STATS), BSc, Phil CUHK; PhD HK, Spatial Data Analysis
  • Dr Gregg Li (PHYS), BA, MBA, MA, Dr Eng, FHKIOD, CISA, Space Science Entrepreneurship
  • Dr Joseph Michalski (DES), BS BGSU; MS ASU; PhD ASU, Remote Sensing, Planetary science
  • Dr Stephen Ng (PHYS), BS, MPhil HKU; PhD Stanford, Space Astrophysics
  • Professor Quentin Parker (PHYS), BSc, PhD St Andrews, Space Plasma Physics, Remote Sensing
  • Dr Michael Pittman (DES), BSc, MSc, PhD UCL, Life beyond Earth
  • Dr Pablo Saz Parkinson (PHYS), BS Columbia; MS, MS, PhD Stanford, Radiation Detection and Measurement
  • Dr Meng Su (PHYS), BA Phys/Astro PKU; PhD Harvard, Cosmology, Astronomical Instrumentation, Spaceborne Detectors
  • Dr Shawn Wright (DES), BS Geol SRSU; MS Geol Pitt; PhD Geol ASU, Planetary Geology and Habitability
  • Dr Y C Wu (EE), BEng, MPhil HKU; PhD Texas A & M, Digital communications
  • Dr Binzheng Zhang (DES), BE, MS ZJU; PhD Dartmouth, Geospace science, magnetospheres
  • Assocociate Professor Xiaojun Jin, BSc, MSc, PhD ZJU, Satellite Communications, Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TTC)
  • Professor Huiquan Wang, BE, Dr Eng ZJU, System design of small satellite/On board computer (OBC)
  • Associate Professor Zhaobin Xu, BSc, PhD ZJU, Satellite Communications, System design of small satellite/ADCS


Nanjing University

  • Dr Zhiyuan Li, BS, MS NJU; PhD UMass, Space Astrophysics
  • Dr Chuan Li, PhD NJU, Space Weather



  • Professor Denis Bastieri (Padova/Guangzhou), MSc, PhD Padua, Microsatellites, Space Science
  • Dr Marcos Lopez-Caniego (Aurora Technology for ESA), BS, MS Autonoma Madrid; PhD Cantabria, Cosmology, Big Data
  • Dr Massimiliano Razzano, (Pisa/INFN), BS, MS, PhD Pisa, Space Detectors
  • Dr Sadjadi Seyedabdolreza (SYSU), BS SBU (Tehran); MS Tehran; PhD HKU, Astrochemistry & Astrobiology





Dr J C S Pun

Programme Director

Department of Physics

Dr Pablo Saz Parkinson

Co-Programme Director

Department of Physics

Department of Physics

The University of Hong Kong


Faculty of Science

The University of Hong Kong

  • G/F Chong Yuet Ming Physics Building Pokfulam Road Hong Kong
  • (852) 3917 5287
  • (852) 2858 4620