Aerospace engineering

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Aerospace Engineer
Apollo 13 Mailbox at Mission Control.jpg
NASA engineers, seen here in mission control during Apollo 13, worked diligently to protect the lives of the astronauts on the mission.
aerospace engineer
Occupation typeprofession
Activity sectorsaeronautics, astronautics, science
Competenciestechnical knowledge, management skills
Education requiredsee professional requirements
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Aerospace Engineer
Apollo 13 Mailbox at Mission Control.jpg
NASA engineers, seen here in mission control during Apollo 13, worked diligently to protect the lives of the astronauts on the mission.
aerospace engineer
Occupation typeprofession
Activity sectorsaeronautics, astronautics, science
Competenciestechnical knowledge, management skills
Education requiredsee professional requirements

Aerospace engineering is the primary branch of engineering concerned with the research, design, development, construction, testing, science and technology of aircraft and spacecraft.[1] It is divided into two major and overlapping branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. Aeronautics deals with aircraft that operate in Earth's atmosphere, and astronautics deals with spacecraft that operate outside the Earth's atmosphere.

Aerospace engineering deals with the design, construction, and study of the science behind the forces and physical properties of aircraft, rockets, flying craft, and spacecraft. The field also covers their aerodynamic characteristics and behaviors, airfoil, control surfaces, lift, drag, and other properties.

Aeronautical engineering was the original term for the field. As flight technology advanced to include craft operating in outer space, the broader term "aerospace engineering" has largely replaced it in common usage.[2] Aerospace engineering, particularly the astronautics branch, is often referred to colloquially as "rocket science",[3] such as in popular culture.


Flight vehicles are subjected to demanding conditions such as those produced by changes in atmospheric pressure and temperature, with structural loads applied upon vehicle components. Consequently, they are usually the products of various technological and engineering disciplines including aerodynamics, propulsion, avionics, materials science, structural analysis and manufacturing. The interaction between these technologies is known as aerospace engineering. Because of the number of disciplines involved, aerospace engineering is carried out by teams of engineers, each having their own specialised area of expertise.[4]

The development and manufacturing of a modern flight vehicle is an extremely complex process and demands careful balance and compromise between abilities, design, available technology and costs. Aerospace engineers design, test, and supervise the manufacture of aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles. Aerospace engineers develop new technologies for use in aviation, defense systems, and space.


Orville and Wilbur Wright flew the Wright Flyer in 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The origin of aerospace engineering can be traced back to the aviation pioneers around the late 19th to early 20th centuries, although the work of Sir George Cayley dates from the last decade of the 18th to mid-19th century. One of the most important people in the history of aeronautics,[5] Cayley was a pioneer in aeronautical engineering[6] and is credited as the first person to separate the forces of lift and drag, which are in effect on any flight vehicle.[7] Early knowledge of aeronautical engineering was largely empirical with some concepts and skills imported from other branches of engineering.[8] Scientists understood some key elements of aerospace engineering, like fluid dynamics, in the 18th century. Many years later after the successful flights by the Wright brothers, the 1910s saw the development of aeronautical engineering through the design of World War I military aircraft.

The first definition of aerospace engineering appeared in February 1958.[2] The definition considered the Earth's atmosphere and the outer space as a single realm, thereby encompassing both aircraft (aero) and spacecraft (space) under a newly coined word aerospace. In response to the USSR launching the first satellite, Sputnik into space on October 4, 1957, U.S. aerospace engineers launched the first American satellite on January 31, 1958. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was founded in 1958 as a response to the Cold War.[9]


Wernher von Braun, with the F-1 engines of the Saturn V first stage at the US Space and Rocket Center

Some of the elements of aerospace engineering are:[10][11]

A fighter jet engine undergoing testing. The tunnel behind the engine allows noise and exhaust to escape.

The basis of most of these elements lies in theoretical physics, such as fluid dynamics for aerodynamics or the equations of motion for flight dynamics. There is also a large empirical component. Historically, this empirical component was derived from testing of scale models and prototypes, either in wind tunnels or in the free atmosphere. More recently, advances in computing have enabled the use of computational fluid dynamics to simulate the behavior of fluid, reducing time and expense spent on wind-tunnel testing. Those studying hydrodynamics or Hydroacoustics often obtained degrees in Aerospace Engineering.

Additionally, aerospace engineering addresses the integration of all components that constitute an aerospace vehicle (subsystems including power, aerospace bearings, communications, thermal control, life support, etc.) and its life cycle (design, temperature, pressure, radiation, velocity, lifetime).

Aerospace engineering worldwide[edit]

Aerospace engineering may be studied at the advanced diploma, bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. levels in aerospace engineering departments at many universities, and in mechanical engineering departments at others. A few departments offer degrees in space-focused astronautical engineering.

United States[edit]

The programs of the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rutgers University, and University of Southern California are examples of American schools.[11] In 2009, U.S. News & World Report ranked the undergraduate aerospace engineering programs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Michigan as the top three best programs at doctorate granting universities in the United States. The other programs in the top ten were Purdue University, California Institute of Technology, University of Maryland, University of Illinois, Stanford University, University of Texas at Austin, and Virginia Tech in that order.[12] The magazine also rates Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the United States Air Force Academy, and the United States Naval Academy as the premier aerospace engineering programs at universities that do not grant doctorate degrees.[13] University of Kansas School of Engineering has earned more first and second place AIAA awards than any other academic institution in the world in the 42-year history of the competition.[14] Wichita State University is renowned for its Aerospace Engineering program and also has the third highest research budget for Aerospace Engineering in the United States.[15][16]


In Canada, undergraduate degrees in aerospace (or aeronautical) engineering can be earned at Carleton University, École Polytechnique de Montréal, École de Technologie Supérieure, the Royal Military College of Canada and Ryerson University. Undergraduate aerospace engineering options, or related programs, are available through Concordia University, McGill University, Ryerson University, the University of Manitoba and the University of Toronto. The Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board is responsible for accrediting undergraduate aerospace engineering programs,[17] graduate study in aerospace engineering is also available at several Canadian post-secondary institutions, though Canadian post-graduate engineering programs do not require accreditation.


European universities that are renowned for their teaching and expertise in aerospace engineering include TU Delft in the Netherlands, ISAE, ENAC, IPSA and ESTACA in France, RWTH Aachen, FH Aachen, TU München, the University of Stuttgart, TU Dresden, TU Berlin, TU Hamburg, TU Braunschweig, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences and the Munich University of Applied Science in Germany, the University of Liège in Belgium, and the Centre for Structure Technologies at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. In Austria, the FH Joanneum and University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt. In Portugal, the Universidade da Beira Interior and the Instituto Superior Técnico.[18] In Spain, the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, the Universidad de León, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Universitat Politècnica de Valencia and University of Seville offer the degree, while in Italy there also several universities where aerospace engineering can be studied including the Politecnico di Torino, the Politecnico di Milano, the University of Bologna, the University of Pisa, the University of Napoli, the University of Padua, the University of Salento and the Sapienza University of Rome. In Eastern Europe they are the Zrinyi Miklos National Defence University of Budapest in Hungary, Politehnica University of Bucharest in Romania, the Technical Military Academy of Bucharest in Romania, the University of Belgrade in Serbia, the Warsaw University of Technology and Rzeszów University of Technology in Poland and Brno University of Technology in Czech Republic. The Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands is among the top European aerospace educational and research universities. In Greece, the Polytechnic School at the University of Patras offers a five year program in Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics. In Turkey, Istanbul Technical University and Middle East Technical University offer programs in Aerospace, Aeronautical, and Astronautical Engineering.[19][20]

United Kingdom[edit]

In the UK, Aerospace (or aeronautical) engineering can be studied at the B.Eng., M.Eng., MSc. and Ph.D. levels at a number of universities. The first institution in the UK to teach in this field was Queen Mary, University of London,[21] which, with the dissolution of the University of Paris (whose chair was founded at around the same time[22]), maintains the longest continuous experience of doing so in the world. The Times' top 10 universities are University of Cambridge, University of Surrey, University of Bristol, University of Southampton, Queens University Belfast, University of Sheffield,University of Bath, Imperial College London, Loughborough University and University of Nottingham for 2010.[23] The Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College London is noted for providing engineers for the Formula One industry,[24] an industry that uses aerospace technology. Cranfield University is also known to produce the largest number of postgraduates in the UK with an aerospace engineering related degree.[25]


In Iran, the BS, MS and PhD degrees in Aerospace Engineering are offered by many universities such as University of Tehran, Sharif University of Technology, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Amirkabir University of Technology, KN Toosi University of Technology, Urmia University of Technology, Islamic Azad University and Malek-Ashtar University of Technology. These universities are highly ranked among Iranian universities and admission in this field through Iranian University Entrance Exam (Konkoor) is very difficult.


The University of Limerick is the only university in the Republic of Ireland that offers Aerospace/Aeronautical Engineering.


In Australia, the RMIT University offers Aerospace (or aeronautical) engineering and has more than 70 years teaching experience in this profession. Monash University, University of New South Wales, University of Sydney, University of Queensland, University of Adelaide and Queensland University of Technology also offers Aerospace Engineering.


In Malaysia Aerospace Engineering can be studied at International Islamic University Malaysia, University Putra Malaysia, University Sains Malaysia, University Teknologi Malaysia, MARA University of Technology, University of Kuala Lumpur - MIAT, University Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, Nilai University College, Malaysia Aviation Training Academy - MATA, Kuantan, Malaysia Royal Air Force College - Alor Setar and International Collage of Yayasan Melaka - in Melaka.


In China, Beihang University (BUAA: formerly, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics),Northwestern Polytechnical University (nwpu) and Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA) are regional leaders in the field of aerospace engineering education.


In India, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore is well known for its Aerospace Engineering department, which offers degrees at post-graduate level. Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore is credited to have been the nucleus point and incubation center for various leading academic and industrial aerospace related organizations in India. IIT Kanpur possesses its own flight test aircraft and airfield for students in the discipline, while three other IITs also offer degrees in this discipline (Madras, Bombay and Kharagpur). PEC Institute of Technology, Chandigarh, Indian Institute of Aeronautical Engineering, Dehradun and Madras Institute of Technology, Chennai are three premier non-IIT colleges which offer courses in Aeronautical Engineering. Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Trivandrum sponsored by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), offers undergraduate and post-graduate courses focusing on aeronautics, astronautics and space sciences. It was started in the year 2007 and has produced three batches till now, all who have joined to serve ISRO as Scientist/Engineers. Institute of Aeronautical Engineering, Hyderabad is another college which offers B.Tech and M.Tech in Aeronautical engineering.[26] IGNOU started B.Tech Aerospace Engineering form December 2009 calibration with AERO in different institute such as IIAEIT, Pune,[27] GGAEIT,[28] and Amrita University.[29] Coimbatore is another private institute that offers Bachelor degree in Aerospace Engineering. Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur has offered an undergraduate Bachelor of Engineering degree in Aerospace Engineering since academic year 2010. University of Petroleum and Energy Studies and Indian Institute of aeronautical engineering, Dehradun is another leading institute. The Manav Rachna International University is an established institute and has a 4-year full-time B.Tech. degree in Aeronautical Engineering. NIMS University, Rangapur offers B.Tech and M.Tech degrees in Aerospace Engineering. The Alliance University College of Engineering and Design is an established institute in the city of Bangalore and provides the students with a 4-year full-time B.Tech. degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Institute of Technology,Vasad, Gujarat offers undergraduate course in Aeronautical Engineering, College is affiliated with Gujarat Technological University and course is approved by AICTE.[30]


In Brazil the B.Sc, M.Sc and PhD degrees in Aerospace Engineering are offered by universities like: Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina – UFSC at Joinville campus, Universidade Federal do ABC – UFABC at Sao Bernardo do Campo campus, Universidade de São Paulo – USP at São Carlos campus, Instituto Tecnologico de Aeronautica – ITA, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais – UFMG and Universidade de Brasília - UnB at Gama campus. The admission for these courses features among the most difficult in Brazil, partly due to its competitive Vestibular (similar to ACT and SAT in USA).

Middle East[edit]

Universities that offers Aerospace Engineering degrees include Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Israel (B.Sc, M.Sc, M.Eng, Phd), the Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, the University of Aleppo in Syria and the University of Balamand in Lebanon. King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia offers (B.Sc and M.Sc).


In Pakistan Aerospace Engineering can be studied at National University of Sciences and Technology at (CAE), at PAF Academy in Risalpur & at Air University which is Pakistan's only university that grants a Doctorate degree in Aerospace Engineering & Avionics Engineering. In 2002, SUPARCO established IST which is a federally chartered public sector institute of Pakistan offering under graduate and graduate degree in Aerospace Engineering. The MS degree at IST is being offered in collaboration with Beihang University (BUAA), China and Seoul National University, South Korea.


In Bangladesh, only Military Institute of Science and Technology offers a four years B.Sc degree in Aeronautical Engineering in two different disciplines named aerospace & avionics.


In Africa institute of aviation and engineering technology [31] and Cairo University in Egypt has an Aerospace Engineering department.[32] In South Africa three institutes offer an undergraduate programme in Aeronautical engineering BEng offered by University of Pretoria and BSc offered by University of Cape Town and University of the Witwatersrand. The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana also offers an undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering.[33][34]

In popular culture[edit]

The term "rocket scientist" is sometimes used to describe a person of great intelligence since "rocket science" is seen as a practice requiring great mental ability, especially technical and mathematical ability.

The term is often used mockingly, such as in the expression "it's not rocket science" to indicate that the task is simple.[35]

Strictly speaking, the use of the word "science" in "rocket science" is a misnomer since science is about understanding the origins, nature, and behavior of the universe; engineering is about using scientific and engineering principles to solve problems and develop new technology. However, the media and the public often incorrectly use "science" and "engineering" as synonyms.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering. Wiley & Sons. October 2010. ISBN 978-0-470-75440-5.
  2. ^ a b Stanzione, Kaydon Al (1989). "Engineering". Encyclopædia Britannica 18 (15 ed.). Chicago. pp. 563–563. 
  3. ^ Longuski, Jim (2004). Advice to Rocket Scientists: A Career Survival Guide for Scientists and Engineers. Reston, Virginia: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). p. 2. ISBN 1-56347-655-X. "If you have a degree in aerospace engineering or in astronautics, you are a rocket scientist." 
  4. ^ "Career: Aerospace Engineer". Career Profiles. The Princeton Review. Retrieved 2006-10-08. "Due to the complexity of the final product, an intricate and rigid organizational structure for production has to be maintained, severely curtailing any single engineer's ability to understand his role as it relates to the final project." 
  5. ^ "Sir George Cayley". ?. Retrieved 2009-07-26. "Sir George Cayley is one of the most important people in the history of aeronautics. Many consider him the first true scientific aerial investigator and the first person to understand the underlying principles and forces of flight." 
  6. ^ "Sir George Cayley (British Inventor and Scientist)". Britannica. ?. Retrieved 2009-07-26. "English pioneer of aerial navigation and aeronautical engineering and designer of the first successful glider to carry a human being aloft." 
  7. ^ "The Pioneers: Aviation and Airmodelling". ?. Retrieved 2009-07-26. "Sir George Cayley is sometimes called the 'Father of Aviation'. A pioneer in the field, he is credited with the first major breakthrough in heavier-than-air flight. He was the first to identify the four aerodynamic forces of flight – weight, lift, drag, and thrust – and their relationship and also the first to build a successful human carrying glider." 
  8. ^ Kermit Van Every (1988). "Aeronautical engineering". Encyclopedia Americana 1. Grolier Incorporated. 
  9. ^ "A Brief History of NASA". Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  10. ^ "Science: Engineering: Aerospace". Open Site. Retrieved 2006-10-08. 
  11. ^ a b Gruntman, Mike (September 19, 2007). "The Time for Academic Departments in Astronautical Engineering". AIAA SPACE 2007 Conference & Exposition Agenda. AIAA SPACE 2007 Conference & Exposition. AIAA. 
  12. ^ America's Best Colleges 2009: Aerospace / Aeronautical / Astronautical (where doctorate is highest degree).
  13. ^ America's Best Colleges 2009: Aerospace / Aeronautical / Astronautical (where doctorate not offered).
  14. ^ "Aerospace engineering graduates win top awards at international competition – KU News". 2010-09-17. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  15. ^ "". 2009-01-09. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  16. ^[dead link]
  17. ^ Canadian Council of Professional Engineers
  18. ^ "IST MSc in Aerospace Engineering". 2011-11-23. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Aerospace Engineering Undergraduate Admissions". Retrieved 11 September 2011. 
  22. ^ "University of Michigan Aerospace Engineering Department History". Retrieved 22 September 2012. 
  23. ^ Post. "University Rankings League Table 2009". Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  24. ^ " The Imperial College". 1999-11-29. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  25. ^ "Cranfield University School of Engineering". Cranfield University. 
  26. ^ [1]
  27. ^ IIAEIT
  28. ^ GGIAET
  29. ^ "Amrita University". Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  30. ^ [2]
  31. ^ "Aerospace Engineering - institute of aviation engineering and technology". 
  32. ^ "Aerospace Engineering - Cairo University". 
  33. ^ "Homepage of the department of Aerospace engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana". 
  34. ^ "The homepage of the Association of Aerospace Engineering students - Ghana". 
  35. ^ Bailey, Charlotte (7 November 2008). "Oxford compiles list of top ten irritating phrases". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-11-18. "10 - It's not rocket science" 
  36. ^ [3]. IEEE Spectrum, December 2010.

External links[edit]