Wright Flyer III (1905)

Aerospace Engineering involves the design and construction of planes and space shuttles. Aeronautical engineering covers craft that stay inside the Earth’s atmosphere (such as commercial planes) while astronautical engineering covers craft that leave the Earth’s atmosphere (such as space shuttles).

Aerospace engineering – the branch of engineering concerning aircraft, spacecraft and related topics. It is often called aeronautical engineering, particularly when referring solely to aircraft, and astronautical engineering, when referring to spacecraft.

Aerospace engineers use their knowledge of physics, math, and engineering to design and build airborne and space structures and the systems that support them. These include airplanes, helicopters, rockets, satellites, and the space shuttle. Examples of new human-related challenges are in designing safer and more comfortable commercial aircraft and in designing private airplanes for the elderly and physically challenged. Aerospace engineers typically work for organizations such as Lear, Boeing, and NASA.

Aerospace engineers design new aircraft and satellites. They can also analyze existing aircraft or satellites, measuring their performance in order to suggest or design improvements. They work with all kinds of aircraft – from gliders to space shuttles. They can design, develop, or help manufacture aircraft – including rockets and spacecraft. Many engineers specialize in one area, like structural design, navigation systems, or manufacturing techniques. Others choose to specialize in a particular kind of air or space craft.

  • aeronautical engineers – work with aircraft that stay within the earth’s atmosphere such as airplanes and helicopters
  • astronautical engineers – work with aircraft that operate outside of the earth’s atmosphere such as rockets, satellites, and other and spacecraft.

Some areas of specialization include

NASA engineers play an important role in science and discovery. NASA employs many more engineers than scientists, because the engineers design and build the research equipment, delivery systems and analysis tools for the scientists to do their work. Satellites, space probes, space shuttles, Mars rovers and spacecraft are all the work of engineers working on massive projects in the support of science. Hubble Space Telescope, International Space Station, Shuttle, lunar lander, Mars rovers – Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, Voyager,

Hubble Space Telescope video – Ultra Deep 3D,

Space tourism – Today, a Virgin Galactic ticket for a seat on board SpaceShipTwo will set you back $250,000 for a suborbital flight. So far nearly 600 people have put down deposits. Alternatively, XCor is offering suborbital flights aboard the Lynx for $95,000 per flight, including medical screening and G-Force training. And if you’re looking for something more long-lasting, you might apply to become one of the first inhabitants of the Red Planet within a permanent human settlement on Mars planned for 2023.

Meet the people in Aerospace Engineering

  • The Wright brothers may not have been the very first aeronautical engineers, but they were the first to be successful.
  • Ludwig Prandtl is called the “Father of modern aerodynamics,” and institutionalized aerospace research at the turn of the 20th century. Through decades of wind-tunnel experiments, he and his research team learned about gas dynamics, wings, meteorology, boundary layer and resistance, and other vital flight information that set the course for aerospace engineering.
  • Julie A. Pollitt, P.E. (Aerospace Engineer) – Aerospace Technologist – Project Manager, NASA Ames Research Center – involved in project management; builds research and testing equipment, including large-scale models for wind tunnel tests. Julie likes her job because she has to be a ‘jack of all trades,’ working with designers, doing calculations, producing CAD drawings, building prototypes, and conducting tests.
  • Vanessa is helping design a new spacecraft that will revolutionize space exploration.

Engineering ideas

  • aerodynamics, satellite, launch, aviation, aircraft

Do it
Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • build and test fly an airplane made from “found object” – things that you have on hand or junk rather than buying special materials for the project
  • Rocket Modeler – See how high you can get your rocket to fly by experimenting with different design variables. With this software you can investigate how a rocket flies by changing the values of different design variables. Requires Java
  • Engineering the Wright Way interactive game

Learn more…

  • [/Aircraft Aircraft], spacecraft, [/Mars%20rovers Mars rovers], International SpaceStation, NASA, [/Sputnik%201 Sputnik 1], satellite, Hubble Space Telescope, Pioneer
  • Supertiny satellites launched – Researchers are building simple, miniature satellites to bring down their costs and expand their availability
  • Aerospace engineeringtopics
  • CubeSats are picosatellites of standardized dimensions (cubes of 10 cm per side, with a maximum mass of 1 kg)
  • Space tourism