Aerospace engineering is the primary field of engineering concerned with the development of aircraft and spacecraft. Aerospace is the human effort in science, engineering and business to fly in the atmosphere of Earth (aeronautics) and surrounding space (astronautics). Aerospace organisations research, design, manufacture, operate, or maintain aircraft and/or spacecraft. Aerospace activity is very diverse, with a multitude of commercial, industrial and military applications. It is divided into two major and overlapping branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering.
Aeronautical engineers work with aircraft. They are involved primarily in designing aircraft and propulsion systems and in studying the aerodynamic performance of aircraft and construction materials. They work with the theory, technology, and practice of flight within the earth’s atmosphere.
Astronautical engineers work with the science and technology of spacecraft and how they perform inside and outside the earth’s atmosphere.
Aerospace Engineer Work
Aerospace engineers design primarily aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. In addition, they test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design. Aerospace engineers typically do the following:
- Direct and coordinate the design, manufacture, and testing of aircraft and aerospace products
- Assess proposals for projects to determine if they are technically and financially feasible
- Determine if proposed projects will result in safe aircraft and parts
- Evaluate designs to see that the products meet engineering principles, customer requirements, and environmental challenges
- Develop acceptance criteria for design methods, quality standards, sustainment after delivery, and completion dates
- Ensure that projects meet quality standards
- Inspect malfunctioning or damaged products to identify sources of problems and possible solutions
Aerospace engineers may develop new technologies for use in aviation, defense systems, and spacecraft. They often specialize in areas such as aerodynamic fluid flow; structural design; guidance, navigation, and control; instrumentation and communication; robotics; and propulsion and combustion. They can specialize in designing different types of aerospace products, such as commercial and military airplanes and helicopters; remotely piloted aircraft and rotorcraft; spacecraft, including launch vehicles and satellites; and military missiles and rockets. They can become experts in one or more related fields: aerodynamics, thermodynamics, celestial mechanics, flight mechanics, propulsion, acoustics, and guidance and control systems.
Aeronautical and astronautical engineers face different environmental and operational issues in designing aircraft and spacecraft. However, the two fields overlap a great deal because they both depend on the basic principles of physics. They are employed in industries where workers design or build aircraft, missiles, systems for national defense, or spacecraft. Aerospace engineers work primarily for firms that engage in manufacturing, analysis and design, research and development, and for the government.
Aerospace engineers now spend more of their time in an office environment than they have in the past, because modern aircraft design requires the use of sophisticated computer equipment and software design tools, modeling, and simulations for tests, evaluation, and training. They work with other professionals involved in designing and building aircraft, spacecraft, and their components. Therefore, they must be able to communicate well, divide work into manageable tasks, and work with others toward a common goal. Aerospace engineers typically work full time. Engineers who direct projects must often work extra hours to monitor progress, to ensure that the design meets requirements, to determine how to measure aircraft performance, to see that production meets design standards, and to ensure that deadlines are met.
Entry-level aerospace engineers usually need a bachelor’s degree. High school students interested in studying aerospace engineering should take courses in chemistry, physics, and math, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Bachelor’s degree programs include classroom, laboratory, and field studies in subjects such as general engineering principles, propulsion, stability and control, structures, mechanics, and aerodynamics, which is the study of how air interacts with moving objects.
Important Qualities for Aerospace Engineers
Analytical skills. Aerospace engineers must be able to identify design elements that may not meet requirements and then must formulate alternatives to improve the performance of those elements.
Business skills. Much of the work done by aerospace engineers involves meeting federal government standards. Meeting these standards often requires knowledge of standard business practices, as well as knowledge of commercial law.
Critical-thinking skills. Aerospace engineers must be able to translate a set of issues into requirements and to figure out why a particular design does not work. They must be able to ask the right question, then find an acceptable answer.
Math skills. Aerospace engineers use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Problem-solving skills. Aerospace engineers use their education and experience to upgrade designs and troubleshoot problems when meeting new demands for aircraft, such as increased fuel efficiency or improved safety.
Writing skills. Aerospace engineers must be able both to write papers that explain their designs clearly and to create documentation for future reference.
Career Prospects for Aerospace Engineers
Graduates in Aerospace Engineering can seek employment in civil aviation, defense R&D laboratories, space research organizations, and CSIR laboratories. Eventually, aerospace engineers may advance to become technical specialists or to supervise a team of engineers and technicians. Some may even become engineering managers or move into executive positions, such as program managers. Aerospace graduates are also preferred by software industries engaged in engineering-software developments. In addition to these, graduates can enter general fields like management and civil services. Those having a flair for higher education and research can pursue M. Tech. and Ph.D.
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