NASA engineers, seen here in mission control during Apollo 13, worked diligently to protect the lives of the astronauts on the mission.
|aeronautics, astronautics, science|
|Competencies||technical knowledge, management skills|
|see professional requirements|
Aerospace engineering is the primary branch of engineering concerned with the research, design process, development, construction, testing, science and technology of aircraft and spacecraft. 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. Founded by pioneers such as Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the field reached its maturity with launching of first artificial satellite, first man in space and first step on the Moon.
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. Aerospace engineering, particularly the astronautics branch, is often referred to colloquially as "rocket science", 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 complexity and number of disciplines involved, aerospace engineering is carried out by teams of engineers, each having their own specialised area of expertise.
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.
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, Cayley was a pioneer in aeronautical engineering and is credited as the first person to separate the forces of lift and drag, which are in effect on any flight vehicle. Early knowledge of aeronautical engineering was largely empirical with some concepts and skills imported from other branches of engineering. 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. 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.
|This section requires expansion with: newer history, including recent events. (November 2009)|
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 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. Some institutions differentiate between aeronautical and astronautical engineering.
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 used ironically in the expression "It's not rocket science" to indicate that a task is simple.
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 use "science" and "engineering" as synonyms.
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If you have a degree in aerospace engineering or in astronautics, you are a rocket scientist.
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.
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.
English pioneer of aerial navigation and aeronautical engineering and designer of the first successful glider to carry a human being aloft.
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.
10 - It's not rocket science