engineers design parts, systems, and/or machines that operate in and above
Earth’s atmosphere, such as planes, satellites, helicopters, and missiles.
These of which can be used for military, research and exploration, or
commercial purposes. Aerospace engineers typically specialize in areas such as
aerodynamics, thermodynamics, combustion, propulsion, navigation,
instrumentation and communication, and structural design, and materials. Their
job is primarily to design parts, systems and/or machines for aviation but it also
includes testing and evaluating prototypes, examining part or equipment
failures, and overseeing manufacturing.
There are two different main subfields of aerospace
engineering, aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. Aeronautical
engineering refers to machines and systems that function inside of Earth’s
atmosphere, while astronautical engineering refers to machines and systems that
function outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Another field associated with Aerospace
engineering is avionics engineering. This field involves the electrical aspects
of aerospace engineering.
Aerospace engineers spend a majority of their time in an
office setting on computers. Although they also may visit manufacturing plants
where the parts are made to ensure that production is running efficiently and
impeccably. They may also visit laboratories where materials and substances are
being tested and researched for use. Furthermore, they visit consumers to
access their satisfaction with the product and to make sure that standards are
being met. Lastly, they can be out testing prototypes for evaluation.
If planning to become an aerospace engineer, one should
take mathematics, physics and sciences, and computer classes during their high
school career. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum degree required to enter the
field, but a master’s degree is more attractive to employers. A bachelor’s
program will cover the principles of engineering, combustion and propulsion,
aerodynamics and thermodynamics, mechanics, and stability. Some colleges that
offer an aerospace engineering program are: MIT, Georgia Institute of
Technology, Stanford University, University of Michigan, Purdue University,
University of Texas, California Institute of Technology, University of
Illinois, and Syracuse University.
In 2016, there were roughly 70,000 jobs occupied by
aerospace engineers. The field is expected to grow by six percent from 2016 to
2026. This is in part due to the competition to create aircraft that create
less noise and have better fuel efficiency, the demand for more unmanned
aviation, and new developments in satellites that are coming into greater
commercial viability according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Professional engineering societies and organizations are
very helpful for their members. They do things such as sponsor conferences,
help its members find jobs, hold workshops and courses, provide mentoring, and
review or edit works. A few aerospace engineering organizations include the
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), International
Astronautics Federation (IAF), American Astronautical Society (AAS), and the
Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).
The history of aeronautical engineering dates back to the
late 1400’s when Leonardo de Vinci sketched two ideas for manned flight. One
had flapping wings like a bird and the other was similar to a helicopter. It
wasn’t until 1783 when the Montgolfier
brothers invented the hot air balloon, the first manned aerial vehicle. This
started the age of lighter than air aircraft which would lead to George Cayley
inventing the glider in 1849. And of course in 1903, the Wright brothers
created and flew the first successful airplane, dramatically changing the way
humans fly. Technological advances in engines and turbines allowed the Boeing
707 to be successfully flown in 1960 and this plane is the basis for most
1926, Robert Goddard flew the first successful rocket proving that space flight
may be possible and marking the start of the new field of astronautical
engineering. In 1957 Sputnik, the first satellite orbited the Earth, and in
1961 the first human went to space. Humans then landed on the moon in 1969.
After this achievement, astronautical engineering turned more to unmanned
voyages and satellites, but now the goal is to put a human on Mars.