Aerospace engineering, otherwise known as aeronautical or astronautical engineering, refers to the engineering involved in creating, constructing and developing aircraft and spacecraft. This means all vehicles that operate in the Earth’s atmosphere and those that operate outside the atmosphere.

Aerospace engineering was once known just as “aeronautical” but was later replaced with “aerospace” in order to reflect the changes and advancements of engineering. Flight technology can now also refer to those operating in space.

Passenger jet plane standing at the terminal gate

What Does an Aerospace Engineer Do?

The official job role of an aerospace engineer is to design aircraft, satellites, missiles and spacecraft. They are tasked with testing prototypes and designing components and important parts for these crafts.

History of Aerospace Engineering

When looking back at the history and evolution of aerospace engineering, we first need to start at the very beginning when the industry was just “aeronautical” engineering.

Early innovations included the first steerable steam-powered airship which was flown by Jules Henri Giffard in 1852, and the first powered airship to be returned to the starting point, which was flew by Charles Renard and Arthur Constantin Krebs. The first rigid airship was then designed in 1900. All of these innovations were “lighter than air” crafts.

When it came to designing a “heavier than air” flight, it took a very long time to find an engine that would be suitable to power it. The very first powered flight was thought to be by Orville and Wilbur Wright – they created the first plane that took off and climbed under its own power. It was able to stay airborne for a good distance too.

It’s safe to say that today’s commercial aircrafts are definitely one of the most amazing engineering achievements ever carried out.

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The Development of the Helicopter

There was a long wait for the design and innovation of the helicopter. It took several decades to invent the first autogyro – an aircraft with fixed wings, a rotor for lift and a propeller for thrust. It wasn’t until 1942 that the first modern helicopter was developed!

Outside the Atmosphere

The developments happening within the aeronautical industry opened up different opportunities to explore and push the boundaries when it came to engineering. The 50s and 60s brought about a huge growth for astronautical engineering.

The very first artificial satellite was orbited in 1957. This was followed by the world’s first “man on the moon landing” in 1969 by astronauts Neil. A. Armstrong and Edwin. E Aldrin Jr. Unmanned voyages were then carried out to planets such as Saturn and Jupiter – the aim being to better understand what was happening all around earth.

The first reusable and low-orbital space shuttle was designed in 1981 – the Space Transportation System has since been used for hundreds of military and commercial purposes.

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Could You Be an Aerospace Engineer?

Today, aerospace engineering is conducted by a huge team of engineers that each specialise in their own branch of science.

An aerospace engineer must have in-depth knowledge of physics, maths and science. A degree in a relevant subject is also required.

They mainly work in manufacturing industries or within the government. There will also be some of the top aerospace engineers working on the International Space Station – so you could say it’s a great career for those who want to travel!

Engineering is definitely one of the most fascinating industries in the world. As evident with the evolution of aerospace engineering, technology is constantly changing and evolving which makes us very excited for the future! If you would like to learn more about how we play our part within this amazing industry, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.