Once upon a time, flight was a concept reserved for birds and mythological dragons alone. That was until December 1903 when the Wright Brothers accomplished the impossible and performed the first controlled and sustained flight for an object larger than air. It lasted for merely 12 seconds, but those seconds opened the door to what we now call Aerospace engineering.
Compared to other engineering disciplines, this field is relatively new. It is concerned with everything that flies- missiles, helicopters, rockets, satellites and so on. Because of how delicate its applications are, intense study is usually dedicated to it. Projects carried by engineers in this field are never done solo but combine the efforts of a number of aerospace engineers with different specializations.
However, don’t let its stringent nature deter you. It has its own perks. Currently, compared to other engineering fields, there’s enough room as its potentials largely remain untapped.
Before we delve into its prospects, let’s really understand what Aerospace Engineering is.
WHAT IS AEROSPACE ENGINEERING?
Aerospace Engineering is the discipline that applies the knowledge of mathematics, physics, material science, avionics etc. to the design and development of structures that operates on air or in space. Because flight was a feat that seemed almost impossible for man till now, Aerospace engineering is considered to be a rather difficult field compared to other engineering fields, hence the ironic statement, “it’s not rocket science,” used when people want to say that something is simple. However, while the field does require complex analytical reasoning skills, its advancements are bound to build pedestals for further advancements, thus making new discoveries comparatively easier.
Aerospace engineering is divided into Aeronautical engineering and Astronautical engineering. The first refers to things that fly within the confines of the earth’s atmosphere, while the other refers to objects that go into space.
Because of the immense acceleration, change in pressure and temperature, and the structural loads that air and space crafts have to bear as they course through the low density medium, air, Aerospace engineering requires that its practitioners have adequate knowledge of multiple fields in natural science and technology. Some of those fields have been listed above.
HISTORY OF AEROSPACE ENGINEERING
Sir George Cayley, an English engineer, is considered the father of aeronautic engineering and aviation due to his numerous contributions to both fields. He discovered the four forces that affect heavier-than-air flying vehicles which are weight, lift, drag and thrust. This discovery is still used today in the development of modern flight vehicles. He also designed the camber-winged airplane which is also currently used. He designed the first glider that could carry humans aloft. His contributions to the aviation industry are priceless.
In 1903, the Wright brothers took his discoveries to the next level, developing an aircraft that performed the first controlled and sustained flight known to man. It lasted for about 12 seconds. The both World Wars were very instrumental to the development of aircrafts as both military and civilian airplanes were developed.
The advent of the jet-engine powered plane in 1944 was another major breakthrough for the aerospace industry. However, the term, “Aerospace Engineering” was coined in February 1958 to encompass both flight in and beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
PROSPECTS OF AEROSPACE ENGINEERING
A 4-5 year course in a university will get you a BSc. in Aerospace Engineering with majors in any of the following:
- Aeronautic science,
- Materials and Structures,
- Avionics and
- Quality Control.
Basically, the offer you get depends on the school and the country where you enroll. Because Aerospace Engineering will constantly demand its practitioners to produce results under tight deadlines without compromising quality, potential practitioners must be found capable of handling complex problems, thus requiring that they have credits in Maths and Physics before entering the university.
Upon graduation, a wide range of employment opportunities exists for you. Usually, Aeronautic engineers get to work with government agencies, the military, airlines or other private firms; earning an average of $37,000 annually. Whether your motive is to challenge yourself and serve humanity or to earn a handsome salary, Aerospace engineering will satisfy you fully.
You should count the cost before going into Aerospace Engineering, though. The course demands more class and studying time to come out excellently compared to other courses. Though the industry has a comparatively higher employment rate, it’s also competitive since its stringent requirements ensure that only skillful hands are employed.
The rapid development of this industry is amazing and its applications are endless, whether for cargo carrying, human transport or even recreation- there is just so much to do within this field. Elon Musk’s Space X project says this in no small way.
If you want to go for this, don’t hold back. Who knows? You might be the one to invest the first human unaided flight.