Personal tools
You are here: Home Research Trends & Opportunities Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering

Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering

(Returning Human Spaceflight To The U.S. at 3:22PM, May, 30, 2020 - SPACEX)


 - Overview

Space technologies are being put up by a host of government and non-government actors now jockeying for space in space. In the 21st century, space has become an increasingly democratized environment. More countries, non-state actors, international organizations, and corporations are harnessing space capabilities and employing them in a myriad of ways. 

Civilian government organizations, such as NASA and NOAA, use satellites to keep track of changing climates, monitor natural disasters, and take images of far-away galaxies.

Military uses of satellites include reconnaissance, navigation, and communications. Commercial industry deploys satellites to provide a variety of services, including satellite television and navigation, and are using innovative space technologies to provide internet and cell phone coverage across the globe. 

As if that wasn’t enough, innovations in satellite designs have allowed for smaller satellites to be put into orbit at lower cost, making space more accessible to a larger number of satellite operators.


- Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace engineering is the primary field of engineering concerned with the design, development, testing, and production of aircraft, spacecraft, and related systems and equipment. 

The field has traditionally focused on problems related to atmospheric and space flight, with two major and overlapping branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering.  

  • Aeronautical Engineering focuses on the theory, technology, and practice of flight within the earth’s atmosphere. 
  • Astronautical Engineering focuses on the science and technology of spacecraft and launch vehicles.


- Main Focuses

Aerospace engineering is largely the design, construction and maintenance of aircraft, spacecraft, missiles and weapons systems. Main focuses can include flight safety, fuel efficiency, operating costs and environmental impact. Avionics engineering is similar, but deals with the electronics side of aerospace engineering.

Flight vehicles are subjected to demanding conditions such as those caused 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 specialized area of expertise.


The Sombrero Galaxy_NASA_061622A
[The Sombrero Galaxy - NASA]

- How is Astronautical Engineering Different from Aerospace Engineering?

Perhaps the best way to think of aerospace engineering as a derivative of aerospace engineering. In other words, aerospace is more of a general term, while aerospace is a specialty. As noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with an aerospace engineering background typically have expertise in one of two engineering disciplines: aeronautics or astronautics. 

Aerospace engineers work in the science and technology of designing spacecraft and satellites, while aeronautical engineers deal with aircraft and propulsion systems, limited to those that operate under the Earth's atmosphere. However, there is some overlap between the two occupations as they use many of the same skills, tools and competencies for employers.

While an astronautical engineer does not meet the technical definition of an astronaut, many who go on to become astronauts come from an aerospace engineering background.


- New Frontier of Satellite Technology

In the race to successfully put satellites into orbit, space companies must accelerate satellite technology innovation

Humanity's fascination with space led to the launch of the first satellites in the mid-1950s. Today, this fascination continues unabated, and space is no longer the exclusive purview of government agencies. 

The space exploration and satellite industries are being disrupted by private companies competing to produce increasingly complex satellites and reusable launchers. This is a new frontier for satellite technology. 

Driven by the need for accelerated innovation, this new field helps companies identify opportunities to push the limits of rocket and satellite design and manufacturing.


[More to come ...]


Document Actions