The field of aerospace engineering developed because of humanity’s desire for aircraft systems for military, commercial, and civilian purposes; it was first called aeronautical engineering or aeronautics. When the space age began, it was natural for aeronautical engineers to participate in the development of spacecraft systems for space exploration. This branch of engineering became known as astronautical engineering or astronautics, and the combined field is called aerospace engineering or aeronautics and astronautics. Because of the diverse nature of the work, the aerospace engineer must have a basic knowledge of physics, mathematics, digital computation, and the various disciplines of aerospace engineering: aerodynamics and propulsion, structural mechanics, flight mechanics and orbital mechanics, and control. Because of their extensive education in fundamental disciplines, aerospace engineers can work in areas other than aerospace engineering and are employed in a wide range of careers.
The objectives of the aerospace engineering degree program are to prepare students for professional practice in aerospace engineering and related engineering and scientific fields; to prepare students for such postbaccalaureate study as their aptitudes and professional goals may dictate; to instill in students a commitment to lifelong education and to ethical behavior throughout their professional careers; and to make students aware of the global and societal effects of technology. To meet these objectives, the faculty has designed a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes fundamentals in the basic sciences, mathematics, and the humanities, and integrates classroom and laboratory experiences in the engineering disciplines of aerodynamics and propulsion, structural mechanics, mechanics of materials, flight and orbital mechanics, controls, computation, electromechanical systems, design, and technical communication. The curriculum requires students to use modern engineering tools, to work individually, and to practice teamwork.
The first two years of the aerospace engineering curriculum emphasize fundamental material along with engineering sciences, while the third year introduces concepts in the areas of aerodynamics and propulsion, structural mechanics, flight mechanics and orbital mechanics, and flight control. The fourth year provides further depth in aerospace engineering, with emphasis on design and laboratory courses. During the junior year, the student elects to pursue one of two design tracks, atmospheric flight or space flight. Both tracks are complemented by general education courses and courses offered in other engineering disciplines. In addition, the student may choose electives that increase the breadth of the program or that provide additional depth within one or more subdisciplines within the department. All of the following subdisciplines are also represented in the elective options.
Aerodynamics and Propulsion
This subdiscipline involves fluid motion, propulsion, lift and drag on wings and other bodies, high-speed heating effects, and wind tunnel investigation of these problems. Topics of study include fluid mechanics, gas dynamics, heat transfer, aerodynamics, propulsion, computational fluid dynamics, and experimental fluid mechanics.
This subdiscipline includes the study of airplane, spacecraft, and missile structures, the materials that make them efficient, and methods for testing, analysis, and design of new structural systems. Course topics include structural analysis, structural dynamics, materials (including advanced composites), aeroelasticity, experimental structural mechanics, and computer-aided design of structures.
Flight Mechanics and Orbital Mechanics
Flight mechanics involves the analysis of the motion of aircraft, missiles, rockets, reentry vehicles, and spacecraft that are subjected to gravitational, propulsive, and aerodynamic forces; the study of uncontrolled motion of satellites and coasting spacecraft is usually referred to as orbital mechanics. Subject matter in these areas includes trajectory analysis and optimization; attitude dynamics, stability, and control; flight test; orbit determination; orbital operations; systems engineering; sensors; satellite hardware applications; and simulation.
Control theory is applied in aerospace engineering to the development of automatic flight control systems for aircraft (autopilots and stability augmentation systems), attitude control systems for satellites, and guidance and control systems for missiles, rockets, reentry vehicles, and spacecraft. Course topics include linear system theory, classical control theory, digital control, and probability theory.
Attainment of these outcomes prepares graduates to enter the professional practice of engineering. Aerospace engineering graduates should demonstrate:
- An ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics
- An ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors
- An ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences
- An ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts
- An ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives
- An ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions
- An ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies
Portable Computing Devices
Students entering aerospace engineering are required to have access to a portable computing device capable of running the software tools required for undergraduate engineering analyses (MATLAB, SOLIDWORKS, Word, Excel, etc.) and accessing the remote server for the department. This device does not need to be brought to campus on a daily basis, but individual courses may require that the device be brought to certain lectures, labs, and/or exams. Minimum and recommended specifications may be found on the department website.
Course requirements include courses within the Cockrell School of Engineering and other required courses. In addition, each student must complete the University’s Core Curriculum. In some cases, a course that fulfills one of the following requirements may also be counted toward Core Curriculum or flag requirements; these courses are identified below.
In the process of fulfilling engineering degree requirements, students must also complete coursework to satisfy the following flag requirements: one independent inquiry flag, one quantitative reasoning flag, one ethics flag, one global cultures flag, one cultural diversity in the United States flag, and two writing flags. The independent inquiry flag, the quantitative reasoning flag, the ethics flag, and both writing flags are carried by courses specifically required for the degree; these courses are identified below. Courses that may be used to fulfill flag requirements are identified in the Course Schedule.
Courses used to fulfill technical elective requirements must be approved by the aerospace engineering faculty before the student enrolls in them.
The student must take all courses required for the degree on the letter-grade basis and must earn a grade of at least C- in each course, except for those listed as Remaining Core Curriculum courses. He or she must also maintain grade point averages of at least 2.00 in the major area of study and in required technical courses as described in Academic Standards, and a cumulative University grade point average of at least 2.00 as described in the General Information Catalog.
Design Track Options
The design track option allows the student to choose seven semester hours of courses in either atmospheric flight or space flight. Each student should choose a design track by the end of the first semester of the junior year and plan an academic program to meet the track requirements in the next three semesters. Many students choose electives that will strengthen their backgrounds in one specialty area, but this is not required. It should be noted that a student may choose the design courses in the other track as electives.