(air-oh-speys en-juh-neer-ing) (n.)
The practice of developing new technologies related to aircraft and spacecraft. Aerospace engineers combine knowledge from a wide variety of fields, including chemistry, physics, thermodynamics, computer science and metallurgy. They research, design, construct and test new technologies and prototypes to advance aircraft and spacecraft. Both the federal government and private corporations employ aerospace engineers, who may develop projects such as new civilian aircraft or new missile technologies for military applications.
The field of aerospace engineering is divided into two broad categories: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. Aeronautical engineers work with crafts that operate within the earth's atmosphere. Astronautical engineers, on the other hand, work primarily with spacecraft, such as NASA rockets or space shuttles.
Aerospace engineers must test all new designs for safety and performance, and they also develop regular maintenance procedures for all new aircraft or spacecraft. Some aerospace engineers study accidents and apply learned lessons to new designs, ensuring better safety records for newer technologies. Aerospace engineers often work with teams of other experts to design cutting-edge new aircraft, spacecraft or weaponry. Good teamwork and interpersonal communication is important for aerospace engineers working within team-based systems.
Many aerospace engineers specialize in aspects of aircraft design, such as propulsion or guidance systems. Others may concentrate on conceptual design, safety, manufacturing or sales. Aerospace engineers typically work with sophisticated computer hardware and software capable of handling complex schematics and calculations.
Bachelor's degrees in engineering are required for most entry-level positions in aerospace engineering. Advanced and leadership positions usually require further education, such as master's or doctorate degrees. Professional development in the form of conferences and seminars ensures that an aerospace engineer's skill set is always current.
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