Aerospace engineering provides the basis for design, construction and performance of aircraft and spacecraft. The unforgiving environment in which they operate demands the highest engineering standards and state-of-the-art materials, analysis and design tools. The major has two tracks, aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. Aeronautical engineering pertains to flying craft (manned and un-manned) that remain within the Earth's atmosphere and astronautical engineering pertains to flying craft (manned and un-manned) that operate outside of Earth's atmosphere, as well as the launch vehicles that get them into space. Two courses in 3/C year introduce students to the fundamentals of both tracks. Students then choose one of these tracks and take courses that cover a broad range of engineering fundamentals such as aerodynamics, orbital science, space environment, propulsion, structural design, stability and control, vehicle design and systems integration.
Both tracks are supported by modern laboratory facilities. Students conduct experiments in research-quality wind tunnels that produce airflow speeds ranging from subsonic to supersonic. A unique rotor lab is used to study helicopter rotors and propellers. Propulsion systems are studied by operating reciprocal and gas turbine engines. Flight performance, stability and control principles are taught in the classroom using flight simulators and are demonstrated in actual flight with the department’s single and twin engine aircraft. The department also operates a satellite ground station from which it monitors and communicates with the International Space Station and other satellites in orbit.
In 1/C year, aerospace engineering students undertake capstone projects that involve the design, construction and operation of an aircraft or a spacecraft. Recent aeronautical engineering projects have involved remotely piloted aircraft designed to carry out a variety of military missions. Astronautical engineering projects have involved satellites launched into Earth orbit to test concepts for future space exploration. Work on these capstone projects often entails collaboration with engineers at the Naval Research Laboratory, NASA, or other agencies. Other design projects have involved rotorcraft and rockets.
A variety of summer internships with corporations such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin and government agencies such as NASA, SPAWAR, NRO or NAVAIR have majors working with aerospace engineers and test pilots on the development and operation of aircraft and spacecraft. Naval Academy aerospace engineering majors have found success in all service assignments. Aerospace engineering graduates may enter U.S. Navy Test Pilot School, Navy Space Cadre, or work in program offices improving and testing naval aviation platforms and missiles.
Aerospace engineering is challenging but rewarding work and a commitment to the major is required to succeed. Successful students appreciate the complexities involved in spacecraft and aircraft design and recognize the necessity for critical thinking. They have an appreciation of how mathematics and computers are used to solve real-world problems. Teamwork is emphasized throughout the curriculum. Students who enjoy the major obtain satisfaction from solving difficult problems. Aerospace majors are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment and a better understanding of themselves and the operational environment they will join following graduation.