What Is Space Engineering?

  • Space engineering is a multidisciplinary field that deals with spacecraft and aircraft that operate outside of the Earth’s atmosphere
  • It typically deals with space vehicles, missiles, satellites, and other machines/devices
  • Space engineering has developed some of the devices that we use in everyday life in the modern world

What is Space Engineering? What are the differences between space engineering and aerospace engineering? What do space engineers do everyday? We are here to answer these questions for you!

Space engineering brings together a number of multidisciplinary engineering fields in order to create and develop high-performance system components and space systems. Typical areas that space engineering is applied in are the engineering of space vehicles, space mission, space instrumentation, along with other components like actuators, sensors, propulsion, vehicle control, mechanisms, systems engineering and distributed space systems.

Using state of the art technology is a day-to-day task in space engineering, being used to configure launchers, space vehicles (think Mars Rover), deep space probes, and satellites as well as any components and parts of these.

What Does A Space Engineer Do?

Space engineers are very involved in multiple aspects of space exploration and travel. Their main responsibilities are to design and analyze spacecraft and aircraft. Space engineers are expected to know the fundamental principles of physics including but not limited to: propulsion and motion, aerodynamics, along with fluid dynamics and many other practical and theoretical topics.

Space Engineering Education

Space engineers must have a strong understanding of mathematics if they are to be successful in this field. Maths is the very first step in understanding and developing new technologies associated with the role.

Once the foundation of knowledge in theory is sufficient, space engineers can begin to create and design their own ideas for machines and components within the spaceship spectrum. A course called “Spacecraft Engineering” is a common choice for hopeful space engineers. This helps students to become familiar with the development, design, construction, operations, and testing of space vehicles, among other machines that operate outside of the Earth in outer space.

This course teaches how to address the engineering of the subsystems within spacecraft. Specifically the current focus on miniaturization and space systems incorporating commercial technology for the purposes of cost reduction and performance increases.

Space Engineering Jobs

Space engineers generally have either astronautical engineering or aeronautical engineering degrees. Astronautical engineers specialize in spacecraft, where aeronautical engineers are experts in aircraft. Typical jobs for space engineers are: mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, spacecraft or aircraft designers, missile and satellite designers and builders, and computer hardware engineers.

Many space engineers are employed by NASA (shock) and the U.S. government to carry out the construction and design of new spacecraft. There are many smaller private companies that are growing, and a space engineer may find themselves working at one of these. These companies may be working in the private space travel industry, along with similar space technology ventures.

It is very possible that a role in space engineering could lead you to be working in a research facility or a laboratory. On the contrary, one may land a role that is 100% in the field, (which, bear in mind that the “field” is outer space!!). The majority of space engineering roles include a healthy mix of the two options. This means theoretical research work along with field work, managing or building aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, or satellites.

Space Engineering vs Aerospace Engineering

As touched on previously, space engineering is mainly focused on spacecraft or aircraft that stay outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. This is because there is no air, so fluid and gas mechanics can combine and become one area of expertise. Space engineering is basically a branch of aerospace engineering, as might have been guessed by the similarity in their names. Aerospace engineering encompasses all space and aircraft engineering, whether they stay inside the Earth’s atmosphere or not.

Is Space Engineering Important?

If space engineering or space engineers didn’t exist, many of the devices that were invented in the last 25 to 40 years would not have come to fruition. Scientists working at NASA are credited with inventing memory foam, thermometers, and LED lighting. Satellites that were also invented by space engineers, and this in turn led to the development of other modern devices and technologies like GPS, mobile phones, and some television programming. The modern world as we all know and love today would not be the same without space engineering. Think about that the next time you use your mobile phone!

So, have you ever heard of space engineering before? Do you work in the industry? We would love to hear your comments and thoughts on this interesting and important industry in the comments below. See you soon!

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