What is Aerospace Engineering? Is it the same as Aeronautical Engineering with a fancy name?
Aerospace Engineering is different from Aeronautical Engineering. In some sense, Aerospace Engineering encompasses Aeronautical Engineering and then some more, the key difference being that Aeronautical deals with ‘inside the atmosphere’ engineering and Aerospace deals with space faring technology like rockets.
Where is it offered and in what capacity?
Aerospace Engineering is offered as an undergrad program in government-funded colleges in India like the IITs and some private engineering colleges. The IITs also have an Aerospace program for post-graduation and doctoral studies. It is not a widespread discipline and is offered by only a few colleges.
How does one apply?
The process is similar to the method followed to get into any Engineering discipline. It is either based on an entrance exam or on the qualifying board exam marks. In case of IITs, there is most definitely an entrance exam of sorts. It will be a JEE for the undergrad program and GATE for PG. There are other methods to join PG in IITs. One can get in as an external or sponsored candidate from a place of employment. Joining as a ‘Project Associate’ and eventually getting into a degree program is also possible in colleges like IIT Madras. In any case, a panel interview will have to be passed in order to be taken in.
What does one learn?
The curriculum includes basic fluid mechanics, aerodynamics, gas dynamics, propulsion systems, structures, flight mechanics and control, and so on.
What does that mean for a fresh-out-of-school person?
In essence, this engineering discipline teaches the basics required to design aircrafts and rockets from structural considerations, to the effect of air and other fluids within and outside of the vehicle. It deals with studying about the engines (propulsion systems), the aerodynamics, the structure and manufacture, and the control mechanisms. Diagnostic techniques and experimentation are also an integral part of the learning process. To that end, there are lab classes including flight simulation labs provided in some colleges. Colleges like IIT Madras work under a different system of course work where the student can choose subjects every semester based on their interest and the credit requirement. This means that there are no ‘fixed subjects per semester’ system, especially for research degrees like MS or PhD. The freedom given helps the students nurture their interest and also focus on specializing on a particular aspect of the discipline.
Who will find it interesting?
People who have an interest in engineering as a whole will find the subjects interesting. This is mostly a hands on course much like Mechanical Engineering. In fact, many Mechanical Engineering basics are shared by this discipline. That being said, if the aptitude is towards subjects like Economics or Accountancy or Biology, there will be very less overlap of interests.
What back ground is needed for PG?
Any core engineering degree or equivalent (like diplomas) are considered with preference being given to UG in Aero or Mechanical Engineering.
What does the future look like?
In truth, the Aerospace Engineering sector is growing, but at a slower pace than other fields of engineering. This might be a point of concern for many.
In conclusion, Aerospace Engineering is an interesting field of study which thrives on curiosity and perseverance.