If you want to travel to Mars or ascend to the skies, you’ll need a machine to get there.
For thousands of years, humans dreamed of flying, but it took specific tools, techniques, and materials to make it possible.
It required aeronautical engineering.
Since machines gave humans the ability to fly, we’ve been able to do some incredible feats.
In less time than it takes to drive across LA County, astronauts visited the Moon, yet my direct flight from LA to Missoula takes less time than it takes to traverse the Atlantic by boat.
We’ve been able to accomplish these goals thanks to aeronautical engineering, a field dedicated to the design and construction of flying devices.
Aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering are the two main branches.
Aeronautical engineering is concerned with the development of aircraft such as gliders, jets, and helicopters, whereas astronautical engineering is concerned with the development of spacecraft such as probes, satellites, and spaceships.
Both disciplines advanced dramatically in the twentieth century, owing in part to the Cold War conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.
This rivalry resulted in the race to land on the Moon, as well as advances in jet propulsion, radar, materials science, and many other fields.
Nations compete today, but private corporations do as well, and the objective isn’t only to return to the Moon, but to reach Mars.
It’s not just a catchy headline.
If the Space Race taught us anything, it’s that rivalry spurs innovation.
SpaceX, a rocket business, wants to transport people to Mars as soon as 2024, and it will require a lot of innovation.
However, whether you’re launching people into space or simply flying around in the atmosphere, you’ll need to understand some fundamental flying concepts.
The most basic form of lift is buoyancy, which is essential for atmospheric flight.
Buoyancy works because the atmosphere contains a pressure gradient, which means that the air pressure gets a little bit lower for every little bit higher you go.
The difference in pressures produces a slight upward force that can lift an object if it is light enough — this is lift!
This technique is used in the first form of flight, hot air balloons.
Because it is lighter than the surrounding cooler air, that large ball of hot air is pushed up and pulls its passenger along for the journey.
If you want your balloon to be stationary, or in equilibrium as engineers describe it, the sum of the forces must equal zero.
That means the force of gravity pulling the balloon and the gas inside downward must precisely match the force of the pressure gradient pushing up.
However, balloons are impracticable for the majority of uses.
Because they are so reliant on their surroundings, things like shifting weather conditions might make it difficult to properly steer or even land one.
A propulsion system, or something that propels you forward, is required to fly more successfully.
A propulsion system typically consists of a power source and a propulsion, which converts power into forward motion.
As an aeronautical engineer, you’ll employ one of three propulsion systems: a heat engine with fuel, an electric motor with batteries, or an electric motor with solar cells.
With any of these systems, the goal is to create enough push to overcome the aircraft’s drag.
To avoid burning a hole in your budget, commercial jets with a lot of constant travel should keep their engine efficiency high and their fuel consumption low.
When it comes to a fighter jet, when speed is crucial, you’ll need greater thrust to accelerate quickly, which means engine economy may suffer.
The jet engine, which has five main components: an inlet, compressor, burner, turbine, and nozzle, is used in most modern planes.
The compressor receives air from the input, which is fed into the engine.
Before entering the burner, the compressor raises the pressure of the incoming air.
is blended with gasoline and burned at this step of the engine.
This produces hot exhaust gas, which is used to power a turbine, which generates thrust when air passes through the nozzle.
Finally, the nozzle serves as the plane’s propeller, propelling it forward.
Now, there are a few crucial points to consider.
You must have a solid inlet that can operate efficiently that is, bring in enough air to the compressor for the duration of your aircraft’s flight.
Your compressor can handle pulling air into the engine at low speeds, but at higher speeds, a suitable inlet design allows you to maneuver more freely without disrupting the air flow to the compressor.
You should also use materials that can tolerate a lot of heat when designing your engine.
The blades of your turbine, for example, can reach temperatures of several hundred degrees Celsius.
You’ll need to make them out of special heat
resistant metals, such as a nickel
based super alloy
or install a cooling system to keep the blades cool.
If you want to keep them cool, you’ll need a hollow design that allows you to pump cool air into the blades and out via microscopic holes in their surface.
Put it all together, and make sure you have a nice proposer nozzle, and you’ve got yourself a good propulsion system.
Now, it will get you pretty far on Earth, but if you want to travel to space, you’ll have to cope with a whole other set of problems.
And the biggest of them all is you.
You might believe that technological restrictions are preventing us from reaching the stars, and you’d be correct.
However, the human body’s inability to adapt to the difficulties of deep space will be your greatest problem.
You’ll need to develop ships that can replicate an Earth
because our bodies can’t just turn a switch and adapt.
Some components, such as creating a breathing environment, are quite simple.
Others, like as dealing with weightlessness, are far more difficult.
Artificial gravity is one thing we don’t have yet.
Gravity has an impact on everything from bone and muscle formation to how efficiently your heart pumps blood throughout your body.
After only a few days in space without it, astronauts endure difficulties like as weakened muscles and blurred vision.
One technique to deal with this, at least theoretically, is to use the apparent centrifugal force to produce a spinning spacecraft.
In a similar fashion to how water stays in a quickly rotating bucket, this might successfully replicate gravity.
Radiation in space can increase the risk of cancer in the crew and possibly harm the ship.
exposure can harm onboard electronics, producing short circuits and memory corruption.
So, if you don’t want your design to be fried in space, make it strong enough to withstand the radiation.
Using insulating materials instead of silicon for computer processors will help.
Designing circuits with exterior shielding comprised of materials like lead would also help.
That will increase the total size of your system, so keep that in mind as well.
And that’s just the vastness of space.
When it comes to coping with the atmospheres of other planets, there’s even more to think about.
Take a look at Mars, where the atmosphere is roughly 1% as dense as Earth’s and the temperature fluctuates from -125°C in the winter to about 20°C in the summer all of which your designs must be able to withstand if we ever hope to travel or even live there.
However, before attempting to colonize another planet, it’s a good idea to start with a simpler mission, such as designing a satellite that doesn’t require the presence of an astronaut.
The payload, the bus, and the launcher are the three basic components of satellites.
All of the equipment that performs the satellite’s primary activities, such as receiving telecommunications or processing and sending data, is referred to as the payload.
The bus refers to the systems and structures that provide power, protection, stability, and orbital control to the payload, allowing it to complete its mission.
The launcher, also known as the launch vehicle adapter assembly, is the link between the satellite’s bus and the rocket that propels it into orbit.
The design of your satellite must incorporate all of these elements.
And you’d better double
check your calculations, because a small mathematical error might have disastrous consequences, both in terms of human life and the cost of all your equipment.
NASA lost a 125 million dollar Mars orbiter around the turn of the 2000 due to a mix
up of modules.
The orbiter’s calculations were thrown off because NASA used metric values while the manufacturer used English ones, causing it to burn up in the Martian atmosphere.
You might also need to design a spacesuit, which is a unique type of spaceship.
A spacesuit, you see, isn’t simply a set of clothes you wear in space; it’s also a human
It keeps astronauts from becoming too hot or chilly, gives them oxygen to breathe, and even stores drinking water.
They also wear those gold
to protect their eyes from the harsh, blinding glare of space.
The robust surface of the suit also protects against space dust, which may be extremely dangerous when moving faster than a racing bullet.
However, you can’t make the suit too bulky because astronauts need to be able to move around freely.
Because the dietary alternatives are a little more…limited up there, conserving energy is also vital.
That’s why, like NASA’s Z
2 advanced prototype,
engineers are constantly working to improve spacesuit designs.
2 employs modern
materials to create a lightweight, highly durable suit capable of enduring long
in severe settings such as those encountered on Mars.
Whoever wants to go to Mars, whether it’s SpaceX, NASA, or someone else, will need spacesuits like these.
A good spaceship, too.
However, with the correct engineering practices and a little luck, humans may one day become a multiplanetary species.
Today, we learnt everything there is to know about aerospace engineering, including the two main fields of aeronautical and astronautical engineering.
We used the ideas of lift and buoyancy to study flight and discovered that a propulsion system is more efficient than a hot air balloon.
Then we learned how one of the largest issues that aerospace engineers confront is managing the human body in space.
Finally, we studied about the components of a decent spacesuit.
I’ll see you again next time, when we’ll be discussing computer engineering.
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