We’ve got a new contender in the space race.
On August 23rd, 2023, India landed Chandrayaan-3 near the moon’s south pole, becoming the fourth country to land on the moon, behind only the Soviet Union, the U.S., and China.
The Chandrayaan-3 Vikram (“valor”) lander and Pragyan (“wisdom”) rover are marvels capable of withstanding lunar dust, solar radiation and the cold vacuum of space. The mission, conducted by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), would not have been possible were it not for ISRO’s team of scientists and electrical, chemical and — let’s not forget —mechanical engineers.
We’ll be exploring mechanical engineering in the aerospace industry, highlighting the pivotal role these professionals play in helping air and spacecraft defy gravity.
Mechanical Engineering in the Aerospace Industry
Mechanical engineers play a pivotal role in designing the power-producing machines and avionics at the heart of all aircraft. Although they possess a similar skill set, aerospace engineers specialize only in air and spacecraft, including satellites, rockets, missiles and the occasional lunar lander.
Wouldn’t it make sense to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering if someone wanted to work in the aerospace industry? Not necessarily. Mechanical engineering is the broadest engineering branch. Mechanical engineers, with their expert understanding of power-producing machines, are employed throughout the aerospace industry (and, for that matter, every industry).
Mechanical engineers will be increasingly needed as humanity looks to the skies and beyond to the stars.
The Sky’s the Limit
Starting in early 2020, air travel was disrupted by … well, you know. Air travel is now approaching pre-pandemic levels: a record 17.7 million American passengers traveled this past Fourth of July.
With air travel increasing, aircraft manufacturers are investing in aircraft and engine designs that are more fuel-efficient, have lower operating costs, and produce less emissions. Mechanical engineers working in the aerospace industry should expect to have their hands full in the years and decades to come.
Advanced air mobility is another area of aviation taking off. Nearly 350 entities around the world are working on over 700 eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft concepts and designs, showcasing engineers’ dedication to pushing the industry forward.
What Are eVTOL Aircrafts?
Picture a flying car from your favorite science-fiction movie — a time-traveling DeLorean, maybe. This is the promise of eVTOL: a vehicle that operates like a helicopter, fulfilling every commuter’s fantasy to rise above rush-hour traffic.
Currently, the focus is to produce eVTOLs that would operate like flying taxis, delivering passengers to vertiports across a city. A single-seat eVTOL called Hexa can operate for fifteen minutes on batteries alone. Mechanical engineers, think you can do better?
Space, the Final Frontier
There’s so much more to the aerospace industry than commercial air travel. Space tourism and satellite internet are taking off. Space X recently launched a Falcon 9 rocket with a cargo of 22 Starlink satellites.
Sometime in the not-so-distant future, we could see missions to harness solar energy, mine asteroids, or if Elon Musk has his way, colonize Mars. Yet space remains a cold, harsh environment. Humanity’s reach into the stars is dependent on the know-how of mechanical engineers and the technology available to them.
Looking to the Future
A 2023 report published by Deloitte paints a familiar picture for the aerospace industry. Companies are addressing operational challenges by embracing advanced technologies, including big data, AI, machine learning, digital twins and the Internet of Things (IoT).
In coming years, we’re likely to see more companies embrace smart factories. The push for automation is changing the composition of the industry’s workforce, demanding professionals with more advanced engineering skills.
Though many jobs lost to the pandemic have been restored, the search for qualified professionals remains a challenge. All of this is creating fierce competition among companies as they search for talent, particularly mechanical engineers, who have the skill set needed to thrive in a world defined by unprecedented events and emerging technologies.
Reach for the Stars: Apply to The University of Texas at Austin
India’s Chandrayaan-3 made history with its historic moon landing, but their lead may be short-lived, as Japan and the U.S. are hot on their heels. (Frozen water at the moon’s south pole may be used as a source of drinking water or an essential ingredient for rocket fuel, further extending humanity’s reach into space.)
As companies and countries turn their attention to the limitless potential held by the skies and stars, mechanical engineers will be needed to design, prototype and manufacture machines that defy gravity. But the increased focus on automation and other emerging technologies will mean that only the best engineers — those able to clear the skills gap — will find success.
Executive Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering
UT Austin offers a 100% online Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Mechanical Engineering designed to help professionals like you advance their careers in a variety of industries, including the aerospace industry.
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