Introduction to Aerospace

Module aims

This module introduces students to the broad types of vehicles operating and their varied missions and design requirements. Starting from a discussion of the forces and moments acting on an aerial vehicle and developing models for their prediction, we derive a number of equations that can be used for the prediction of key aircraft performance metrics, such as cruise range, operating envelope and take-off/landing performance. The performance of rotorcraft is also discussed.

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing this module, you should be able to:

1. understand aeronautical terminology and be able to work with Imperial units commonly used in aerospace;
2. employ the International Standard Atmosphere model to predict the impact of altitude on air vehicle performance; 
3. identify the main parameters affecting the propulsive and aerodynamics forces and moments acting on an aircraft and use simple models to predict them;
4. derive the equations of motion of an arbitrary aerial vehicle in 2D and use mathematical expressions for the prediction of fixed and rotary wing aircraft performance metrics;
5. demonstrate understanding of the way in which major vehicle design parameters affect performance metrics, (such as point performance, range and endurance, field performance, fuel efficiency and cost);
6. derive the moment balance for an arbitrary aircraft and carry out a basic static stability and trim analysis;
7. analyse wind tunnel and flight test data to assess the performance of a fixed-wing aircraft.

Module syllabus

Aerospace Vehicles: Types, Missions and Requirements.
Atmospheric Modelling: variation of pressure, temperature and air density with altitude, using the International Standard Atmosphere model.
Anatomy of Aerospace Vehicles: major structural components; control surface layouts; major subsystems; avionics and instruments. 
Forces and Moments: inertial characteristics; propulsive forces and performance; sources of aerostatic/dynamic lift and modelling; sources of aerodynamics drag and modelling. 
Aircraft Equations of Motion: equations of motion in the vertical plane; steady and quasi-steady flight in a vertical plane.
Fixed-Wing Aircraft Performance Estimation: parabolic drag polar; absolute flight ceiling; range and endurance; point performance and energy considerations; field performance.
Rotorcraft Performance Estimation: hovering flight using 1D momentum theory; forward flight.
Static Stability and Trim: aerodynamics moments and trim analysis; static stability criteria; stick-fixed and stick-free static margin.

Teaching methods

The module will be taught through a combination of in-class and online, pre-recorded, lectures introducing the key concepts and deriving the fundamental equations for a conventional aircraft.  You will apply the concepts introduced through tutorial question sheets and laboratory exercises, including one making use of the Department's Flight Simulation facility, and featuring tasks representative of those carried out by a performance engineer in industry. 

A number of visualisation tools, allowing you to visualise the impact of design and operating parameters on the vehicle performance are further made available. 


This module presents opportunities for both formative and summative assessment. 
You will be formatively assessed through progress tests and tutorial sessions.
You will have additional opportunities to self-assess your learning via tutorial problem sheets.
You will be summatively assessed by a written examination at the end of the module as well as a written laboratory report.

Assessment type Assessment description Weighting Pass mark
Examination Written examination 75% 40%
Coursework Laboratory Report 25% 40%

You will receive feedback both during the laboratory sessions and following the coursework submission.
You will receive feedback on examinations in the form of an examination feedback report on the performance of the entire cohort.
You will receive feedback on your performance whilst undertaking tutorial exercises, during which you will also receive instruction on the correct solution to tutorial problems.
Further individual feedback will be available to you on request via this module’s online feedback forum, through staff office hours and discussions with tutors. 


Reading list

Warning: "continue" targeting switch is equivalent to "break". Did you mean to use "continue 2"? in D:\inetpub\wwwroot\Managed\Applications\ReadingLists\vendor\zendframework\zendframework\library\Zend\Stdlib\ArrayObject.php on line 426