Aerospace Vehicle Design

Module aims

The design of aerospace vehicles is a complex, multidisciplinary endeavour. This module offers you an opportunity to integrate and apply your prior knowledge and analytical skills to the design of an aircraft of conventional architecture, starting from only a simple set of operational requirements, while introducing them to the multi-stage approach and methods typically employed by vehicle design teams.

Learning outcomes

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

  • Appreciate the importance of the design process for the overall future success of a new aircraft project;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the key operational, legal, sustainability and environmental drivers and constraints in the evolution of a new aircraft configuration, starting from an initial set of operational requirements;
  • Synthesize and apply their broad aeronautical knowledge to practical aircraft design problems through use of appropriate methodologies, tools and terminology;
  • Better recognise the order of magnitude of various design parameters;
  • Appreciate the relative importance of design choices, as determined by a problem's inherent level of uncertainty, as you progress thought the stages of a design project;
  • Tackle complex, multidisciplinary design problems where there is significant uncertainty;
  • Collaborate and communicate as a member of a small, multidisciplinary design team.

Module syllabus

Conceptual Design Stage:
The design process and available tools; Design Target Specification; Airworthiness Requirements and Standards; Baseline Configuration Development; Initial Sizing Process; Powerplant Selection & Integration; Systems Selection, Layout & Packaging; Fuselage Design; Flying Surface Design; High-Lift Device Selection and Design; Flight Control Surface Design; Undercarriage Layout and Design; Aerodynamic Analysis; Introduction to Structural Layout, Loads and Aeroelastics; Weight and Balance Estimations; Stability and Control, Handling Qualities; Performance Estimation; Cost Estimation.
Preliminary & Detail Design Stages. 
Introduction to Airframe Design; Preliminary Design of Wing Boxes; Use of flight envelope to demonstrate interaction between design, aerodynamics and stress; Preliminary Design of Wing Structures from UAS to commercial jets; Preliminary Design of Fuselage Structures under pressure. U/C loads etc.; Cut-outs design; Design of fatigue prone components, such as root fittings, spar boom splices, windows etc.; Practical fail safe and safe life design.; Finite Element analysis of airframe components; ESDU data sheets relating to structural strength, stability and fatigue.

Teaching methods

The module utilizes a project-based, student-centred learning approach, whereby you will carry out the project in a small group. While you will primarily learn through the conduct of the project itself, extensive support material is available in the form of pre-recorded online lectures, a wide variety of reference texts, weekly drop-in tutorials with the tutors and an online discussion forum.


Examined Assessment:

  • An interim, aircraft initial sizing and configuration exercise and poster (Group Submission) (15%)
  • A conceptual design report (35%)
  • A report on the preliminary design of the aircraft’s airframe and the detailed design of a structural component (40%)
  • Performance during structural testing (10%)

Reading list

Conceptual Design

Preliminary Airframe Design

Module leaders

Dr Errikos Levis