Preparing for a first course in aerospace engineering has many challenges. The depth and breadth of material that prospective aerospace engineers are expected to know as they enter the workplace has grown substantially in recent decades. Therefore, designing an introductory course that provides a strong foundation and prepares students for further study and future careers in the industry is essential. Furthermore, the emphasis on life-long learning has never been more critical.

Over the decades, many discussions and debates have been about what course material constitutes a thorough introduction to the subject matter relevant to aeronautical and aerospace engineering. Many possible answers have been given, including by distinguished academics, and many applicable and valuable books have been written. However, it still seems that nobody knows how to teach engineering, and everyone else thinks that each new engineering book or revised course is no better than the previous one; Plerosque discipulos aliquando satisfactory potes, sed nanomoles discipulos semper satisfactory potes.

Interestingly, the modern industry’s perspective differs somewhat from academia’s, as the industry emphasizes the need for more practical skills such as programming and computer-aided design. However, it is unarguable that the root requirement for success as an engineer is a solid grounding in all fundamental technical principles, including core subjects such as mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Striving for a good balance between theory and practical skills is crucial for a successful aerospace engineer; one must support the other. This balance fosters engineering innovation, critical thinking, and the ability to tackle new challenges effectively. This approach can also help students build a stronger foundation, enabling them to excel in their future studies and careers.

This ebook (or webbook) was initially written for AE201 Aerospace Flight Vehicles students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is a resource for ERAU students, students at other colleges and universities, and anyone who might be interested and find it helpful. It is freely distributed worldwide under a Creative Commons, non-commercial, and non-derivative (CC NC, CC BY-NC) license. By being freely accessible and distributed, it has the potential to reach a wider audience and provide educational opportunities for those who might not otherwise have access to such resources. This CC NC, CC BY-NC license also ensures that the core material will remain unaltered and available for future generations to use and build upon rather than to modify it based on their self-predilections or to commercialize it for corporate or personal profit, all severe failings of the modern world.

The AE201 course was first introduced into the Aerospace Engineering program at ERAU in Fall 2017. This new course was designed to cover, at an introductory level, a broad range of fundamental technical topics relevant to aerospace engineering. The course was also intended to bring aerospace topics into the 4-year aerospace program earlier and cover essential prerequisites for later studies. Based on student and faculty feedback, the success of this course has been remarkable, indicating that it has effectively fulfilled its intended purpose. Students have benefitted from the early exposure to aerospace topics, allowing them to comprehensively understand critical concepts and principles. It has better prepared them for the rigors of an aerospace engineering curriculum.

The first part of this ebook is structured and split into lessons centered around a 1-hour lecture period. Individual instructors will inevitably choose more specific content aligned with their own syllabus – covering all the content in one lecture will not be possible. Still, students will have an opportunity to read further or be assigned content for self-study. Students eventually realize that self-learning is essential and that relying solely on classroom instruction is necessary but insufficient for long-term success. The ebook has an attractive, interactive design that promotes evidence-based teaching practices such as scaffolded learning.

Each lesson includes text content with detailed illustrations, application problems, a self-assessment quiz, and topics for further discussion inside or outside the classroom. In addition, hyperlinks to additional resources are provided to support students who want to delve deeper into each topic. At the end of the ebook, there are many more worked examples and application problems for the student, mostly all former homework or exam questions.

The overarching concept of this ebook is to give students a broad-based introduction to the aerospace field, emphasizing technical content while making the material attractive and digestible. The latter parts of this ebook are intended chiefly for self-study and to provide a primer for the continuing student on other important technical topics in aerospace engineering.

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Much success and best wishes in your future studies!

J. Gordon Leishman, D.Sc.(Eng.), Ph.D., F.R.Ae.S.
Distinguished Professor of Aerospace Engineering, ERAU, Daytona Beach, FL.
Professor Emeritus of Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

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Introduction to Aerospace Flight Vehicles Copyright © 2022 – 2024 by J. Gordon Leishman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.