Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Adjust Font Size: Normal Large X-Large

AEM 4331: Aerospace Vehicle Design

Catalog Description



AEM 4331

Aerospace Vehicle Design

4 Credits 

Catalog Description:

Multidisciplinary student teams perform conceptual designs of aerospace vehicles, components, missions, or systems that incorporate realistic constraints/applicable engineering standards. Papers on professional ethics/contemporary aerospace issues. Oral preliminary/critical design reviews.

Course Web Address:

Prerequisites by Topic:

1.      Mechanics of Flight (AEM2301)

2.      Aerodynamics (AEM 4202)


Advice to Rocket Scientists, A Career Survival Guide for Scientists and Engineers, Jim Longuski, AIAA Press, 2004 


Aircraft Design: A Conceptual Approach 4th ed, Raymer,

AIAA Space Vehicle Design 2nd ed, Griffin, AIAA

AIAA Aerospace Design Engineer's Guide 5th ed, AIAA

Format of Course

Three hours of lectures per week plus weekly design team meetings at recitation times.

Computer Usage:




Course Objectives:

Develop an understanding of the design process and how to work as a member of a team to accomplish the design of an aerospace vehicle: develop ability to identify key issues and apply technical knowledge to resolve these issues, learn basic CAD skills and use them to integrate the physical design of an aerospace vehicle. Other important objectives: appreciate the importance of professionalism/ethics, be aware of contemporary issues in engineering, be able to access various technical information sources, and develop written and oral communication skills.

Course Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete the course will demonstrate the following outcomes by accomplishing the conceptual design of a spacecraft or aircraft with assignments, meetings, trade studies, oral presentations and written reports.

  1. An understanding and experience of design of an aerospace system, mission, or vehicle.
  2.  Experience working with others on multidisciplinary team to accomplish an   engineering goal
  3. Experience preparing and delivering Preliminary and Critical Design Reviews, and final reporting.
  4.  Experience in Identifying Engineering Problems
  5.  An understanding of engineering ethics
  6.  Experience in written and oral communications
  7. An appreciation for the necessity for life long learning
  8.  Exposure to contemporary issues in aerospace engineering, globalization, environmental and societal impacts
  9.  Use of engineering tools
  10. Experience with use of aerodynamics, materials, structures propulsion, flight mechanics etc as appropriate to your project
  11.  An understanding of contemporary issues in aerospace engineering. 

Relationship of course to program objectives:

 This course is an integrated design experience in which students learn teamwork, problem solving skills, system design and oral and written communication skills.  The course involves fluid mechanics and aerodynamics, aerospace structures, propulsion and dynamics and controls.  The course also teaches professionalism and ethics, and is designed to foster life-long learning. It prepares student for the professional practice of engineering.

Relationship of course to program outcomes:

This course provides the following program outcomes:

  1. Apply mathematics
  2. System design
  3. Multidisciplinary teamwork
  4. Identify engineering problems
  5. Professionalism and ethics
  6. Communication skills
  7. Lifelong learning
  8. Contemporary issues in aerospace engineering
  9. Engineering tools
  10. Aerodynamics
  11. Materials
  12. Structures
  13. Propulsion
  14. Flight mechanics
  15. Stability and control

Outcome Measurement:

Direct Measures

Outcome: Apply Mathematics

Performance Criterion:  Demonstrate an ability to use mathematics appropriately in the design project

Assessment Method: Individual performance on CDR presentation.

Outcome: System Design

Performance Criterion: Design an aerospace vehicle, component, or system from a set of requirements and present this in a CDR

Assessment Method: Group performance on CDR presentation

Outcome: Multidisciplinary teamwork

Performance Criterion: Work effectively as a member of a team performing a design project which incorporates several aerospace disciplines

Assessment Method: Group performance on CDR presentation, Peer evaluation of team members.

Outcome: Identify engineering problems:

Performance Criterion: Determine correct engineering approaches to be used in various design tasks in the overall design project

Assessment Method: Individual performance on CDR presentation

Outcome:  Professionalism and Ethics

Performance Criterion:  Demonstrate understanding of professional and ethical responsibilities by writing an essay on a case study in ethics and participate in a group discussion of the case study. 

Assessment Method: Grade on ethics essay assignment.

Outcome: Communication Skills

Performance Criterion: Be able to present engineering concepts effectively both verbally and graphically

Assessment Method: Individual performance on CDR presentation

Outcome: Lifelong Learning

Performance Criterion: Demonstrate the application of new knowledge required to successfully complete the design project

Assessment Method: Group performance on CDR presentation

Outcome: Contemporary issues in aerospace engineering

Performance Criterion:  Be able to discuss and analyze a recent issue in the aerospace field

Assessment Method: Grade on an essay on a topic relating to some important current event in aerospace.

Outcome: Engineering Tools

Performance Criterion:  Be able to use engineering tools in the design process.

Assessment Method: Grade on 3D modeling assignment and individual performance on CDR presentation

Outcome: Knowledge of Aerodynamics, Materials, Structures, Propulsion, Flight mechanics and Stability and control

Performance Criterion: Be able to use these disciplines as appropriate in the design of an aerospace vehicle, component or system

Assessment Method: Individual performance on CDR presentation.

Course Outline:

Students perform a design project as part of a team.  Each team will be lead by a team manager. Students will meet for lecture on selected topics (see following list) during the first hour followed by team meetings during the second hour during which the students will develop their conceptual design. 

(Hrs, approx.)



Course Introduction and Overview, Project Descriptions, Team Organization and Disciplines


Introduction to Design and Design Process, Project Statement, Detailed Design Requirements, Trade Studies


Solid Works Tutorial and Homework


Review Selected Analytical Tools


PDR with instructor and definition of deliverables


In class PDR presentations


Giving effective presentations, organizing meetings, etc


Contemporary Issues in aerospace engineering and essay homework


Lectures from outside experts


Professionalism  Ethics: Homework – written case study





Student Survey Questions:

This course improved my ability to do the following:

1.      Apply knowledge of math, science and engineering.

2.      Design a system, component or process to meet desired needs.

3.      Function as a member of a multi-disciplinary team.

4.      Identify, formulate and solve engineering problems.

5.      Understand my professional and ethical responsibilities.

6.      Communicate effectively.

7.      Be aware of contemporary issues.

8.      Use modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.


Please answer the following questions regarding this course:


9.  The tutorial and rocket project were a good way of acquiring beginner SolidWorks skills.

10.  The courses team/discipline organization is a good way to teach students teamwork to prepare them for the job market.

11.  Classroom time spent on team meetings was adequate to identify, discuss and resolve most of the design projects major issues.

12.  The level of work required in this course was appropriate for the credit given.

13.  The design projects selected for the course were interesting, challenging and appropriate for the course.

14.  The design project gave me the opportunity to integrate material from several of my previous courses.


In this course, I acquired the following:

15.  A good understanding of the design process.

16.  A basic knowledge of SolidWorks.

17.  Ability to develop detailed design requirements from a general mission statement.

18.  Ability to identify major trade-offs and resolve them using my technical skills.

19.  Ability to work with and respect other students, and accept their ideas even if they conflict with my own.

20.  An opportunity to develop professional skills in my discipline interest(s).


Last modified:






Last Modified: 2013-01-08 at 12:05:56 -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation