I am a recent Aerospace Engineering with Pilot Studies graduate and have been accepted to study an MSc in Astronautics and Space Engineering at Cranfield University for the next academic year. At my university we had the choice to specialise in manufacturing, systems, or design engineering, I chose design with a further specialisation in space flight during my final year. This gave me valuable experience in simulation exercises on geometric orbit design, mission and spacecraft systems engineering using the Open Cosmos beeApp simulator as well as analysis of radiation dosage on shielding thickness and spacecraft mean body temperature with the STK Space Environment and Effects Tool. As my personal interests are within space flight and rocket propulsion systems, this lead me to do my final year individual project on an exploration of the design of liquid bi propellant rocket engines with an experimental investigation of the combustion phase using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to simulate the performance using various combinations of fuels and oxidisers.
University Air Squadron
During University I also joined the Bristol University Air Squadron, a branch of the RAF Volunteer Reserves whose main role is to attract ambitious students into a career as an RAF Officer by offering leadership and team-building skills, military flying experiences, adventurous training and much more. This offered a unique chance to sample RAF life, and develop military proficiencies, as well as personal development.
I also continued to gain relevant work experience within the aerospace industry by working a part time job as an Air Traffic Service Assistant at my local airfield, where I was also a student pilot. I continued with this job through college and University, progressing to an Air Ground Controller after obtaining my Radio Operators Certificate of Competence from the Civil Aviation Authority in 2017 to operate VHF radiotelephony equipment and exchange spoken messages in the aeronautical radio services. I also worked as part of the Fire Crew for Herefordshire Aero Club, these part time roles taught me the fundamentals of the importance of communication skills and dependability when working in a fast paced, high pressured environment.
More recently I am carrying out an internship at Smallspark Space Systems, a UK based Aerospace and Artificial Intelligence (AAI) research company based in Cardiff, working to push the boundaries in low-cost rocket propulsion systems and Artificial Intelligence capabilities in the engineering design process. This was a Space Placements In Industry (SPINternship) in association with the UK Space Agency and supported by Satellite Applications Catapult, so I would recommend looking out for these in the future to gain relevant work experience. My role was to improve the performance of a bespoke prototype rocket through various software and hardware developments. Due to my academic background and skill set, I integrated into the CFD team focusing on conducting validation cases and topology optimisation, incorporating complex meshing techniques, turbulence modelling and fluid dynamics to simulate real world engineering problems.
Building relevant technical skills throughout university and through work experience are essential when entering the aerospace industry. These skills include; programming and coding, computer programming languages such as Python, C++, C and Java are useful for systems engineering and software development, but not essential in certain areas of aerospace. Programmes like MATLAB and Simulink are also a very beneficial tool that would be useful to learn. Having a strong mathematical, analytical, and problem-solving mindset is essential for any engineer, as well as having a creative outlook and being an innovative thinker. Having specific attention to detail and a strong awareness of safety and environmental issues is also crucial within the design process, especially regarding future considerations with the UK’s 2050 net zero target.
As well as technical skills, employers also want to know that the applicant has developed a wide range of transferable soft skills, such as project and time management. Communication skills, both verbally and written, are very important in the world of work, and these skills can be drastically improved through university whilst report writing and oral presentations. I thoroughly recommend making the most of these opportunities and seek help to improve in any ways that you can, it is the perfect time to practice and perfect these skills! The ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines is also something that is very important to employees, so take advantage of this.
One major benefit from doing an Aerospace degree is the affiliation with certain engineering organisations such as the Royal Aeronautical Society with student memberships. These offer vast opportunities for networking with professionals in senior positions within the aerospace sector, attending external webinars and conferences to broaden aerospace knowledge, and a chance to connect with certain mentors who can provide advice and guidance on all engineering aspects. They can help with careers advice, give tips on interview preparation and opportunities that you can get involved with, and also provide professional development in terms of becoming Chartered. It also shows that you have a commitment to keeping up to date technical developments and have a good interest in new advancements within the industry, so make the most of these opportunities!
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me through LinkedIn, or my personal email: firstname.lastname@example.org