Two aerospace engineer students in astronaut suits
Degrees Offered: BS MS PhD Certificate

Aerospace engineers design, test and operate complex aerospace and related systems. They develop new technologies for use in commercial aviation, defense systems and space exploration, often specializing in areas such as systems engineering, structural design, navigational guidance and control systems, instrumentation and communications, propulsion systems, computational fluid dynamics, aerodynamics or production methods. Aerospace students thrive at CU Boulder. From conceptualizing to planning, building and creation, student teams apply engineering concepts in hands­on design courses and consistently win national awards. Through independent study, students can impact the real world by helping to develop hardware for payloads that carry experiments to the International Space Station, participating in Mission Operations or designing and building satellites for launch. 

Aerospace engineers are responsible for a wide range of tasks, including: designing a spacecraft to transport astronauts to Mars or launch civilians into orbit; creating unmanned aerial vehicles that assist the military or advance understanding of environmental problems; and developing a deep sea rover to explore the ocean floor. From rockets to radar and commercial planes to satellites, a degree in aerospace engineering opens an exciting array of choices for graduates.

Undergraduate Opportunities

The mission of the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences is to provide quality education, including hands­on learning, and to conduct foremost research in aerospace engineering sciences. These goals are accomplished through fundamental and multidisciplinary research.

The Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology and includes extensive hands­on learning, teamwork, technical expertise and system­level multidisciplinary thinking. Collaborative, multidisciplinary projects are also the focus of the year­long capstone senior design course, which follows the life cycle of industry projects from conception to design reviews, development, construction, testing and analysis of results. The program helps students develop in­depth technical knowledge, effective communication skills and a systems engineering perspective that enables them to produce creative solutions to complex problems.

Graduate Studies

Ranked among the top four schools in the country by the National Research Council, CU Boulder’s Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences (AES) is internationally recognized for its research and education leadership in aerospace engineering, earth and space sciences. Its world­renowned engineers and scientists tackle challenges in aerospace technology and science, focusing on astrodynamics and satellite navigation, remote sensing, earth and space sciences, vehicle systems, structures and materials and bioastronautics.

With more than 40 faculty members and 200 MS and PhD students, AES graduate programs prepare aerospace engineering students to meet the needs of twenty­first-century society through the understanding, conception, design and application of aerial and spacecraft systems. In the MS program, the focus is hands­on, experiential learning, technical and organizational expertise and end­to­end mission and systems perspectives. The PhD program prepares students for exceptional research careers in commercial, governmental and academic institutions.

Graduate students are admitted into a specific focus area that provides research advising, offers financial support and sets specialized admission and program requirements and recommendations for course work within and outside the department. The four focus areas are: aerospace engineering systems, which studies upper and lower atmosphere vehicles from a systems perspective, including control, fluid dynamics, structures and propulsion subsystems; astrodynamics and satellite navigation systems, which investigates orbital motion of spacecraft, interplanetary mission design, attitude control, as well as navigation utilizing GPS and advanced sensors; bioastronautics, which studies and supports human life in space; and remote sensing, earth and space science, which bridges the gap between science and engineering by exploring Earth from space, and space from Earth.

Research Opportunities

Eighteen CU­ Boulder affiliates have flown in space as NASA astronauts, making the university one of the nation’s top five non­military schools for producing astronauts. In 2010 the National Research Council ranked the aerospace doctoral program among the top four in the nation, and the FAA chose CU­ Boulder as a Center of Excellence for commercial space transportation. 

Extracurricular activities like the Design, Build, Fly competition and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium provide additional opportunities for students to explore real­world applications of the aerospace engineering major. Students can also participate in the student chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics on campus and in the group CU Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.

Aerospace engineering faculty have been highly successful in winning grants for their research, which provides exciting opportunities for students to be involved in projects such as the Dream Chaser next­generation crew vehicle being developed by Sierra Nevada Corp., and DANDE, a student­designed small satellite that won a national competition.