Introduction to Aerospace Engineering and Design


From Open CourseBook to OPEN (Open Publishing Engine) 

Welcome to this short demo of the Open CourseBook. This came about through an open education project at the University of the Arts London (2010 - 13), where the project team realised there was a need for an authoring system that was easy to use and could output in different formats. This work in turn was influenced by earlier work in Adobe Flash / Air / Action Script (the very early versions of Clipper before the current collaboration with the OU).

We took our inspiration at the time from the MIT OCW inititiative, and this demo deliberately recreated one of the OCW courses.

This demo site has generated considerable interest so far and we would really like to develop the concept further into a fully working product.



Course Home


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Spring 2003




The Space Shuttle orbiter Atlantis, framed by the California mountains, as it rides on the back of one of NASA’s Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) en route from California to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. (Image courtesy of NASA.)

Course Description

The fundamental concepts, and approaches of aerospace engineering, are highlighted through lectures on aeronautics, astronautics, and design. Active learning aerospace modules make use of information technology. Student teams are immersed in a hands-on, lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicle design project, where they design, build, and fly radio-controlled LTA vehicles. The connections between theory and practice are realized in the design exercises. Required design reviews precede the LTA race competition. The performance, weight, and principal characteristics of the LTA vehicles are estimated and illustrated using physics, mathematics, and chemistry known to freshmen, the emphasis being on the application of this knowledge to aerospace engineering and design rather than on exposure to new science and mathematics.

Space Shuttle Components



Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


8.01 and 18.01

Course Requirements


Dava Newman. Interactive Aerospace Engineering and Design. McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Class Participation

Your questions and comments are extremely valuable. Since the lecture material is available ahead of time from the textbook and on the Web, there will be more time in lecture to discuss (in seminar style) the material rather than spending the entire 90 minutes copying the lecture notes from a blackboard. Discussions during class time are highly encouraged to fill gaps in the lecture material, to guide the pace of the class, and for you to enquire about the meaning, relevance, and importance of lecture material.


Students are required to compile a portfolio containing notes, brainstorming ideas, concepts, sketches and final designs. This comprehensive notebook, or Personal Design Portfolio (PDP), is due toward the end of the term (See syllabus). A recommended template is provided for developing your PDP (See CD-ROM). The intent is to promote good note taking habits as an aid to understanding the material, to put your creativity down on paper and the computer, to help me assess what you are picking up in the lectures, and to grade your individual contributions to your design teams. In sum, the PDP presents a concise snapshot of what you learn throughout the entire semester and emphasizes your individual contributions.

Problem Sets

All assignments are given on the syllabus homepage. Homework assignments include traditional problems, thought problems, design problems and Web-based presentations (Preliminary Design Review (PDR), and Critical Design Review (CDR).

Lighter-than-Air (LTA) Vehicle Design Project

Teams of 5-6 students each would design, build, and race a remote controlled, lighter-than-air vehicle. The teams compete in their ability to carry the largest payload around a specified course in the minimum amount of time. The designs are judged on their equivalent mass/time. LTA vehicles are also judged in the categories of most reliable and most aesthetic designs. All designs are constrained to have a gross mass of less than 1.75 kg. A project kit is provided consisting of radio control equipment, batteries, balloons, electric motors, and construction materials.


Performance will be evaluated on the basis of class participation, reading summaries, problem sets, personal design portfolio submissions, and the LTA vehicle design project. There will be no tests or final exam. The final grade for the course will be calculated approximately as follows:

  • Problem Sets and Reading Summaries 30%
  • Student Personal Design Portfolio 15%
  • LTA Design Project 45% (including PDR, CDR, Trials and Race)
  • Attendance, Participation, General Evaluation 10%

Problem Set Solutions

Solutions will be posted one week after problem sets are due.


There will be occasional handouts in lectures. It is expected that regular attendance in lecture will offer the opportunity to pick up these handouts.

A Note on Submission of Work

The manner in which you present your work can be just as important (and in some cases more so) than the final answer. Be sure to delineate each step along the way. Show a clear and logical approach to your solution. That makes your problem sets a better reference to you and easier for us to give you partial credit (if so deserving).


1 Introduction: What is Engineering? Chapter 1, History of Flight HW: Beginning-Of-Term
Questionnaire (PDF)
2 Design
The Scale of the Things
Chapter 2, Intro. to Engineering
Chapter 12, LTA Vehicle Design, pp. 283-287.
Decavitator Design Process
HW 1: Chapters 1, 2, and 12 (PDF)
3 Aerodynamics Chapter 3, Aerodynamics
EOI: Airships, EOI: Heavier Than Air
4 Aerodynamics/Performance Chapter 4, Aircraft Performance HW 2: Aerodynamics (PDF)
5 Aircraft Performance Chapter 12, LTA Vehicle Design, pp. 287-300 HW 3: Performance (PDF)
6 Design Drawing Structures Chapter 5, Intro. to Structures Rocket Design Laboratory (PDF)
7 Lighter-Than-Air Vehicle (PDF)
Human-Powered Flight
Decavitator: Human-Powered Hydrofoil
Daedalus: Human-Powered Aircraft
Paper Airplane Flights
  EOI: Human-Powered Flight
Prepare for Delta Design Exercise
8 Teamwork
Delta Design Exercise
9 Delta Design Exercise   EOI: Lighter Than Air
10 Propulsion/Electronics Chapter 6, Aircraft Propulsion  
11 Stability and Control Chapter 7, Intro. to Stability and Control Rocket Flight/Launches
HW 4: Structures
12 Design Day (LTA Design Kits handed out) Chapter 12, LTA Vehicle Design, pp.301-312 Rocket Laboratory Due
13 Preliminary Design Review (PDR) PDR Template and Example on CD-ROM Preliminary Design Review: Due
14 Ethics in Engineering Challenger Case Study  
15 Astronautics: the Space Environment Chapter 8, The Space Environment  
16 Personal Design Portfolio Day   PDP Template
PDP Examples on CD-ROM
17 Orbital Mechanics Machine Tools  
18 Satellite Design Chapter 10, Satellite Systems Engineering  
19 Design Day TA Shop Schedule  
20 Critical/Completed Design Review (CDR) CDR Example on CD-ROM Completed Design Review: Due
21 Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Chapter 11, Human Space Exploration
Space Team Online
Personal Design Portfolio: Due
22 Design Day TA Shop Schedule  
23 LTA Vehicle Race Trials    
24 Space Flight Experiments and Robotics Personal Design Portfolio Redo  
25 LTA Vehicle Race Day   End of Term Questionnaire
26 LTA Vehicle Awards Course Wrap-Up Mandatory Attendance End-Of-Term Questionnaire
Course Evaluation



The textbook, written by the instructor, covers the topics examined in this course in greater detail.

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Interactive Aerospace Engineering and Design with CD-ROM

Author: Dava Newman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
ISBN: 0-07-235124-1
Description: ©2002 / Hardcover with CDROM 
Publication Date: July 2001


Intended for both majors and non-majors taking a first course in Introduction to Aerospace Engineering or Introduction to Flight. This new text will inspire students with its integrated bound-in CD-ROM and its strong emphasis in design. Its active visual approach and inclusion of space-oriented engineering makes it ideal for the changing needs of the Aerospace Engineering field. Newman's book is the first to include integrated multimedia, strong coverage of space flight, the design process, and extensive coverage of space flight. A CD-ROM, bound in with the book, provides extensive animations, QuickTime movies, and MATLAB® based simulations to motivate student readers. A student design project is included to convey the importance of team orientated design in an accessible manner. All resource and multimedia materials are provided on the CD-ROM, including: PDF files of the book chapters; additional color photographs, figures, and pictures referenced in the text; multimedia animations, simulations, and vrml files. The icons in the book, namely, the CD-ROM and World Wide Web (WWW) icons, refer you to materials that are on the CD-ROM and website, respectively, not in the text. In the margins of the text you will see the CD-ROM icon with a filename, which means that the referenced resource material (photograph, animation, simulation, etc.) is linked to the CD-ROM and should be accessed and studied at that point in the chapter. The lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicle and electronics laboratory ('Ornithopter Lab') contain extensive multimedia materials and are referenced throughout the book, especially in Chapter 12. The WWW icon refers to the website for the text and CD-ROM where one will find a chronological listing of all the URLs referenced throughout the book.


  • With a growing trend toward inclusion of design in engineering courses, Newman's book includes a hands on comprehensive design project for students, as well as topical coverage of design issues where appropriate.
  • The book is packaged with a CD-ROM containing a web based format of active animations, simulations, and QuickTime movies.
  • While many books lack coverage of space applications, Newman's book provides the best balance of conceptual foundations, aircraft and aerospace.
  • Book will also include an accompanying Web Site with both instructor and student resources.
  • Very current.


  • Interactive Aerospace Engineering and Design Instructor's Website / 0-07-234821-6

Table of Contents

  1. A Brief History of Flight
  2. Introduction to Engineering
  3. Aerodynamics
  4. Aircraft Performances
  5. Introduction to Structural Engineering
  6. Aircraft Propulsion
  7. Introduction to Airplane Stability and Control
  8. The Space Environment: An Engineering Perspective
  9. Orbital Mechanics
  10. Satellite Systems Engineering
  11. Humans Space Exploration
  12. Design: Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) Vehicle Module
  13. Unit Systems and Unit Conversion Factors
  14. Physical Constants and Miscellaneous Factors






Beginning-of-term Questionnaire (PDF)


Homework 1 (PDF)


Homework 2 (PDF)


Homework 3 (PDF)

Solutions (PDF)



This class includes a lab assignment where the students design, build, and launch their own model rockets. The file below gives the full instructions for the lab.

Rocket Lab (PDF)


Each year, using readings and other information gathered about "Lighter Than Air" (LTA) design, the students build and race blimps as a small group project.


Lighter Than Air Design Competition (PDF)



Related Resources

The Engines of Our Ingenuity radio programOnline Ethics Center for Engineering and Science

Chapter 1

Pg. 1 -- NASA History Office Home Page
Pg. 2 -- Montgolfier Lighter-Than-Air Balloon
Pg. 3 -- Santos-Dumont's dirigible flying by the Eiffel Tower
Pg. 4 -- On-line BallooningPg. 4 -- National Air and Space Musuem Collections
Pg. 4 -- NASA Historical Archives for Manned Missions
Pg. 5 -- Women in Aviation and Space History
Pg. 8 -- The Boeing Clipper
Pg. 10 -- MiG 15 Fighter of the Soviet Air Force
Pg. 10 -- The Concorde Supersonic Airliner
Pg. 10 -- The Boeing 747-100
Pg. 10 -- The Airbus A320Pg. 12 -- NASA Image Exchange
Pg. 12 -- NASA Langley Research Center - Multimedia Repository
Pg. 13 -- Sputnik
Pg. 13 -- The New York Times on AOL: Sputnik

Chapter 2

Pg. 23 -- Neolithic Technology
Pg. 24 -- The First Suez Canal
Pg. 24 -- An Egyptian Model Airplane
Pg. 25 -- A Dark AgePg. 25 -- Committee for Research and Exploration @
Pg. 29 -- Draper Laboratory
Pg. 32 -- Boeing 777
Pg. 32 -- Taurus Star-forming Cloud

Chapter 3

Pg. 37 -- Baden Baden-Powell
Pg. 40 -- FoilSim
Pg. 50 -- Aerodynamic Forces
Pg. 55 -- Advanced Fluid Flow
Pg. 58 -- FoilSim

Chapter 6

Pg. 123 -- Beginner's Guide to Propulsion

Chapter 8

Pg. 179 -- Magnetic Features on the Sun Movie
Pg. 186 -- ALH84001 Main Sample Page
Pg. 190 -- Mars Pathfinder Home

Chapter 10

Pg. 218 -- Boeing Satellite System, Inc.

Chapter 11

Pg. 252 -- International Space Station
Pg. 257 -- Timeline of Planetary Exploration Missions
Pg. 257 -- History of Space Suits

Chapter 12

Pg. 296 -- A New Architectural Eye


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