The term “aerospace” first came into use in 1958. That was the beginning of the American quest to explore outer space. In January of that year, the U.S. launched its first satellite, Explorer 1, into low-earth-orbit.
In May of 1961, Alan Shepherd became first American to enter space. The Russians were the first to achieve this milestone with the flight of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. He left the earth’s atmosphere in April of 1961.
The origins of the aerospace industry can be said to have begun with the flight of the Wright Flyer in 1903. That was the first airplane built by Orville and Wilbur Wright. It’s astonishing to note that it would be just 66 years later when flight technology advanced sufficiently to place two men in the moon on July 20, 1969.
Aerospace in the combination of the “aero” which stands for “air” or “atmospheric" flight and space which denotes travel outside or above the atmosphere of the planet.
Today, the aerospace industry is among the largest of any kind of industry in the world. Furthermore, the breadth and scope of the aerospace industry has had an incredible effect on producing spin-off industries. That is, the technologies that were developed to support space flight found numerous applications in literally thousands of earth-bound sectors, from medical and computer technology to materials applications and even food packaging.
Since the 1960s, NASA has maintained that for every $1 spent on the space budget, $8 has been returned to the general economy. That makes investment in space science and travel among the most beneficial enterprises in world history.
One of the ways that happens is through so-called spin-off technology. Here is just a short list of items that were made possible thanks to original research and design by NASA:
* Memory foam
* Freeze-dried food
* Cochlear implants
* Dust busters
* MRI machines
* Light emitting diodes
* Scratch resistant lenses
... and that's just a few of thousands.
The advancement in computer technology alone that resulted from system developed by NASA translates to trillions of dollars for the global economy.
Consider also the supreme importance of satellite technology. Space-based imaging platforms revolutionized our ability to accurately predict the weather, locate new ground-based resources and make things like smartphone and global-wide internet access a common feature of daily life.
What to Expect from Aerospace in the Near Future
We are entering an exciting new era for the aerospace industry.
Thanks to cutting-edge technological developments, the coming decade may rival the heady years of the 1960s when the American public was riveted by NASA’s Apollo program and the race to land a man on the moon.
Today, however, private industry is surging forward to make aerospace advances that are not beholden to government programs. They promise to open up space exploration to a greater segment of the public.
Perhaps the best example is the Blue Origin program of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos. He has developed a highly reliable and safe low-earth-orbit launch system that has carried the first non-astronauts into space.
This includes the like of “Captain Kirk” himself, William Shatner and the legendary female aviator Wally Funk. She became the oldest person ever to enter space at age 82.
But not all new advancements in aerospace involve space flight. Another kind of race is on to build the first zero-carbon-emission aircraft. The air transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emission.
Thus, the international community is eager to develop commercial planes that fly without burning fossil fuels. Several companies have already successful tested airplanes that fly using pollution-free hydrogen as a power source.
One company leading the way in hydrogen-powered flight is ZeroAvia, a British-American firm that expects to begin offering such a plane by 2023. ZeroAvia currently has a model that can fly up to 500 miles using a hydrogen powertrain system. The craft seats 20 passengers.
Airbus is also deeply involved in the hydrogen flight race. This major aerospace firm recently introduced three concepts for zero-emission aircraft. It hopes to have something ready by 2035.
Another significant focus on new aerospace technology is autonomous flight. Much has already been achieved in this realm with the development of drones, many models of which have become routine elements of the Pentagon's defensive systems.
However, commercial use of autonomous aircraft is a key goal within the industry. In the near future, the jet airliners we all travel on routinely for business or pleasure may require no human pilots.
Like drones, autonomous passenger jets can be flown with computer systems handling most of the flying supported by “pilot” controllers guiding planes from ground locations.
About the Creator
A well-rounded multitalented individual, Jason Dvorin lives and works in Texas, where he's moved from the oil and gas industry to the aerospace sector and is serving as the Managing Director of KSV.