Rocket scientists are aerospace engineers who specialize in the design and manufacture of spacecraft. They work with the principles of science and engineering to create vehicles that fly within or above the Earth’s atmosphere. The job of a rocket scientist requires proficiency with physics, chemistry, aerodynamics, propulsion, communications and mathematics. A bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field is the minimum requirement for entry-level positions, while many candidates choose to pursue graduate degrees to enhance their career prospects.
The broad term rocket science usually denotes the complex set of principles that govern the engineering of a rocket, a device that fires internal fuel and uses the fuels kinetic energy to propel itself, at least to me.
Rocket science, therefore, covers a vast subset of fields. It’s not for nothing that aerospace engineers are often considered jack of all trades.
The first field is that of dynamics. Locally, moments of inertia, masses, torques, etc., are all important. This alone could cover half a team. There’s the astrodynamics section as well, covering trajectory and mission planning. Governing equations: Newtonian.
Then there’s the whole set of chemistry of electromagnetically that cover the energy storage. Chemical balances, stoichiometry, etc are this part of rocket science.
Following that is a set of thermodynamics or plasma dynamics, covering either chemical or electric propulsion. This is usually a job for another whole team.
Next, the effects of the atmosphere on the rocket. Aerodynamics, space environment, another two whole fields of physics and astronomy.
After that, structures. A set of physics and chemistry, some solid-state physics. Another team. Systems, feedback… all of these add up to a monumental problem. It is indeed rocket science
Rocket scientists and aerospace engineers generally work on the design and testing of rocket-propelled vehicles, such as orbiting spacecraft or missiles. They could specialize in a particular area of aerospace engineering, such as space exploration vehicles or defense systems. They might also choose to focus on a particular component of spacecraft, such as acoustics, aerodynamics, propulsion or guidance systems.
Duties can include designing aerospace vehicles or systems, overseeing the manufacture and fabrication of projects, devising testing methods or developing quality criteria for spacecraft systems, such as the communications or fuel system. Within their design processes, rocket scientists need to determine the most efficient and effective placement for instrumentation and controls to assure ease of use for manned vehicles or connectivity for unmanned spacecraft. Other tasks can include assessing the results of quality control inspections to ensure the aerospace system meets necessary specifications and develop reports or handbooks for operators who use the equipment or vehicles.
How difficult is rocket science?
Rockets are intuitively simple, but frighteningly difficult to actually create at the performance extremes that we need to put them into space.