A Brief History of Aerospace Technology 

Posted by Jonathan

The aerospace industry is no doubt one of the largest in the world. Estimated to be worth around $900 billion, the aerospace industry employs around 95,000 people in the UK alone.  

But what has the journey been like for the industry? Let’s reverse time and take you through some of the most important moments in aerospace technology, in our (very) brief history! 

December 17th, 1903 

Let’s start right at the beginning. It’s 8 days before Christmas and we’re in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where we’ve just seen Orville and Wilbur Wright fly the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane.  

From the beginning of their aeronautical journey, Wilbur and Orville focused on creating a reliable method of pilot control to solve “the flying problem”. Their breakthrough was the creation of the three-axis control system, which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively, as well as maintain its equilibrium. 

The Roaring 20’s 

The 1920’s was the decade that saw aircraft assume their current shape. Monoplanes replaced biplanes, stressed-skin cantilevered wings replaced externally braced wings and enclosed fuselages and cowlings gave aircraft the sleek, aerodynamic shape that they are now known for. 

The Moon Landing 

Arguably the greatest feat in the history of mankind, the Moon Landing was the birth of the aerospace industry as we know today and propelled the evolution of aerospace technology more than we can imagine.  

The Apollo missions were launched aboard a Saturn V rocket, which to this day, remains the United States largest and most powerful launch vehicle ever built.  

The Apollo spacecraft consisted of three major components: a command module, a service module, and a lunar module. When combined, this aerospace technology was able to take the Apollo astronauts to the Moon and return them home safely. 

“That’s one small step for man – one giant leap for mankind.” 

The Global Positioning System 

GPS first received widespread publicity during the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Though not fully operational at the time, the new and exciting system had a significant impact on military operations. It enabled allied forces to coordinate their movements in the difficult terrain of the Iraqi desert, as well as achieve a rapid victory with minimum casualties.  

In 1992, Aerospace shared the nation’s most prestigious aeronautical award, the Collier Trophy. Along with the award, GPS was hailed as: 

“The most significant development for safe and efficient navigation and surveillance of air and spacecraft since the introduction of radio navigation 50 years ago.” 

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