Aerodynamics and propulsion involve the study of flows: either around aerodynamic bodies (external flows, aerodynamics or fluid dynamics) or through engines (internal flows or propulsion). Aerodynamics and propulsion are important for numerous aspects of aerospace engineering, such as airplane aerodynamics, helicopter aerodynamics, jet propulsion, rocket propulsion, advanced propulsion, properties of the space environment and many others.
The field of autonomous systems and control deals with the motion of flight vehicles in the atmosphere and in space, as well as dynamics, control, and planning issues related to flight and space applications. The department has a long history of excellence in the areas of flight dynamics and control systems. It was one of the first engineering departments in the nation to offer courses in automatic control, flight dynamics, and simulation.
Computation plays a fundamental role in the design, analysis and operation of modern Aerospace systems. Applications include flight software, embedded computing for on-board control,virtual wind tunnel simulations, and optimization of structural, aerodynamic and propulsion systems.
subset of faculty members in Aerodynamics and Propulsion and Dynamics and Controls develop spacecraft and advanced spacecraft subsystems such as propulsion and control systems. Experimental and computational studies center around spacecraft electric propulsion (EP) systems, such as Hall thrusters. Michigan is developing 10-W EP systems that are small enough to fit on a chip for cubesat propulsion, and 200-kW thrusters that are large enough to drive piloted missions to asteroids and Mars.
Structural mechanics is the study of the mechanical behavior of solids and structures. Aerospace structures differ from other structures due to their high demands for performance and lightweight. Modern aerospace structures typically require the use of composite materials, advanced multifunctional materials and thin-walled constructions.