The Top Aerospace Engineering Companies
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Humanity has always been fascinated with flight and the freedom it represents. Our interest extends from the sky above to the deepest reaches of the universe. An unrelenting curiosity has driven innovation in the modern era and has resulted in incredible advances in technology. These advances are most evident in the aerospace engineering industry – from everyday airliners to massive rockets that can land upright.
The term aerospace defines a superset of aeronautics and astronautics, which are atmospheric flight and space flight respectively. Aerospace engineering provides a wide range of career options, from designing the components that make up various aircraft and spacecraft systems to the testing and refining of those systems. There are three subcategories of aerospace engineering, namely aerodynamics and engine propulsion; dynamics and control systems; and structures. And there are many huge companies which are regularly hiring aeronautical engineers.
Established in 1916, Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and the leading producer of commercial airliners, defence aircraft and communication systems. They also provided technical support to the now-retired Space Shuttle and NASA’s International Space Station. They provide their employees with state-of-the-art healthcare insurance and various other benefits. Their corporate Headquarters is situated in Chicago, with more than 140,000 people employed globally. Internship programmes are also offered to give the young engineer a chance to get a foot in the door.
Boeing has worked on some extremely notable products, too: Boeing was the prime contractor on the International Space Station project and was tasked with the design, construction and integration of the American components and systems of the ISS. In March 2018, the 10 000th 737 rolled off the production line. This is an incredible achievement, with the first iteration of the aircraft taking to the skies in 1967. The company also created the Dreamliner, one of the most advanced passenger aircraft currently on the market with raked wing tips to improve fuel efficiency, mostly electric flight systems and noise reducing engine nacelles. The Dreamliner has 20% improved fuel efficiency over the aircraft its meant to replace, the Boeing 767. Finally, one of the most renowned and advanced attack helicopters fielded by any nation, the Apache, was a Boeing project.
Lockheed Martin excels in developing and manufacturing state-of-the-art military systems and as such has a well-established name in the defence sector. The United States Department of Defence is its largest client. Lockheed Martin also owns Sikorsky Helicopters, one of the key players in the development and manufacture of helicopters and related systems.
Lockheed Martin has worked on some big projects over the years, including the Orion Spacecraft, of which the company was the principal contractor. The Orion capsule forms part of the Space Launch System that NASA developed. It also debuted the SR-71 Blackbird in 1964 and holds the record for the fastest manned craft ever flown. Finally, arguably the most advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft on the planet, with unprecedented stealth capabilities, is the F-22 Raptor, another Lockheed Martin project.
One of the top aerospace companies of 2018, Airbus has vastly increased its reputation in recent years due to huge investments and exceptional rivalry with Boeing. They are the biggest suppliers to the aerospace market in Europe, spanning a large empire of commercial production. Enjoy an employee-friendly environment and proactive support for new ideas and concepts as some of the perks of joining Airbus, which currently employs around 133,000 people spanning four countries.
Airbus' projects include the behemoth of an aircraft the A380. This is the largest and most spacious passenger aircraft, able to carry over 800 people. Although interest in the aircraft among airlines has arguably been dwindling of late, it remains an incredible feat of engineering. The Ariane 6 Launcher, moreover, is Europe's chosen craft to get payloads into space and allows the continent independent access out of the earth's atmosphere. It is set to replace the current workhorse, the Ariane 5.
Founded in 1899, General Dynamics is one of the oldest existing companies on the list. It is mainly a military contractor, providing contracts to the Pentagon which account for most of the company’s revenue. A good company to watch out for if you have an interest in the military and are happy with working long months on a contract basis. When it comes to military contracts, General Dynamics has a better grip than companies like Boeing and Airbus. Military information systems, jet aircraft design and refurbishment of older aircraft models are some of the activities it is well known for. Despite the focus of general dynamics being primarily on defence projects, they also have a robust commercial aircraft division. One of their most notable projects is the Gulfstream, the gold standard of private business aircraft, billed as the world's most technologically advanced private jet which is own only by the top echelons of the world's elite.
Northrop Grumman is a defence and aerospace technology company, founded in 1994 when Northrop purchased Grumman. Weapon production for military jets like the F-22 and the F-16 fighters is handled by them. They also design UAVs, satellites and various other military-related equipment. They employ over 85,000 people around the world and despite being a smaller company than the other aerospace giants, Boeing and Airbus, they hands down have the best employee culture. Engagement between employees and management is taken very seriously and this creates a very efficient working environment.
The company has made some notable achievements over the years, including the B-2, the most advanced long-range stealth bomber on the planet which has unprecedented striking capabilities. Its iconic profile can be instantly recognised ant it's flown in multiple combat zones and yet maintained a perfect wartime survival record. The X-47B, a semi-autonomous, carrier launched, unmanned combat aircraft capable of autonomous landing and refuelling is another project of the company. Finally, the RQ-4, the 'global hawk' as it's known, is a long-range autonomous surveillance craft that has been involved in numerous operations over the last twenty years.
No list of aerospace companies can be complete without the inclusion of SpaceX. This is the youngest company on the list but is by no means an underdog. SpaceX has pursued a relentless pace of innovation that allowed it to be the first company ever to create a reliable and reusable space launch vehicle. The working environment is extremely challenging due to impossible deadlines and the intense push from the CEO to create the systems and craft to eventually send humans to Mars. However, SpaceX is relatively small and agile and thus is not bogged down by the issues that stifle development at the larger behemoths listed previously.
Some of the key projects at SpaceX are the Falcon 9, the first ever rocket with the capability of launching a payload into orbit and then landing upright for reuse. Its proven design has lofted many satellites and spacecraft into orbit. The Falcon Heavy is the heavy-lift version of the same craft and is essentially three Falcon 9s strapped together. This craft can launch much heavier payloads and is capable of reusability. Finally, the Big Falcon Rocket, still in development, has been billed as a rocket that will enable humans to colonize the solar system.
7. Rolls Royce
Rolls Royce was founded in 1904 and is best known for their hyper-luxurious vehicles. However, not many know of their civil and defence aerospace divisions. Rolls Royce designs and manufactures power systems for the aerospace industry and is the worlds second largest producer of aircraft engines. If you’re interested in jet engine design then this is the place to be. The Trent engine family is well known in the aerospace industry and can be found on a large proportion of commercial aircraft. Both Boeing and Airbus make use of the Trent engine system. The company also has a defence division that develop power system for various military aircraft.
Rolls has many notable achievements, but perhaps two of the biggest are the Trent Engines, which have powered aircraft such as the Airbus A380 and the Boeing Dreamliner, and the Accel, which is the world's fastest electric aircraft as Rolls gets itself ready for the inevitable onset of electric aircraft.ft.
8. Blue Origin
Blue Origin is not nearly in the media as much as SpaceX is, partly due to their CEO being a lot more measured in his media appearances, however, they are making steady progress on their various rocket systems and have a slow and steady approach to rocket development. Blue Origin is owned by Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. Like SpaceX, Blue origin is also focusing on reusable rockets and has had success with various suborbital hops using their New Shepard rocket. Despite not reaching orbit yet, blue origin’s unique brand of slow is smooth, and smooth is fast, ensures that they will achieve their goals efficiently and within budget. If this pace of development is more attractive than the frenzied pace at SpaceX that often leads to burnt out employees, then you can apply for positions directly on their website.
Blue Origin has a number of notable projects, including the New Shephard, a suborbital vehicle capable of taking astronauts and research payloads into space, which is also capable of landing itself; the New Glenn, still in development, will be the rocket that challenges the SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket, and will be able to take payloads into orbit up to 13 metric tonnes; and Rocket Engines which are specifically designed for the rigours of multiple reuses.
Reaction engines is a UK based company that was started in 1989 to research technologies required to develop a next-generation rocket engine. One of their key breakthroughs was to develop lightweight heat exchangers that keep the engine cool at extremely strenuous operating temperatures. This technology was applied to their revolutionary SABRE (synergetic air-breathing rocket engine) technology. Over and above their engine technology, reaction engines’ heat exchanger is highly advanced and can be used in a wide range of non-aerospace industries. If you want to be on the forefront of rocket engine technology then this is the perfect company. They have two test facilities, one in the USA and one in the UK. This technology has the potential to completely change how we access space and will be an amazing place to build a career on the cutting edge. They only have one key technology they are working on, which is the SABRE engine, capable of taking an aircraft to Mach 5 speeds during atmospheric flights before reaching Mach 25 which will take it to space.
This list is by no means exhaustive but does cover the biggest players in the industry. There are many other aerospace companies out there from small start-ups working on single stage to orbit spacecraft, to companies such as rocket labs for example. There is a huge pool of places to choose from that will allow you to grow your career and nurture your passion for flight. Whether you decide to work for a company listed above or not, it is worth your while to do your due diligence before making a final decision. The larger aerospace companies like to retain their employees until retirement, so you could be making the most important career decision of your life so take your time.