This MSc aims to build up your knowledge of the design of flying vehicles such as aircraft, missiles, airships and spacecraft. Select from one of three specialist options and excel in a growing aerospace industry:


  • Start dateOctober or March
  • DurationOne year
  • DeliveryRefer to MSc course option pages for breakdown of assessment
  • QualificationMSc
  • Study typeFull-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

This MSc course provides a taught engineering programme with a focus on the technical, business and management aspects that encompass aircraft design in the civil and military aerospace sectors.

Teaching integrates a range of disciplines required for modern aircraft design, for example:

• Aircraft systems design
• Avionic systems design
• Design for manufacture
• Initial aircraft design
• Operation and cost
• Propulsion integration
• Stability and performance
• Structural design and Airframe

Why this course?

Cranfield have been at the forefront of postgraduate education in aerospace engineering since 1946 with the Aerospace Vehicle Design being one of the original foundation courses of the College of Aeronautics. Graduates from this course also become members of the Cranfield College of Aeronautics Alumni Association (CCAAA), an active community which holds a number of networking and social events throughout the year.

One unique feature of the course is that we have a range of external examiners, from industry and from academia who continually assess the quality of the course.

Cranfield University is very well located for students from all over the world, and offers a range of library, IT and support facilities to support your studies. This enables students from all over the world to complete this qualification whilst achieving the right balance of work/life commitments.

Informed by Industry

The course has an Industrial Advisory Committee with senior members from major UK aerospace companies, government bodies, and the military services. The committee meets twice a year to review and advise on course content, acquisition skills and other attributes which are deemed desirable from graduates of the course. Panel members have included professionals from organisations such as:

• Airbus
• BAE Systems
• Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.
• GKN Aerospace
• Messier-Dowty
• Royal Air Force
• Royal Australian Air Force
• Thales UK


The MSc in Aerospace Vehicle Design, in part meets the exemplifying academic benchmark requirements for registration as a Chartered Engineer. Accredited MSc graduates who also have a BEng (Hons) accredited for CEng will be able to show that they have satisfied the required educational base for CEng registration.

Course details

The taught component of the Aerospace Vehicle Design masters is generally delivered from October to March (or March-August for the March intake). Modules for each option vary - please refer to MSc course option pages for descriptions of compulsory modules which must be undertaken. Students also have an extensive choice of optional modules to match their specific interests.

Group project

The extensive group design project is a distinctive and unique feature of this course. This teamwork project takes place from October to March (or March-August for the March intake), and recreates a virtual industrial environment bringing together students with various experience levels and different nationalities into one integrated design team.

Each team member is given the responsibility for the detailed design of a significant part of the aircraft, for example, forward fuselage, fuel system, or navigation system. The project progress a design  from the conceptual phase through to the preliminary and detail design phases. Students will be required to run project meetings, produce engineering drawings and conduct detailed analyses of their design. Problem solving and project co-ordination must be undertaken on a team and individual basis. At the end of the project, the group is required to report and present findings to a panel of up to 200 senior engineers from industry and academia.

This element of the course is both realistic and engaging, and places the whole student group in a professional role as aerospace design engineers. Students testify that working as an integrated team on real problems is invaluable and prepares them well for careers in a highly competitive industry.

Students following the Structural Design option do not participate in the Group Design Project but instead undertake a more intensive individual project.

Watch past presentation videos to give you a taster of our innovative and exciting group projects

Individual project

The individual research project element aims to provide the training necessary for you to apply knowledge from the taught elements to research, and takes place from March to September (or October-February for the March intake). The project may be theoretical and/or experimental and can be selected from a range of topics related to the course as suggested by teaching staff, your employer or even focused on your own area of interest.  

Example in conceptual aircraft design topics:
Aircraft configurations appropriate to hybrid-electric designs
Design and testing of a bird like flapping wing ultra-light aircraft
Design of a human powered helicopter
Conceptual design of a high speed VIP transport helicopter
Conceptual design of a hypersonic space launcher
The conceptual design of a commuter seaplane
An Ultra-light Tilt-Wing-Rotor Aircraft for Short Take-off and Landing Capability
Scale Factor for the Structure Design of a BWB Aircraft
Design of a Human Powered Helicopter (HPH)
Conceptual Design of a two-seat training/touring “Autogyro”

Example in aircraft structural design and analysis topics:
Investigation in the numerical representation of damage on CFRP stiffened panels and behaviour under combined loading
Delamination growth of carbon fibre composites under fatigue loads
Experimental Testing and Numerical Analysis of Aircraft Bolt Jointed Sandwich Composites
Strength prediction via testing and/or numerical simulation of bolted joints on fibre reinforced laminates
Composite design considerations for trailing arm landing gears
Fatigue behaviour of bolted joints on CFRP laminates following pull through failure
Simulation of thermal residual stresses of CFRP wing
Fatigue of buckled composite stiffened panel
Dynamic Indentation of composite laminates
Numerical modelling of through-thickness reinforced composite laminates
Direct measurement of traction-separation law in fatigue damage of adhesive bonding
Composite joints reinforced by composite fasteners

Example aircraft systems design and analysis topics:
Systems/Structure design modifications to increase manufacture and assembly rates
The development of a hypersonic air-breathing propulsion model and the sizing and integration of a propulsion concept
Environmental control system for aircraft with variable fresh air
The design of a propeller for an electric microlight aircraft
Investigation into the characteristics of a boundary layer ingestion system
Tolerance design for mechanical assemblies in aerospace
Environmental control system cabin air quality
Fuel cell powered landing gear taxi system
The design and integration of a next-generation propulsion concept
An investigation into hypersonic air-breathing propulsion concepts and fuels
The design of a propulsion system for an electric microlight aircraft
Integrated sensors airframe design
Tolerance Design for Mechanical Assemblies in Aerospace
Aircraft wing sub-system design for modular assembly
Design of a scaled test rig for integral wing fuel tank experiments
Simulating fuel gauging performance using pressure sensors
Design of hybrid electric fuel cell propulsion system for a training helicopter
Thermal management of aircraft systems on future more electric aircraft with ultra-high bypass
Future airliner cabin design
Actuation system health monitoring
Re-entry space vehicle – actuation system design and analysis
Reducing wing fuel tank leak test times during assembly
Aircraft level analysis of novel integrated thermal management Systems

Example avionic systems design and analysis topics:
Design and implementation of real time ADS-B system based on software defined radio
4D Integrated flight management and traffic avoidance software system
Station keeping for flight formation in oceanic airspace
Air to air refuelling formation behaviour
Study and development of Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower simulation
RPAS/UTM integration simulation
Geo-Fencing software system
Intelligent Diagnostics/Prognostics (IDP) system
Flight formation in oceanic airspace
Development of navigation algorithms, based on surfaces of situation (non- autonomous)
Flight guidance systems to allow aircraft fly safely and efficiently within flow corridors.
Passenger egress simulation based on artificial intelligence approach
Investigation into remote co-pilot concept for strategic single-pilot operation
Slung load control
FPGA implementation of gain scheduled controllers
Flight control desktop demonstrator


Refer to MSc course option pages for breakdown of assessment

Your career

The MSc in Aerospace Vehicle Design is valued and respected by employers worldwide. The applied nature of this course ensures that our graduates are ready to be of immediate use to their future employer and has provided sufficient breadth of understanding of multi-discipline design to position them for accelerated career progression.

This course prepares graduates for careers as project engineers, systems design, structural design or avionic engineers in aerospace or related industries, with the aim of progressing to technical management/chief engineer roles. Graduates from the MSc in Aerospace Vehicle Design can therefore look forward to a varied choice of challenging career opportunities in the above disciplines. 

Many of our graduates occupy very senior positions in their organisations, making valuable contributions to the international aerospace industry. Some example student destinations include BAE Systems, Airbus, Dassault and Rolls-Royce.

How to apply

Online application form. UK students are normally expected to attend an interview and financial support is best discussed at this time. Overseas and EU students may be interviewed by telephone.