When considering aerospace technology, what we’re talking about is the building, testing, and maintenance of crafts that fly within Earth’s atmosphere or outside of it in outer space.

The technology and components involved in all the above are vast and wide-ranging. It can involve everything from types of remote sensors and electronics to computer technology, materials, fuel types, and life support systems.

The marvelous benefit of aerospace technology has always been its effect on the rest of society and the many ways it stimulates the overall economy. For example, many studies have shown that for every dollar NASA spent on developing space flight systems, $7 to $40 was returned to the economy in the form of spin-off technology.

Just two examples of spin-off technology are the MRI machines used by hospitals to image the insides of the human body. This was adapted from equipment developed by NASA so it could look deeper into the surface of other planets. 

Another example is memory foam. Originally designed to absorb acceleration forces inside space vehicles, memory foam is now used for things like the mattresses we sleep on and to make comfortable shoes.

A cutting-edge aerospace technology in development right now that promises wide-ranging benefits is zero-fuel aircraft design. These are airplanes that will use hydrogen as a fuel source. Hydrogen burns clean and leaves behind no pollution, unlike the carbon-heavy jet fuels used today.

Because aerospace researchers are leading the way in creating clean-burning hydrogen engines, the same technology can be adapted to cars, motorcycles, and even bicycles.

Advanced materials are another key area in aerospace technology today. For example, graphene, a carbon-based material, is just one atom thick. It can be used to make super-light batteries that hold high-capacity charges and store energy for long periods of time.

The aerospace industry is leading the way in creating automated transportation systems. We already have drones that are piloted from the ground, but developers are keen to create passenger planes that carry people without the need for a human pilot.

Automating passenger planes successfully and safely will require an extremely elevated level of technology to build confidence and safety in the system – and that technology will benefit many other layers of commerce and society.