Up and Away: The Aerospace Industry

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Home to the likes of SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Northro​p Grumman, Boeing and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, just to name a few, Southern California is a hotbed of aerospace research and innovation. With the creation of a new on-campus Solid Propulsion and Combustion Laboratory, California State University, Long Beach is deepening its involvement in the industry.

Joseph Kalman, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is leading the new lab and using it to continue his research on topics like propulsion systems and how solid fuels ignite, decompose or mix with other materials. In turn, his work and that of his students will help the industry better optimize and understand its technology.

“The idea is that we're going to help solve some of the problems that the industry faces and that the government labs and defense labs face from an academic standpoint to help develop other technologies," Dr. Kalman says. “It's consulting or giving input on different technologies, running experiments, things like that where we can utilize our facilities for them to help solve an industry problem."

Along with the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons at China Lake, where Kalman worked previously, the lab is partnering with Edwards Air Force Base and the Naval Research Lab, part of the Office of Naval Research, which gave Kalman's lab a grant to purchase equipment. CSULB's College of Engineering is also part of the California Aerospace Technologies Institute of Excellence, which brings together military partners, private companies and academic institutions to develop new aerospace technology.

In addition to helping develop aerospace technology, the lab is training the next generation of the industry's workforce by giving students hands-on experience in real-world situations. Since Southern California's aerospace industry accounts for more than 100,000 local jobs, the region will need those trained professionals.

“By having the lab here, students get hands-on experience, and you get to reinforce that class knowledge," he explains. “But more important, the things you learn when you're doing something in the lab are much more valuable than only understanding the physics or the chemistry. They're going to be developing critical thinking, getting experience and using equipment that is state of the art. That is what the future of this field will be."

Read more about launching a career in aerospace at the CSU.

A camera with a long-distance microscope lens used to capture high-speed, high-resolution video for data analysis.
A camera with a long-distance microscope lens used to capture high-speed, high-resolution video for data analysis.
Assembling circuitry and controls to be used for lab experiments.
Assembling circuitry and controls to be used for lab experiments.
Dr. Joseph Kalman and undergraduate student David Ramirez set up an experiment to test rocket propellent.
Dr. Joseph Kalman and undergraduate student David Ramirez set up an experiment to test rocket propellent.
Power supply and circuitry that control a carbon dioxide laser used in combustion experiments.
Power supply and circuitry that control a carbon dioxide laser used in combustion experiments.
Ramirez applies a drop of fuel to a sample holder.
Ramirez applies a drop of fuel to a sample holder.