École nationale supérieure de l'aéronautique et de l'espace

École nationale supérieure de l'aéronautique et de l'espace

:"This article is about one of two French engineering schools called ENSAE. For alternative uses of ENSAE see this page." Infobox University
name=ISAE formation Supaero
type=Grande Ecole
state=Haute Garonne
staff=36 (permanent professors) + 90 (invited speakers)
students=about 550
affiliations=French Ministry of Defense
website= [http://www.isae.fr/ www.isae.fr]
mascot=Little Owl

The "École Nationale Supérieure de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace" ("SUPAERO" or "ENSAE", roughly translated as "National Higher School of Aeronautics and Space"), founded in 1909, is one of the most prestigious and selective "grandes écoles" in France. It was the world's first dedicated aerospace engineering school and is considered to be one of the best in Europe in that field. SUPAERO's mascot is the Little Owl ("Athene noctua"), a symbol of wisdom sacred to the goddess Athena.

In 2007, Supaero has merged with ENSICA to form France's most prestigious aeronautical school: ISAE. The following article focuses on the Supaero formation.

SUPAERO offers a three-year curriculum and a master's program. Since its founding in 1909 SUPAERO has produced more than 11,000 graduates; some of them have achieved fame in their field, including Henri Coandă, the builder of the Coandă-1910; Henri Ziegler, father of the Airbus program; Frédéric d'Allest, first chairman of Arianespace; and Jean-François Clervoy (class of 1983), astronaut.


In 1909, an engineering officer, Colonel Jean-Baptiste Roche imagined the future prospects and uses that airplanes would have in the world, and founded the École supérieure d'aéronautique et de constructions mécaniques (Higher Aeronautics and Mechanical Building School) in Paris, boulevard Victor (which is now the campus of the ENSTA). The school became in 1930 the École nationale supérieure de l'aéronautique (National Higher School of Aeronautics); then, in 1972, it was called the École Nationale Supérieure de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace or, more simply, SUPAERO, which is the name most associated with the school.

In 1968 SUPAERO has been relocated in the aerospace complex in Toulouse, in the heart of a world-class scientific and industrial environment. On the same site, a large research center called the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches de Toulouse (CERT, the Study and Research Center of Toulouse) was built at the same time. This center, associated with the School, has become the Toulouse center of the ONERA (National Office for Aerospace Studies and Research). It carries out research directed by and towards the highly demanding aeronautical, aerospace and defence sectors. Nearby SUPAERO are also located the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l'Aviation Civile (ENAC, the National Higher School for Civilian Air Transport), the CNES (the French space agency) and other research laboratories.

In 1994, SUPAERO became a public institution of an administrative nature under the supervision of the Ministry of Defense. It has a Board of Directors.

In 2007, SUPAERO is due to merge with ENSICA, another aerospace engineering school from Toulouse, so as to reduce redundancy and gain more international visibility. The new entity will be called the Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace (ISAE). The two schools will, however, retain their recruitment process for the student body and deliver two separate diplomas [ [http://www.supaero.org/gene/main.php?base=2/1&detailsarticle=39 ENSICA-SUPAERO merger project (in French)] ] .

SUPAERO is part of the École polytechnique's program for further specialization and is authorized to award the degree of Doctor of the National Higher School of Air and Space engineering, with its own seal.


SUPAERO offers a broad education on engineering, focused mainly on those subjects that are of interest in the air or space industry, but that may as well find applications in other fields. As a matter of fact, more than a half of the students will work outside the aerospace industry.

As for all engineering schools in France, someone obtaining a diploma from SUPAERO will have completed at least five years of studies after high school. The engineering degree is obtained after at least two years of studies at the school and an initial formation either in elite Classes Préparatoires or in the University (with excellent grades). SUPAERO delivers masters as well for students coming from other schools or universities, and wishing to specialise themselves.

First year

The first year is attended by circa 120 students coming from two years-long classes préparatoires after high school, who already possess excellent bases in higher mathematics and physics, and have successfully passed a stringent competitive examination sat by about 11,000 students annually [Official Website of the Mines Competitive Exam, [http://csmp.enst.fr/2005/stats/ann-i1-tab_v.htm] ] . The first year at Supaero aims at perfecting that knowledge and gradually giving the student skills more directly applicable in the industry. Students finish their education in advanced mathematics and physics that they have started prior to their admission to Supaero, and learn subjects such as quantum mechanics, lasers, advanced thermodynamics, advanced solid mechanics. They also have a ground-up education on aerodynamics and flight dynamics, with numerous practical sessions. Time is also spent on humanities: students are required to take at least two foreign languages among which one must be English but are allowed to take up to four languages if they wish to do so. They also must attend culture seminaries, which are held by specialists of the field.

The program also places a strong emphasis on practical education, with, for instance, two projects called Travaux Expérimentaux ("experimental works") where students, working in pairs, discover a subject conducting experiments under the supervision of one or two laboratory assistants. The subjects range from microwave engineering, wind tunnel experiences to live flight tests in one of Supaero's planes, a TB-20 that has been modified and certified for experimental flights. Each Travail Experimental is done in ten sessions of two hours.

Near the end of the first year, students can specialise in one of the following branches: computer science, aircraft engineering, finance, advanced physics. The year ends with a personal project (called PIR, "projet d'initiation à la recherche") on a subject freely chosen (which might belong either to the engineering field and/or humanities).

Second year

The second year is attended by the first years, as well as a number of students coming from other French or foreign universities, and military officers (about four or five each year), thus bringing the total number of students to about 150. Academically speaking, the second year is quite similar to the first. Students continue their education in engineering, now learning automation, structure mechanics, signal processing, furthering their knowledge in aerodynamics and flight dynamics (with at least one practical flight in one of the DR-400 of Supaero's fleet), etc. In February, students specialise in one of the following branches:
* aerodynamics,
* automation,
* economics,
* thermodynamics and propulsion systems,
* computer science,
* mechanical structures and resistance,
* optimisation and computer-aided decision making
* numerical methods for mechanics
* Waves and , with a focus on spatial telecommunications.
* Earth and space sciences

At the end of the second year, the students have a one-month project done in a team of four, with no courses to attend. The project is strictly experimental and related to engineering topics (in a sharp contrast to the first-year project where "everything" is possible). The projects are sometimes studies done for industrials, under the supervision of a professor. Students can skip the project and do a three-months internship instead.

Third year

The third year can either be done at Supaero, or in a foreign university, or be spent in a year-long internship (in which case, the student comes back one year after to do his third academic year). This year is attended by the second years, as well as about thirty students coming from the Ecole Polytechnique.

In their third year, students choose a "majeure" (major) in one of five fields, then choose a further specialisation in one of these fields ("approfondissements", in-depth option). The "majeures" are:
* AEV (aéronefs et véhicules): aircraft and vehicles;
* CSE (commande et systèmes embarqués): command/control and embedded systems;
* EDS (énergétique des systèmes): propulsion, energetics;
* ESP (espace): design of space vehicles, satellites, and launchers;
* IMS (ingéniérie et management des systèmes): mostly, systems engineering and management

The in-depth options are:
* automation (CSE)
* avionics for spacecrafts (ESP),
* energetics (EDS),
* earth observation and image processing (ESP),
* finance (IMS),
* logistics (IMS),
* mechanics, thermics and aerodynamics for spacecrafts (ESP),
* propulsion & aerodynamics (AEV, EDS),
* mechanical structures (AEV),
* on-board systems and payloads (CSE),
* information systems (IMS)
* spatial telecommunications (ESP).All these options are taught by invited guests coming from all over France, and working in corporations such as Airbus, Alcatel Space, Dassault, EADS, the French space agency (CNES), as well as research laboratories: ONERA, LAAS/CNRS, or the INRIA, for instance.

Eligible students can also take additional courses to obtain a research-oriented master (formerly known as the Diplôme d'Études Approfondies) in a field compatible with their education. This will enable them to start a PhD after the end of the year. Also, some students may choose to take additional courses in management at the end of the year to obtain the DESIA (Diplôme d'Etudes Supérieures en Ingéniérie des Affaires).

In third year, courses end in mid-March. To complete their studies, students must do an internship of at least three months, but six months are not unusual. The graduation ceremony takes place invariably on the first Friday of October, and is followed by the traditional prom ball on the next Saturday.


Supaero delivers masters (in the French meaning of the term) as well as the MSc in Aeronautical Engineering or the MSc. in Aerospace Communication Systems, both taught in English, for people having a bachelor of science or another MSc. The courses last at least three trimesters.

International cooperation

Supaero collaborates with the following 39 universities:

* Germany: Technische Universität Berlin, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Technische Universität München, Universität Stuttgart
* Austria: Technische Universität Wien
* Belgium: Faculté Polytechnique de Mons, Université Catholique de Louvain, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Université de Liège, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
* Spain: Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Universidad del País Vasco
* United Kingdom: Cranfield University, Imperial College London, University of Glasgow, University of Bath
* Italy: Politecnico di Milano, Università degli studi di Pisa, Politecnico di Torino, University of Rome La Sapienza, Università degli studi di Napoli Federico II
* Norway: Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet (NTNU), Trondheim
* Netherlands: Technische Universiteit Delft
* Poland: Politechnika Warszawska
* Portugal: Universidade Técnica de Lisboa
* Romania: Academia de Tehnici Militare din Bucureşti
* Russia: Moscow Aviation Institute
* Sweden: Kungliga Tekniska högskolan (KTH), Stockholm
* Switzerland: ETH Zurich, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
* United States: Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, California Institute of Technology
* Canada: École Polytechnique de Montréal
* Argentina: Instituto Universitario Aeronautico
* Singapore: Nanyang Technological University

Student activities, events

Many events are organized annually by the students of the school among which the best known are:

* The Trophée Aérien, an international flight rally
* Supaerowing, an international rowing competition that is held on the Garonne.
* The Convention, the first and most famous role-playing convention in France;

Students also take part in the annual Tournoi des Grandes Ecoles, a sports competition gathering students from all Grandes Ecoles in France, accompanied by their (in)famous mascot, the toothed owl.

Supaero has also distinguished itself in the field of robotics, having ranked third (in 2003) and first (in 2004) at the Eurobot Open [http://www.planete-sciences.org/robot/eurobot2004/resultat/finales.php] [http://www.eurobot.org] , and coming up regularly in the top ranking teams of the French Robotics Cup.


Students and the faculty are usually involved in long-term projects lasting many years, aiming at promoting a team spirit between the various departments of the school. Some notable projects are the Petit Canard (the Duckling), a training twin-jet aircraft prototype constructed in the '70s [The Petit Canard at the CAEA museum, [http://caea.free.fr/en/coll/petitcanard.html] ] . In the late '90s, Supaero provided the primary ground stations at Cayenne for the HETE and HETE 2 satellites [http://cosmic.riken.go.jp/hete/Cayenne/Stela_hete_eng.htm] . Currently, many of the projects revolve around micro-drones.

However, the bulk of the research is generally performed and published as coming from the ONERA offices of Toulouse (which are located next to the school) and near Paris, or other laboratories such as the LAAS or the INRIA with which Supaero has privileged links. This accounts for the serious underestimation of the number of published papers and patents obtained by the school. Indeed, a vast majority of the professors at Supaero share their time between the school (for the teaching part) and nearby laboratories (for the research part). Similarly, most PhD students from Supaero actually do their research in collaboration with other labs and are likely to publish as members from other institutions. Limiting schools and universities to (mostly) teaching, and doing the research in dedicated labs is a typical French mindset and Supaero is no exception to the rule. This is discussed further in the article dedicated to education in France.

Famous alumni

During the 5 years preceding the first world war, SUPAERO produced 303 qualified engineers, 52 of which were foreigners. Among them are found some great names in aeronautics:

* Raoul Badin (class of 1910), one of the main inventors of the airspeed indicator and forefather of instrument flying.
* Henri Coandă (class of 1910), inventor of jet propulsion, has discovered the Coandă Effect.
* Henry Potez (class of 1911), founder of the Potez airplanes company,
* Mikhail Gurevich (class of 1913), founder of MiG aircraft.
* Marcel Bloch-Dassault (class of 1913), founder of the Dassault airplanes company,
* André Couzinet (class of 1925), who conceived the Arc-en-Ciel (the mythical plane flown by Jean Mermoz), and also invented the retractable landing gear and the modern yoke.
* Henri Ziegler (class of 1931) father of the Airbus program,
* François Hussenot (class of 1935), inventor of the "hussenographe" (an early form of Flight data recorder or "black box"); also involved in the creation of EPNER.
* Serge Dassault (class of 1951), CEO of Dassault Aviation,
* Frédéric d'Allest (class of 1966) first chairman of Arianespace,
* Jean-François Clervoy (class of 1983), astronaut.

References and footnotes

ee also

* List of aerospace engineering schools

External links

* [http://www.supaero.fr SUPAERO website]
* [http://www.supaerojuniorconseil.com SUPAERO's Junior Entreprise]
* [http://www.supaero.org SUPAERO alumni association]

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