University Partners

David A. Barnhart- USC

Next generation space robotics may require rethinking the mergence between compliance and control.  USC SERC investigation boundaries on soft robotic applications and what “control” means

Kerri Cahoy – MIT

CubeSats provide an opportunity to test compact commercial optical technologies in the space environment, such as free space laser communications modules, MEMS deformable mirrors, liquid lenses, and shape memory alloy-controlled calibration targets.

Dr. Richard Linares – MIT

Space flight is entering a period of renaissance with considerable change in the perception of what humanity’s role in space will be. Recently, SpaceX and OneWeb have proposed mega satellite constellations of up to 4,425 satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which will more than double the number of satellites currently in LEO. These constellations have the potential to revolutionize the telecommunication industry by providing complete global internet coverage. The economic gains of completely connecting rural areas and developing nations cannot be understated, however, the current space infrastructure is not capable of handling such a dramatic increase in the number of active satellites. Therefore, there is a critical need for new solutions to the problem of Space Traffic Management (STM) and Space Situational Awareness (SSA).
Conversely, the technologies that are revolutionizing near-Earth spaceflight will provide new opportunities for deep space exploration. Future science-driven interplanetary missions and/or missions to Lagrangian points and asteroids will require advanced guidance and navigation algorithms that are able to adapt to more demanding mission requirements. For example, future missions to asteroids and comets will require that the spacecraft be able to autonomously navigate in uncertain dynamical environments by executing a precise sequence of maneuvers (e.g. hovering, landing, touch-and-go) based on information collected during the close-proximity operations. These missions will require approaches for landing at selected locations with pinpoint accuracy while autonomously flying fuel-efficient trajectories.
This presentation will discuss new methods for enabling STM and autonomous space systems. This presentation will particularly discuss a new method for assessment of confidence in position knowledge through improved satellite drag modeling, which is critical for STM. This presentation will also discuss novel methods for accurate upper atmospheric density estimation and uncertainty quantification. Furthermore, autonomous space systems and robotic systems can offer new ways of exploring our solar system. Current research on autonomous space systems will also be discussed. Finally, this presentation will provide a vision for the basic research that is needed to enable the future of spaceflight and space

Dr. Bethany. Ehlmann – CalTech

Lunar Trailblazer, selected in June 2019 as one of NASA’s first planetary science small satellite missions, is designed to produce the best maps of water on the Moon. Led by Caltech and managed by JPL, a Lockheed Martin smallsat will carry the JPL High-resolution Volatiles and Minerals Moon Mapper (HVM3) shortwave infrared imaging spectrometer and the UK-contributed, University of Oxford/STFC RAL Space-built thermal infrared multispectral imager to 100-km lunar polar orbit. These instruments will collect data to simultaneously measure composition, temperature, and thermophysical properties of the Moon’s surface. Lunar Trailblazer will detect and map water on the lunar surface at key targets to (1) determine its form (OH, H2O or ice), abundance, and local distribution as a function of latitude, soil maturity, and lithology; (2) assess possible time-variation in lunar water on sunlit surfaces; and (3) use terrain-scattered light to determine the form and abundance of exposed water in permanently shadowed regions. Trailblazer will provide maps of future candidate landing sites for robotic and human exploration. In addition to advancing space science, Lunar Trailblazer also pioneers a collaboration between Caltech and Pasadena City College to train students to perform mission team roles in design, build, and operations. Lunar Trailblazer is scheduled to deliver its slight system in October 2022 (, @LunarTrailblazr).

Craig Hargrove – ASU

LunaH-Map is a new type of NASA planetary science mission manifested for launch on Space Launch System Artemis-1. LunaH-Map has been developed and led by the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. The spacecraft uses a deep space radio, solar arrays, a command and data handling system, attitude control system and a propulsion system in order to maneuver itself into orbit around the Moon. LunaH-Map will use a neutron detector to map the distribution of hydrogen enrichments across the lunar south pole. The maps produced by LunaH-Map will help constrain the amount of hydrogen within permanently shadowed regions, which will inform our understanding of sources and sinks for polar volatile deposits, as well as planning future lunar exploration missions.

Dr. James Weygand- UCLA

Space weather can affect more than just technology on the Earth and within the inner magnetosphere. Energetic particles events associated with mainly with solar storms can damage spacecraft beyond geosynchronous orbit. We will discuss the effect of energetic particles on those spacecraft.