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The Space Rendezvous Laboratory (SLAB) is a research and development laboratory of the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics  at Stanford University founded and led by Professor Simone D’Amico. SLAB performs fundamental and applied research at the intersection of Astrodynamics and Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) to enable future distributed space systems. These include but are not limited to spacecraft formation-flying, rendezvous and docking, swarms, and fractionated space architectures. The vision of SLAB is that multi-satellite systems will help humanity addressing fundamental questions of space science, technology, and exploration. In order to respond to the ever increasing demand of positioning accuracy posed by these missions, SLAB’s objective is to develop, validate, and embed the necessary cutting-edge technologies into a formation of micro- and nano-satellites to be launched in space in the next decade. To this end, high-fidelity hardware-in-the-loop testbeds are under development including spaceborne radio-frequency and optical navigation sensors. The research at SLAB is based on more than 10 years of experience in the implementation and flight operations of GN&C subsystems for formation-flying and on-orbit servicing missions (e.g., GRACE, TanDEM-X, PRISMA, BIROS, DEOS, etc.). Ultimately partnerships at national and international level will pave the way for breakthrough demonstrations of new technology.

Sample Portfolio of Spacecraft Formation Flying Missions with SLAB's Contributions

Simone D’Amico is the Principal Investigator of the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He is an Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University, California, USA. He is a Terman Faculty Fellow of the School of Engineering. He holds a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the Technical University of Delft (The Netherlands) and received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Politecnico di Milano (Italy). He worked as a researcher at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) from 2003 to 2013 in the fields of space flight dynamics, autonomous satellite navigation and control, spacecraft formation-flying, and on-orbit servicing.
Dr. D’Amico gave key contributions to the design, development, and operations of spacecraft formation-flying and rendezvous missions such as GRACE, TanDEM-X, and PRISMA for which he received several awards. He developed the Spaceborne Autonomous Formation Flying Experiment (SAFE), the Advanced Rendezvous demonstration using GPS and Optical Navigation (ARGON) on PRISMA and the TanDEM-X Autonomous Formation Flying (TAFF) system. More recently he has been working on the design of the GPS-based navigation system for the DEOS and PROBA-3 formation-flying missions. He acted as PI of the Autonomous Vision Approach-Navigation and Target Identification (AVANTI) experiment on-board the FireBIRD mission.
Dr. D'Amico's current research aims at enabling future distributed space systems for unprecedented science and exploration. His efforts lie at the intersection of advanced astrodynamics, GN&C, and space system engineering to fulfill the tight requirements posed by these novel space architectures. The most recent mission concept developed by Dr. D'Amico is a miniaturized distributed occulter/telescope (mDOT) system for direct imaging of exozodiacal dust and exoplanets. Dr. D'Amico is spearheading a gravitational space science and exploration program at Stanford based on multiple drag-free micro-satellites (MDSS).

Current Students

Adam Koenig is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in aerospace engineering from the Wichita State University and Stanford University, respectively. He has experience working for Cessna Aircraft and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He has also worked on the robotic microgravity mobility concept known as the Hedgehog in the Autonomous Systems Laboratory. He is currently developing a design for a miniaturized distributed occulter/telescope to image exoplanets and/or exozodiacal dust. He is also working on developing an angles-only navigation system for CubeSats with the support of the NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship.
Josh Sullivan is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory.  He holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of California, San Diego and Stanford University, respectively.  He has experience working as an engineering analyst for SpaceX and Space Systems/Loral. His current research is focused on developing advanced algorithms for angles-only relative navigation in distributed space systems.  As part of this research, Josh works with a team of engineers at NASA Ames Research Center on designing the relative navigation payload and experiments for the Starling-1 technology demonstration mission.  He also works on new relative motion dynamics, guidance, and control algorithms in support of the Control, Navigation, and Guidance for Autonomous Spacecraft (CoNGAS) grant sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory.  
Sumant Sharma is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering. His current research focus is to design and implement a robust, fast, and globally optimal vision system to estimate the relative position and attitude of a non-cooperative space resident using monocular vision. One application of this vision system would be on-orbit servicing of defunct satellites where range measurements or any a-priori relative motion information is unavailable.



Connor Beierle is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He graduated from Stony Brook University with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in mechanical engineering. He has experience working for NASA and Google. He has also worked on the Hemispherical Anti-Twist Tracking System in the Space Systems Development Laboratory. His current research is focused on the high-fidelity validation of advanced optical navigation techniques for spacecraft formation-flying and rendezvous. This includes the design and development of high-dynamic-range optical stimulators using virtual reality and robotics setups to reproduce a variety of space operations scenarios in a laboratory environment.



Vince Giralo is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He graduated from Bucknell University with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. His current research focuses on using GNSS technology for precise relative navigation of multiple small satellites. This includes development of algorithms for integer ambiguity resolution to accomplish this task in real-time, given the onboard constraints. His main research project is the Distributed multi-GNSS Timing and Localization system (DiGiTaL) under development for the NASA Small Satellite Technology Development Program in cooperation with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Tyvak Inc..



Michelle Chernick is a Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. She graduated from Rutgers University with Bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. Her research focuses on finding and implementing fuel-optimal impulsive guidance and control strategies that accomplish reconfiguration of arbitrary relative orbits between multiple spacecraft. These strategies can be utilized for future multi-satellite formation-flying and rendezvous missions.



Matthew Willis is a Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with Bachelor's degrees in Chemical Engineering, Physics, and Astronomy. His driving interest is the affordable robotic exploration of the solar system using high-efficiency electric propulsion systems. He is currently researching robust and efficient low-thrust control strategies for distributed space systems in the framework of relative orbital elements. Such algorithms could be employed for economical on-orbit servicing and will support and enable future science and exploration missions.



Corinne Lippe is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. She graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. She has experience working as an intern for GE Aviation, Moog, Inc. and Northrop Grumman. Her research is currently focused on developing and implementing algorithms for the guidance and control of satellite swarms with an emphasis on low-thrust actuation. Her current work aims to develop these reliable algorithms with realistic implementation on cubesats and other micro-/nanosatellites. These algorithms can be utilized in future missions for planetary exploration or discovery of celestial objects, as well as scientific observation of the Earth’s magnetic and gravity fields.



Tommaso Guffanti is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He graduated from Politecnico di Milano with a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering and a Master of Science in space engineering. His current research is focused on the generalization and application of optimal path planning and control techniques developed for multi-satellite systems to any multi-dimensional system governed by ordinary differential equations. Relevant applications include, but are not limited, to the path planning and motion control of space, air and ground robots. He is also conducting research on orbital dynamics of distributed space systems, to enable fuel efficient relative orbit design and computationally efficient accurate on-board relative orbit propagation.


Nathan Stacey is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Utah State University where he was presented the scholar of the year award. He has completed several internships including at Northrop Grumman and Space Dynamics Laboratory. He is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and his primary research interests lie in exploring small bodies in the solar system such as asteroids, moons, and comets. He is currently developing an autonomous mission and estimation architecture for characterizing an asteroid’s rotational motion, shape, and gravity field using a swarm of spacecraft. His work includes high fidelity hardware in the loop validation and techniques for distributed swarm computation.



Dana Parga is the Administrative Associate for the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. She assists the lab in the budget tracking of all financial transactions by processing PCard purchases, reimbursements, and expense reports. She received the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics Outstanding Staff Award in 2005.





Alumni with publications

Lukas Steindorf (VSR, 2016)

Control Trainee



Jan Kolmas (MS, 2016)

Spacecraft Operations Engineer

ESA, Darmstadt


Payam Banazadeh (MS, 2015)

Co-Founder & CEO

Capella Space


Lucas Riggi (MS, 2015)

Mission Design & GNC Lead Engineer

Capella Space


Jacopo Ventura (VSR, 2016)

Research Scientist

DLR/German Space Operations Center