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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


Founding Director

 
Simone D’Amico is Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University. He received the B.S. and M.S. degrees from Politecnico di Milano (2003) and the Ph.D. degree from Delft University of Technology (2010). From 2003 to 2014, he was research scientist and team leader at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). There, he gave key contributions to the design, development, and operations of spacecraft formation-flying and rendezvous missions such as GRACE (United States/Germany), TanDEM-X (Germany), PRISMA (Sweden/Germany/France), BIROS (DLR), and PROBA-3 (ESA). Since 2014, he has been founding director of the Space Rendezvous Laboratory (SLAB), and Satellite Advisor of the Student Space Initiative (SSSI), Stanford’s largest undergraduate organization. He has over 150 scientific publications and 2000 google scholar’s citations, including conference proceedings, peer-reviewed journal articles, and book chapters. D'Amico's research aims at enabling future miniature distributed space systems for unprecedented science and exploration. His efforts lie at the intersection of advanced astrodynamics, GN&C, and space system engineering to meet the tight requirements posed by these novel space architectures. The most recent mission concepts developed by Dr. D'Amico are a miniaturized distributed occulter/telescope (mDOT) system for direct imaging of exozodiacal dust and exoplanets and the Autonomous Nanosatellite Swarming (ANS) mission for characterization of small celestial bodies. D’Amico’s research is supported by NASA, AFRL, AFOSR, KACST, and Industry. He is member of the advisory board of startup companies such as Capella Space Corp and Infinite Orbits. He is Chair of the NASA's Technology and Science Working Group (TSWG) for starshade technology development, member of the Space-Flight Mechanics Technical Committee of the AAS, Associate Fellow of AIAA, and Associate Editor of the Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics. Dr. D’Amico was recipient of the 2019 Leonardo 500 Award by the Leonardo Da Vinci Society and ISSNAF (2019), the FAI/NAA‘s Group Diploma of Honor (2018), the Exemplary System Engineering Doctoral Dissertation Award by the International Honor Society for Systems Engineering OAA (2016), the DLR’s Sabbatical/Forschungssemester in honor of scientific achievements (2012), the DLR’s Wissenschaft Preis in honor of scientific achievements (2006), and the NASA’s Group Achievement Award for the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, GRACE (2004).

Postdoctoral Researcher

 
Adam Koenig is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He holds a Bachelor of Science (2012) from Wichita State University and Master of Science (2015) and Doctor of Philosophy (2019) from Stanford University. He has experience working at Cessna Aircraft, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center, and NASA Ames Research Center. His research is focused on development of mission designs and navigation systems to enable advanced applications in space situational awareness, swarming, and formation flying. He is currently developing an angles-only navigation software payload for the StarFOX experiment on NASA Ames Research Center’s Starling1 mission. Additionally, he is developing the Miniaturized Distributed Occulter/Telescope (mDOT) mission concept, which will provide direct images of extrasolar debris disks with unprecedented sensitivity in the near-ultraviolet spectrum. He has more than a dozen scientific publications including conference proceedings and peer-reviewed journal articles. He was a recipient of a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship (2015) and the William F. Ballhaus Prize for best Ph.D. Thesis in Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University (2019).

 


Current PhD Students

 
 
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.

 

 

 
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 and in the presence of large baselines and freuqent spacecraft maneuvers. 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.. He is also maturing DiGiTaL for flight on the Demonstration With Nanosatellites of Autonomous Rendezvous and Formation Flying (DWARF) mission, a demonstration mission to increase the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of autonomous navigation and control for distributed space systems, scheduled for launch in 2020.

 

 
 
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. He has been working on SLAB’s sponsored research projects, such as the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Control, Navigation, and Guidance for Autonomous Spacecraft (CoNGAS) contract and the NASA SSTP’s Autonomous Nanosatellite Swarming (ANS) contract. His research background is in spacecraft dynamics, optimal path planning and space mission design. His current research is focused on developing autonomous multi-agent guidance algorithms to enable optimal asteroid characterization. He is recipient of a Stanford Graduate Fellowship (2018).

 

 
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.

 

 

 
Jeff Park is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He graduated from Harvey Mudd College with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering. His research interest is in the development of machine learning techniques and GN&C algorithms for spaceborne computer vision tasks, specifically on robust and accurate determination of the relative position and attitude of arbitrary resident space objects using monocular vision. Potential applications include space debris removal and refueling of defunct geostationary satellites with unprecedented autonomy and safety measures.

 

 

 
Justin Kruger is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics) and a Bachelor of Science (Physics). Previously, he has worked with the NASA Ames Intelligent Robotics Group and the ANU Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre. Justin’s research focuses on angles-only navigation for distributed space systems, with a current emphasis on developing optical multi-target tracking algorithms for the NASA Starling-1 mission. These algorithms aim to enable small-satellite formation flying missions in deep space environments, introducing exciting new mission paradigms for space science and exploration.

 

 


Group Administration

 
 
 
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

ESA/ESTEC

 

Jan Kolmas (MS, 2016)

Spacecraft Operations Engineer

ESA, Darmstadt

 

Payam Banazadeh (MS, 2015)

Co-Founder & CEO

Capella Space

 

Connor Beierle (PhD, 2019)

Officer

United States Air Force

 

Lucas Riggi (MS, 2015)

Mission Design & GNC Lead Engineer

Capella Space

 

Jacopo Ventura (VSR, 2016)

Research Scientist

DLR/German Space Operations Center