Skip to content Skip to navigation
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 (DSS). These include but are not limited to spacecraft formation-flying, rendezvous and docking, swarms, and fractionated space architectures. The vision of SLAB is that DSS will help humanity addressing fundamental questions of space science, technology, and exploration. In order to respond to the ever increasing demands posed by these missions, SLAB’s objective is to develop, validate, and embed the necessary cutting-edge technologies into formations and swarms of micro- and nano-satellites to be launched in space. To this end, new multi-satellite mission concepts, new GN&C algorithms, and high-fidelity hardware-in-the-loop testbeds are under development. The research at SLAB is based on more than 18 years of experience in the design, implementation and flight operations of GN&C subsystems for formation-flying and on-orbit servicing missions. Past successfully flown DSS with Prof. D'Amico's contributions include GRACE (2003), TanDEM-X (2010), PRISMA (2010), and BIROS (2016). Current DSS under development include STARLING (2022), SWARM-EX (2024), and VISORS (2024). Ultimately partnerships at national and international level are paving the way for breakthrough demonstrations of new technology and science.

3D Printed Model of the miniaturized Distributed Occulter/Telescope (mDOT) Mission

3D Printed Model of the miniaturized Distributed Occulter/Telescope (mDOT) Mission conceived at SLAB. Credits: Matthew Willis, Simone D'Amico 

Founding Director

Simone D’Amico is Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University and W. M. Keck Faculty Scholar in the School of Engineering. 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), and PROBA-3 (ESA). He joined Stanford in 2014 as Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Terman Faculty Fellow. He is the Founding director of the Space Rendezvous Laboratory (SLAB), and Satellite Advisor of the Student Space Initiative (SSSI), Stanford’s largest undergraduate organization. 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. He is Chairman of the NASA's Starshade Science and Technology Working Group (TSWG). He is member of the advisory board of space startup companies and VC edge funds. He is member of the Space-Flight Mechanics Technical Committee of the AAS, Associate Fellow of AIAA, Associate Editor of the AIAA Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics and the IEEE Transactions of Aerospace and Electronic Systems. He is Fellow of the NAE’s US FOE. Dr. D’Amico was recipient of the Leonardo 500 Award by the Leonardo Da Vinci Society and ISSNAF (2019), the Stanford’s Introductory Seminar Excellence Award (2019 and 2020), 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).

Current PhD students

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.



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.



Tae Ha "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.



Kaitlin Dennison is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Connecticut. She has completed internships at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Kaitlin's current research focuses on autonomous feature tracking for resource-limited, distributed exploration of small bodies as part of the Autonomous Nanosatellite Swarming (ANS) project. This development will minimize the sensors necessary for robust, autonomous navigation.



Shane Lowe is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. Shane then served on active duty as an infantry officer in the United States Army for more than five years. His research is focused on developing guidance, navigation, and control algorithms for the Space Weather Atmospheric Multiscale EXperiment (SWARM-EX) and the VIrtual Super-resolution Optics with Reconfigurable Swarms (VISORS) missions. These missions, both funded by the National Science Foundation, require distributed and precise relative navigation to accomplish groundbreaking scientific objectives.



Matthew Hunter is a Ph.D. student in the Space Rendezvous Laboratory. He “got out” of Georgia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, where he received the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering Outstanding Scholar Award. He has interned at a variety of companies in the space and defense industry, including NASA Goddard, Raytheon Technologies, and Bell. Matthew is currently developing guidance and control algorithms for the Space Weather Atmospheric Multiscale EXperiment (SWARM-EX), and his research focuses on computationally efficient, optimal hybrid control techniques that incorporate perturbations to Keplerian orbit into propulsive maneuver schemes to decrease their delta-v cost. This work will enable fully integrated roto-translational spacecraft control to increase mission lifetime and enhance maneuver accuracy.



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)

GNC Engineer

Rocket Lab


Jan Kolmas (MS, 2016)

Co-founder & COO

SuperVision Earth


Joshua Sullivan (PhD, 2020)

Senior Guidance, Navigation, and Control Engineer



Corinne Lippe (PhD, 2021)


Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory


Payam Banazadeh (MS, 2015)

Co-Founder & CEO

Capella Space


Connor Beierle (PhD, 2019)

Fighter Pilot

United States Air Force


Katie Wallace (MS, 2021)

Vehicle Simulation Engineer

Relativity Space


Lucas Riggi (MS, 2015)

Mission Design & GNC Lead Engineer

Capella Space


Sumant Sharma (PhD, 2019)

Systems Architect, Autonomy



Michelle Chernick (PhD, 2021)

Guidance, Navigation, and Control Engineer

Capella Space


Jacopo Ventura (VSR, 2016)

System Engineer

Robert Bosch GmbH


Adam W. Koenig (PhD, 2019)


Lockheed Martin


Vince Giralo (PhD, 2021)

Constellation Operations and Autonomy Engineer