Maruthi AkellaProfessor Maruthi Akella of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at The University of Texas at Austin has been selected to receive the IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society’s (AESS) prestigious Judith A. Resnik Space Award for the year 2015. He was selected for his pioneering research and technical accomplishments that have stood the test of time: “for outstanding contributions in nonlinear dynamics and adaptive attitude control of complex space systems.”

The award, which is presented annually, was named in honor of IEEE member and NASA astronaut Judith Resnik, who was a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger when it exploded in 1986. The award recognizes candidates who have provided outstanding contributions to space engineering within the AESS fields of interest: “the organization, systems engineering, design, development, integration, and operation of complex systems for space, air, ocean, or ground environments.”

The Judith Resnik award consists of a personalized bronze plaque and $2,000 honorarium, which will be presented to Akella at an awards luncheon this November in National Harbor, Maryland.

Akella's research is currently being applied in many on-going earth and space based robotic missions. His groundbreaking work on spacecraft attitude tracking control without the use of rate-gyros reduces the number of sensors that are required to track any rotating space object. Attitude controllers derived from this effort are being implemented onboard a Norwegian built satellite that will be part of the European Union’s QB-50 nano-satellite program for multi-point in-situ measurements for lower thermosphere and re-entry research.

Decentralized robotic path-planning algorithms resulting from Akella’s work are finding significant applications within NASA’s IceBridge mission and DARPA’s collaborative unmanned air-vehicle operations within denied environments. His group is also developing a prototype for a robotic swarm system that is being flown by NASA Johnson Space Center onboard the Morpheus vehicle as part of the vision for autonomous hazard detection and landing technology demonstration efforts.

Akella has served on the Cockrell School of Engineering faculty since 1999. He serves as director of the Controls Lab for Distributed and Uncertain Systems (C-DUS) and is affiliated with the Center for Space Research, the Wireless Networking and Communications Group, and the Center for Aeromechanics Research. He received the 2013 AIAA Mechanics and Control of Flight Award and is a Fellow of AAS and an Associate Fellow of AIAA.