Students Awarded NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities

June 29, 2022

Several students in the aerospace engineering Ph.D. program at The University of Texas at Austin were selected to receive a NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities (NSTGRO) awards. Students selected for these fellowships receive funding for their research, usually for multiple years, as well as full tuition. NASA selects highly-qualified recipients who have demonstrated their capability to create innovative new space technologies for the nation’s science, exploration and economic future. Research will be conducted on campus and at NASA Centers with the student’s faculty advisor serving as the principal investigator.

This year’s UT aerospace engineering recipients are:

Sofia Catalan
Ph.D. Program, Aerospace Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Brandon Jones

photo of sofia catalan shaking a robot's hand

Research Summary: My research involves using event-based sensors for spacecraft navigation and estimation applications, which allow for higher frequency data returns compared to conventional cameras. My work will be primarily focused on data processing and computer vision to enable position, velocity, and attitude estimation of on-orbit satellites. This research would enable us to better characterize satellite motion with better accuracy because of the improved data rates. I will be working on developing the tools to further study this technology’s application to spacecraft.

Noah Lifset
Ph.D. Program, Aerospace Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Ryan Russell

photo of noah lifset with rover

Research Summary: I will be researching spacecraft trajectory optimization methods specifically for trajectories with many revolutions (hundreds to thousands) that are affected by multibody gravitational perturbations. Additionally, I will be focusing on ways to leverage high performance computing, like parallelization. These types of spacecraft trajectories can and will become more common as use of low thrust engines and small spacecraft become more common, and optimal trajectories will allow for more efficient and potentially wider ranging space missions.

photo of corey marcusCorey Marcus
Ph.D. Program, Aerospace Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Renato Zanetti

Research Summary: My research focuses on guidance and navigation for autonomous landing. This will help to enable future missions to hazardous locations such as the Lunar South Pole, Titan or Europa.

photo of jonathan sippsJonathan Sipps
Ph.D. Program, Aerospace Engineering
Faculty Advisors: Lori Magruder and Tan Bui-Thanh

Research Summary: Distributed spacecraft missions (DSMs), such as constellations, offer significant advantages for spaceborne remote sensing applications, such as higher spatial coverage and faster revisit intervals, key features in Earth exploration and resource exploitation. The problem is that the iterative process of design increases in complexity when many, potentially heterogeneous spacecraft are considered in the trade space. My research is to develop computationally efficient tools and surrogate models for faster and more accurate DSM design, enabling mission planners to take advantage of modern spacecraft technology, launch capabilities, and remote sensing instruments, for the exploration of Earth and beyond.

photo of rachel mamich with dogRachel Mamich
Ph.D. Program, Aerospace Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Renato Zanetti

Research Summary: I will be doing my research for a proposal I wrote to work on a navigation algorithm for two spacecraft that are going to perform rendezvous and docking with one another that are not in communication where both spacecraft are allowed to maneuver.