What is Astrodynamics?

Astrodynamics is the study of the motion of artificial bodies moving under the influence of gravity from one or more large natural bodies. This includes maneuver planning of spacecraft in orbit, methodologies to determine where objects are in space, and spacecraft attitude determination and control. The University of Illinois specializes in optimization of astrodynamics problems, addressing challenges such as mission design under constraints, cooperative spacecraft maneuvers, trajectory optimization and orbit determination.

What is going on in astrodynamics research at Illinois?

Research in astrodynamics at Illinois is focused on both theoretical and software projects with applications to astrodynamics problems. Some of the current projects focus on asteroid interception and rendezvous, solar sail and tether system design, in-space propulsion assessment, integrated technology assessment, technologies for the Evolutionary Mission Trajectory Generator, low energy manifold trajectory design, magnetic attitude determination and control, multifunction stochastic optimization, parallel nonlinear optimization, automated trajectory optimization, on-orbit servicing missions, and ground station coverage problems. There are multiple active research projects in astrodynamics. Several of these projects are sponsored by government agencies and leading industry companies such as: NASA (Goddard Space Flight Center, Ames Research Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory), the Department of Defense (DARPA, Air Force Research Lab), and private companies (CU Aerospace, KTi).

Who are the Faculty members in this area?

  • R. L. Burton (Professor Emeritus) - Electric and advanced chemical rocket propulsion, space exploration, hypersonic flows, hypervelocity accelerators

  • Soon-Jo Chung - Formation Flying Spacecraft, Spacecraft Swarms, Innovative Space Systems, and Relative Spacecraft Dynamics.

  • B. A. Conway - Celestial mechanics, optimal control, numerical optimization

  • V. L. Coverstone - Space mission design, optimal spacecraft trajectories

  • Alexander Ghosh- Computational astrodynamics, parallel numerical methods applied to astrodynamics, attitude determination and control, mission planning, optical navigation, spaceflight systems, mission design and optimization

  • Koki Ho - Space mission design, multidisciplinary design and optimization, Cubesats/small satellites, operations research, systems engineering

  • J. E. Prussing (Professor Emeritus) - Orbital mechanics, spacecraft trajectories, optimal control systems

  • Zachary Putnam- Space systems design; space guidance, navigation, and control; entry, descent, and landing systems; planetary exploration; systems engineering; mission design, hypersonic and space systems design, cube-sat projects