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Dr Malcolm Macdonald


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Personal statement

A professional space technology engineer, academic & director with a strong, proven and international record of accomplishment. I am the Director of the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications, and a Non-Executive Board Member of the UK Space Agency.

I was awarded the 2016 Royal Society of Edinburgh Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane Medal in recognition of my “outstanding research work in the development and application of space mission systems to challenge conventional ideas and advance new concepts in the exploration and exploitation of space.”

Distinctively for an engineer, my publications are in journals such as Scientific Reports, and Physical Review E, as well as top-ranking engineering journals. I also led the development of “The International Handbook of Space Technology”, which has sixty contributing authors, including high-profile contributors from Japan, the USA and Europe.

I was the only non-US member of a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s committee on ‘Achieving Science Goals with CubeSats’, and I am one of only two European Associate Editors of the Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics, the top-ranked archival journal in Aerospace Engineering. I am a member of Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Study Group on ‘Small Satellites for Space Sciences’, as well as providing expert advice to, amongst others, the Institute for Defense Analyses, Science and Technology Policy Institute, based in Washington, D.C.


Has expertise in:

    • Space Mission Analysis & Design
    • Space Technology
    • Astrodynamics
    • Swarm Engineering
    • Network Systems
    • Systems Engineering
    • Technology Roadmapping and Analysis
    • Technical Foresight & Horizon Scanning
    • Advanced Concepts
    • CubeSats
    • Modelling & Simulation


Incorporating solar activity into general perturbations analysis of atmospheric friction
Kerr Emma, Macdonald Malcolm
Journal of Guidance Control and Dynamics Vol 41, pp. 1320-1336, (2018)
Orbit period modulation for relative motion using continuous low thrust in the two-body and restricted three-body problems
Arnot C. S., McInnes C. R., McKay R. J., Macdonald M., Biggs J.
Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy Vol 130, (2018)
Combined high and low-thrust geostationary orbit insertion with radiation constraint
Macdonald Malcolm, Owens Steven Robert
Acta Astronautica Vol 142, pp. 1-9, (2018)
Poissonian communications : free space optical data transfer at the few-photon level
Griffiths Alexander D., Herrnsdorf Johannes, Lowe Christopher, Macdonald Malcolm, Henderson Robert, Strain Michael J., Dawson Martin D.
Bipartite guidance, navigation and control architecture for autonomous aerial inspections under safety constraints
Punzo Giuliano, MacLeod Charles, Baumanis Kristaps, Summan Rahul, Dobie Gordon, Pierce Stephen, Macdonald Malcolm
Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems, (2018)
Novel solar sail mission concepts for high-latitude earth and lunar observation
Heiligers Jeannette, Parker Jeffrey S., Macdonald Malcolm
Journal of Guidance Control and Dynamics Vol 41, pp. 212-230, (2017)

more publications

Research interests

Distinctively my work spans both the upstream space sector (building and operating spacecraft), and downstream space sector (the services and data that come from the spacecraft). With a focus on the end-to-end development and application of space mission systems my work enables new space-derived data product concepts through advances in space technology.

My specific interests are in the use of advanced concepts, such as solar sailing, and multi-spacecraft platforms to enable new space services through the application of concepts from networked systems and swarm engineering, combined with astrodynamics and space system design. The recent development of small, low-cost spacecraft has led to increased interest in deploying large or even very-large constellations of spacecraft to enable new space-derived datasets and services. To-date, this remains challenging due to the limited resources on-board such platforms coupled with the limited payload capacity. By spanning the up and downstream my fundamental research is developing the means to maximise the performance of these resource-limited, low-cost platforms to enable radical enhancements of, or completely new space-derived services and data. As such my research seeks to develop concepts in, and applications of space technology, including solar sailing, nanosatellites, and constellations, by developing research into astrodynamics, networked systems, swarming, and distributed and collaborative systems.

Professional activities

Springer-Velag, Berlin, Heidelberg (Publisher)

more professional activities


KTP - Birdi
Roper, Richard (Principal Investigator) Connor, Richard (Co-investigator) Macdonald, Malcolm (Co-investigator) Owens, Steven Robert (Co-investigator)
Period 04-Mar-2018 - 03-Mar-2020
EPSRC Global Challenges Research Fund Institutional Sponsorship Award 2017 (GCRF) / R171051-107
Macdonald, Malcolm (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Jul-2017 - 31-Mar-2018
Impact Acceleration Account - University Of Strathclyde 2012 / R120526-251
Macdonald, Malcolm (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2012 - 31-Mar-2017
Impact Acceleration Account - University Of Strathclyde 2012 / R120526-252
Macdonald, Malcolm (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2012 - 31-Mar-2017
Reconfigurable, Agile Spacecraft Constellation Architectures
Macdonald, Malcolm (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Apr-2018 - 31-Mar-2019
Macdonald, Malcolm (Principal Investigator) Lowe, Christopher (Co-investigator) Owens, Steven Robert (Co-investigator)
Period 01-Jun-2017 - 31-May-2020

more projects


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
James Weir Building

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