Professor Malcolm Macdonald

Electronic and Electrical 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


Eigenvector alignment : assessing functional network changes in amnestic mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease
Clark Ruaridh, Nikolova Niia, McGeown William J, Macdonald Malcolm
PLOS One (2020)
Limits of drag augmentation at spacecraft end-of-mission, and a mitigation strategy
Kerr Emma, Macdonald Malcolm
Astrodynamics (2020)
Novel concept of satellite manoeuvre planning using graph theoretical techniques
McGrath Ciara N, Clark Ruaridh A, Macdonald Malcolm
Advances in Space Research (2020)
General perturbation method for satellite constellation deployment using nodal precession
McGrath Ciara N, Macdonald Malcolm
Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics Vol 43, pp. 814-824 (2020)
QUARC : Quantum Research Cubesat - a constellation for quantum communication
Mazzarella Luca, Lowe Christopher, Lowndes David, Joshi Siddarth Koduru, Greenland Steve, McNeil Doug, Mercury Cassandra, Macdonald Malcolm, Rarity John, Oi Daniel Kuan Li
Cryptography Vol 4 (2020)
Space mission resilience with inter-satellite networking
Lowe Christopher J, Macdonald Malcolm
Reliability Engineering and System Safety Vol 193 (2020)

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

The New Peers Review podcast episode 3
The New Peers Review podcast episode 2
"New markets: Scottish space industry grows in value to £4bn"
The New Peers Review podcast pilot
Agile Satellite Systems for Responsive Earth Observation
Invited speaker
Faculty Robotics and Automation Users Group Discussion

More professional activities


Satellite data for Condition monitoring & Archaeological Rapid Assessment
McGrath, Ciara (Principal Investigator) Werkmeister, Astrid (Researcher) Macdonald, Malcolm (Academic) Cowley, Dave (Co-investigator)
SCARA is supported through the PLANET ESA Third Party Missions Programme.

This project will assess the suitability of SkySat and PlanetScope imagery for a) detection of buried archaeological and cultural heritage sites, for b) monitoring the condition of known archaeological assets and for c) land-use change assessment on a national scale. The suitability of the data will be assessed in terms of frequency of coverage, the ease and accuracy with which proxy indicators of archaeological features (such as crop and soil marks) can be identified, and the ease and accuracy with which land-use changes which have particular implications for cultural heritage sites can be determined. Scotland will be used as a trial region, with the understanding that the developed methodology could be applied to other regions with similar climates, land-use and geology.
01-Jan-2020 - 28-Jan-2021
SFC GCRF Pump Priming - Cleaner Air for Kolkata
Bellingham, Richard (Principal Investigator) Beverland, Iain (Co-investigator) Ferguson, Neil (Co-investigator) Kelly, Nicolas (Co-investigator) Macdonald, Malcolm (Co-investigator) Rogerson, Robert (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2018 - 31-Jan-2019
Macdonald, Malcolm (Principal Investigator)
03-Jan-2018 - 31-Jan-2019
Comms QT Hub Partnership Resource III
Oi, Daniel (Principal Investigator) Macdonald, Malcolm (Co-investigator) Lowe, Christopher (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2018 - 30-Jan-2019
CMSIN-II (CEOI Resubmission) Compact Multi-Spectral Imager for Nanosatellites II
Oi, Daniel (Principal Investigator) Griffin, Paul (Co-investigator) Jeffers, John (Co-investigator) Macdonald, Malcolm (Co-investigator) Marshall, Stephen (Co-investigator) Murray, Paul (Co-investigator) Lowe, Christopher (Research Co-investigator)
23-Jan-2018 - 31-Jan-2020
Augmentation of Future QKD Networks with CubeSat Systems
Lowe, Christopher (Principal Investigator) Macdonald, Malcolm (Co-investigator) Oi, Daniel (Co-investigator)
The pace of space-based Quantum Key Distribution is now accelerating, with a number of proof-of-concept missions deployed or planned. Within the UK, the QUARC (QUAntum Research CubeSat) team has been progressing key enabling quantum technologies targeting minaturised satellite platforms. While it is known that CubeSats offer a cost effective and potentially disruptive demonstration opportunity, the extent to which these small satellites can augment emerging QKD ground and space based capability is yet to be addressed. This requires aligning the operational concept for CubeSat based QKD missions to the business needs of telecom providers and infrastructure. The work will bring together the mission and system design and enabling technologies with the context and timelines for deploying into these larger telecom driven system-of-systems. It will identify the feasibility of specific niches for exploitation by CubeSats as QKD matures based on these use cases, and work both with investors and segment suppliers to deliver an attractive and costed package providing a feasible route to market. In addressing an application market, the service level agreements and resultant CubeSat mission assurance necessary will be critical with buy-in from all stakeholders and tested with end users. The work will further inform technology development activities ensuring that effective technology or service raising opportunities can be taken. The innovation focus for this feasibility study is establishing the scope for CubeSats to augment the emergence and delivery of wider QKD networks, providing business context for enabling technology development, and generating a realistic baseline of the mission assurance necessary to satisfy end users and investors.
01-Jan-2018 - 28-Jan-2019

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