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.


Dynamical influence driven space system design
Clark Ruaridh A, McGrath Ciara N, Macdonald Malcolm
Complex Networks 2021 (2021)
Dynamical influence driven space system design
Clark Ruaridh A, McGrath Ciara N, Macdonald Malcolm
Complex Networks 2021 (2021)
Fully decentralized cooperative navigation for spacecraft constellations
Qin Tong, Macdonald Malcolm, Qiao Dong
IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems Vol 57, pp. 2383-2394 (2021)
A journey of exploration to the polar regions of a star : probing the solar poles and the heliosphere from high helio-latitude
Harra Louise, Andretta Vincenzo, Appourchaux Thierry, Baudin Frédéric, Bellot-Rubio Luis, Birch Aaron C, Boumier Patrick, Cameron Robert H, Carlsson Matts, Corbard Thierry, Davies Jackie, Fazakerley Andrew, Fineschi Silvano, Finsterle Wolfgang, Gizon Laurent, Harrison Richard, Hassler Donald M, Leibacher John, Liewer Paulett, Macdonald Malcolm, Maksimovic Milan, Murphy Neil, Naletto Giampiero, Nigro Giuseppina, Owen Christopher, Martínez-Pillet Valentín, Rochus Pierre, Romoli Marco, Sekii Takashi, Spadaro Daniele, Veronig Astrid, Schmutz W
Experimental Astronomy (2021)
Novel concept of satellite manoeuvre planning using graph theoretical techniques
McGrath Ciara N, Clark Ruaridh A, Macdonald Malcolm
Advances in Space Research Vol 67, pp. 3775-3784 (2021)
Identification of effective spreaders in contact networks using dynamical influence
Clark Ruaridh A, Macdonald Malcolm
Applied Network Science Vol 6 (2021)

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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

Integration of an LED/SPAD Optical Wireless Transceiver with CubeSat On-board Systems
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

More professional activities


UK Space Agency Business Support Programme
Macdonald, Malcolm (Principal Investigator)
29-Jan-2021 - 31-Jan-2021
eXtended Satellite Production And Constellation Operations
Macdonald, Malcolm (Principal Investigator) McLaughlin, Graeme (Co-investigator) Clark, Ruaridh (Research Co-investigator) Lowe, Christopher (Research Co-investigator) McGrath, Ciara (Research Co-investigator)
04-Jan-2020 - 30-Jan-2023
Safe Passage – the shifting sands of the Solway Firth
McGrath, Ciara (Principal Investigator) Clark, Ruaridh (Co-investigator) Macdonald, Malcolm (Academic)
Innovation Voucher project with Creative Help Ltd to develop tidal channel mapping services using satellite imagery.
18-Jan-2020 - 12-Jan-2021
NSIP (phase 1) - Global Lidar Altimetry MISsion: GLAMIS
Lowe, Christopher (Principal Investigator) Macdonald, Malcolm (Co-investigator)
02-Jan-2020 - 31-Jan-2021
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

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