Originally from Ireland, I moved to the UK in 2009 to study for a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering and have since obtained a PhD in the area of Astrodynamics. I am currently a Research Associate at the University of Strathclyde with specialisms in astrodynamics, space mission analysis and design, and analytical techniques.
Currently, I am investigating the use of manoeuvrable constellations of small satellites for responsive Earth observation. Such systems could provide critical satellite data on-demand during natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes, for example, aiding first responders on the ground and ultimately saving lives. These agile constellations are being enabled by the “New Space” movement which has seen the industry move away from traditional large, expensive spacecraft to smaller satellites that can be produced quickly and cheaply. Scottish companies are leading this revolution, with more satellites built in Glasgow today than anywhere else in Europe.
My previous experience working with industry and the European Space Agency to design Earth observation missions has highlighted the challenges inherent in providing space data on demand. Some organisations are trying to address this by launching mega-constellations of hundreds of satellites, but this will add to our growing space debris problems. I am proposing an alternative solution. With my experience in astrodynamics and space mission design, I have developed a fast and efficient way to model large constellations of manoeuvring spacecraft and their concept of operations. These scenarios can involve many satellites with competing priorities, such as minimising fuel usage while also minimising time to data downlink. By modelling these systems using a combination of analytical manoeuvre calculation and graph theoretical techniques I hope to provide insights into a new and exciting way of operating in space.