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  • Welcome to the Space Systems Design Laboratory (SSDL)

The Space Systems Design Lab (SSDL) at the Georgia Institute of Technology creates space technologies and advanced mission concepts that enable new missions and capabilities in robotic and human space exploration. Research focuses on space flight applications and projects. We use modern engineering tools including mission design methodologies, systems engineering, additive manufacturing, simulation, optimization, sensing, estimation and control to propose, participate in, and operate space flight missions that conduct space science and demonstrate new technologies.

The SSDL is a multi-faculty, interdisciplinary research lab located within the School of Aerospace Engineering. The SSDL is currently directed by Prof. E. Glenn Lightsey. Prior SSDL Directors include David A. Spencer (2010-2016), Robert D. Braun (2003-2016), and John R. Olds (1998-2005).

Focus Areas

Small Satellite Flight Projects

Full life cycle design from mission concept to operations

Space Technology Development

Technology maturation enabling new capabilities for spacecraft

Mission Campaign Optimization

Applying optimization theory to design sequential missions

Spacecraft Guidance, Navigation and Control

Creating new methods for spacecraft control

Featured Projects

Upcoming Events


SSDL Ph.D. student Bec Palmer from Dr. Glenn Lightsey’s group received the 2024 NSTGRO Fellowship. Her research, which is titled “Debris to Infrastructure: Salvage Characterization and Recovered Metals Processing in Lunar Gravity” will investigate the recovery and reuse of orbital debris into commodity feedstock material to be employed in other space projects. The primary source of salvaged material will come from derelict satellites and other space debris

SSDL students Eric Comstock, Jennifer Nolan, and Theo St. Francis were awarded the prestigious NSF GRFP fellowship. This award supports their work in advancing fundamental science and technologies. Of the 37 NSF GRFP fellowships awarded to aerospace engineers this year, 3 of them are members of the SSDL!

William Jun (SSDL Ph.D. graduate) and Glenn Lightsey received the M. Charles Fogg Best Paper Award for their paper “Position, Velocity, and Timing for Lunar Descence and Landing with Joint Doppler and Ranging” presented at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in March 2024. Dr. Jun’s Ph.D. research focused on reduced infrastructure navigation in interplanetary environments.

Dr. Lightsey was recognized by the AE School with the John W. Young Endowed Chair which supports research in space exploration. Dr. Lightsey’s group has developed several advanced technologies for small spacecraft, including miniaturized propulsion systems, and has built and flown technology demonstration missions for NASA, NSF, and DOD. Dr. Lightsey is also the Chair of Georgia Tech’s Interdisciplinary Space Research Initiative.

Dr. Romero-Calvo has received NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) award for his research on improved electrolysis using magnetohydrodynamics. The concept that he and his team are working on will allow the efficient and reliable creation of oxygen and hydrogen gas in microgravity with up to 50% mass savings compared to current technologies. The NIAC award will fund further research and exploration of the topic.

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