Dr. Rohan Sood, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

From Celestial Mechanics to Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) Scout Mission and the Future of Space Exploration
April 6, 2018


Astrodynamics -- applying the science behind celestial mechanics to support space exploration and mission design. As a part of NASA’s Exploration Mission One (EM-1), thirteen low-cost CubeSats were selected as secondary payloads to be launched with the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. With the delay in the launch of EM-1, NASA’s Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) Scout mission has gone through a number of iterations. NEA Scout spacecraft is a 6U CubeSat that employs a solar sail as a low-thrust propulsion system to perform a close flyby of asteroid 1991 VG. Although mission analysis shows that the target asteroid is still within the reach despite a two-year delay, setting the launch date no earlier than 2020, alternate targets have also been considered. Contingency scenarios for the NEA Scout mission are currently being explored. Several additional candidate asteroids, that are of significant interest to the scientific community are also investigated as potential alternate targets. High-fidelity trajectory design and analysis were carried out to perform close flybys and rendezvous with one or more near-Earth asteroids. EM-1 aims to pave the way for future missions to reach multiple destinations within our solar system and, one day, beyond.


Dr. Rohan Sood

Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics, and also serves as the Director of The University of Alabama’s Astrodynamics and Space Research Laboratory. In 2009, Sood graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. Sood moved to Purdue University in the fall of 2009 where he worked in the Multi-body Dynamics Research Group and also became a member of the GRAIL mission science team. Sood received his M.S. degree in 2012 and Ph.D. in 2016 in astronautics with a concentration in astrodynamics and space applications. Sood’s research interests include spacecraft trajectory design, spacecraft attitude dynamics and control, remote sensing of planets and small bodies, and the human exploration and habitation of extraterrestrial bodies. Sood's research has emerged as a combination of two fields, applying engineering tools to study advanced concepts within multi-body dynamical systems and investigating scientific data to explore celestial bodies. Dr. Sood is also working with 3-D ​and Virtual Reality (VR) tools to enhance spacecraft trajectory design capabilities, understanding, and student classroom experience.