Space Engineering Research

The Space Engineering Research and Graduate Program (SpaceED) at University of California was founded in 2001. Current research activities and course offerings are in:

  • Reusable Space Transportation Systems
  • Human rated Earth to Orbit space launch vehicles
  • Space Exploration/ Alternate propulsion systems
  • Dynamics and Control of Flight Vehicles (all Mach Ranges)
  • Precision Landing Recovery of Earth Return Vehicles (all L/D ranges)
  • Coupled Fluid/Structure/Acoustics Formulations
  • Vibration Isolation/Reduction systems
  • Effects of Space Flight on Human Spine
  • Advanced Propulsion Systems/ Reduced Scale Propulsion Testing
  • In-space Propulsion
  • Detection of Propulsion Combustion/defect instabilities using Acoustic Sensing
  • Effects of Sloshing in Dynamics of Spacecraft
  • Morphing Vehicles
  • Risk reduction via Scaled Experiments/Computations/Flight Testing

The SpaceED Executive Committee includes the following founding members:

Nesrin Sarigul-Klijn (Founding Director), Fedelis Eke, Bruce White

Alternates: Ron Hess, Marti Sarigul-Klijn

Board of Participants :

F. Eke (Founding Member), R. Hess(Founding Member), S.K.Robinson, J.P. Delplanque, R. Farouki, M. Gupta, M. Hafez, S. Hazelwood, S. Joshi, W. Kollmann, V. Lasaponara, B. Martin, M. Platzar, L. Rehfield, N. Sarigul-Klijn(Founding Director), M. Sarigul-Klijn (Founding Member), B. Shaw, C. Van Dam, B. White (Founding Member)

For more information contact:

Dr. Nesrin Sarigul-Klijn, Professor and Founding Director
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, 2132 Bainer Drive
University of California Davis
Davis, CA 95616-5294
Phone 530.752.0682



The SpaceED program is sponsoring a quarterly seminar series on space research. Members of the campus community and visitors from the region are welcome to attend the seminar series. Sign-in is required at the event. SpaceED seminar will replace MAE-297 graduate seminar on 3rd Thursdays.

Thursdays, 4:10 to 5:00 pm
Refreshments will be provided at 4:00 pm.
1062 Bainer Hall

Past Activities

42 nd Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit 9-12 July 2006
Sacramento California
Sponsored by AIAA and Aerojet
Technical Program Contacts:
Bill Kearney, Aerojet, JPC Technical Chair
Nesrin Sarigul-Klijn, UCDavis, JPC Technical Co-Chair


SpaceED program participants have close ties with industry and acknowledge in particular our local industry partner AEROJET for their support of our program. Aerojet, a GenCorp Inc. company, is a major space and defense contractor specializing in missile and space propulsion, and defense and armaments.

SpaceED Space Research seminar series were supported in part by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company

2001-2002 SpaceED seminar series was sponsored in part by California Technology and Space Alliance.


Past Seminars...

November 18 , 2010 Seminar

Superplastic Forming of Aerospace Materials

Professor A. K. Mukherjee
CHMS Dept, UC Davis

October 21 , 2010 Seminar

Launch Vehicle Propulsion Engineering and
Mission Success

Bill Kearney
Aerojet, Sacramento, CA

October 15 , 2009 Seminar

Non-dimensional Flight Dynamics of Trans-atmospheric Vehicles

Eugene A. Ustinov, Ph.D.
Caltech/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA


November 20 , 2008 Seminar

Professor Nesrin Sarigul-Klijn, Ph.D.
University of California, Davis

Dr. Abdollah (Abdi) Khodadoust
Phantom Work, The Boeing Company


October 16 , 2008 Seminar

Bill Kearney
Aerojet, Sacramento

May 15 , 2008 Seminar

Sanjay S. Joshi, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering
University of California at Davis

April 17 , 2008 Seminar


John L. Junkins, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Aerospace Engineering, Texas A&M University

February 21, 2008 Seminar

William G (Bill) Imes
Lockheed Martin (LM) Fellow
Systems and Electronics Engineering
Lockheed Martin, California

January 17, 2008 Seminar

Atmospheric Guidance for Spacecraft Entry, Descent and Landing
Professor K. D. Mease
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
University of California, Irvine

November 15 , 2007 Seminar

Sam Schlueter
Aerojet, Sacramento, CA

October 18 , 2007 Seminar

Personal Reminiscences About Wernher von Braun
In Connection With A Panel Flutter Problem On The
Saturn Space Launch Vehicles

Dr. Max F. Platzer
Professor Emeritus of Mechanical & Astronautical Engineering
Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA


May 17 , 2007 Seminar

System Engineering Trades – Large SRM Boost Propulsion for Space Launch Applications
Ed Casillas
Aerojet, Sacramento

April 19 , 2007 Seminar

Orion Lunar Return Challenges
Dr. James Reuther and Dr. David Hash
NASA Ames Research Center

February 15, 2007 Seminar

Experimental Demonstration of Technologies for Autonomous On-Orbit Robotic Assembly
Dr. David Schaechter
Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center
Palo Alto, California 94304

January 18 , 2007 Seminar

R. Bruce Martin, Ph.D.
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery,
UC Davis Medical Center

November 16, 2006 Seminar

Experiments & Experiences with Static Electricity
Dr. John Marshall
SETI Institute
Mountain View, CA

October 19, 2006 Seminar

The Vision for Space Exploration and The Orion Crew Vehicle
Sam Wiley
Chief Engineer for Aerojet’s Orion Propulsion Systems
Aerojet, Sacramento

April 20 , 2006 Seminar

“Near Space” – Where, Why, and What’s the Problem?
David K. Schmidt
Professor of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
University of Colorado – Colorado Springs

February 16 , 2006 Seminar

Industrial Applications of Design Optimization
Gary Vanderplaats, PhD, PE
President Vanderplaats Research & Development
Colorado Springs, CO

January 19 , 2006 Seminar

Petabytes from the Sky: Understanding our Dark Universe
Professor J. Anthony Tyson
Department of Physics, UC Davis

November 17 , 2005 Seminar

Aerojet Titan History
Bill Hoffman

May 19 , 2005 Seminar

SpaceShipOne’s Simulator and Vehicle Management System
Peter Siebold
Scaled Composites

April 21, 2005 Seminar

Mars to Earth Transportation for Geology Samples
John Whitehead, Ph.D.
Lawrence Livermore

February 16 , 2005 Seminar

NASA's Exploration of the Red Planet
Greg Wilson, Ph.D.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

November 18 , 2004 Seminar

Assuring Mission Success In Space Propulsion
Bill Kearney and Sam Wiley

October 21 , 2004 Seminar

Force Limited Vibration Testing
Dennis Kern
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

February 19 , 2004 Seminar

Microsatellites – How They Can Revolutionize Space
Jeff Janicik
SpaceDEV Poway, CA

January 15 , 2004 Seminar

An Alternative Computational Approach to
Mass and Heat Transfer on Earth Reentry

Dr. Mark A. Havstad
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

October 16, 2003 Seminar

An Overview of the Atlas V Solid Rocket Booster
William J. Kearney

May 15, 2003 Seminar

Space Shuttle Atmospheric Re-Entry;Technology and Technique
Dr. Stephen K. Robinson
NASA Astronaut

Date: Thursday, May 15, 2003
Time: 3:10 - 4:00 pm
Location: 1062 Bainer Hall

April 17, 2003 Seminar

Free Flyers for Biological Research
Kenneth A. Souza
NASA Ames Research Center

Date: Thursday, April 17, 2003
Time: 3:10 - 4:00 pm
Location: 1065 Engineering II

February 20, 2003 Seminar

Manned Sub-Orbital Reusable Launch Vehicles
Dr. Marti M. Sarigul-Klijn
University of California, Davis

Date: Thursday, February 20, 2003
Time: 4:10 - 5:00 pm
Location: 1065 Engineering II

January 16, 2003 Seminar

Miniature Launch Vehicles for Mars Sample Return
Dr. John C. Whitehead
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Date: Thursday, January 16, 2003
Time: 4:10 - 5:00 pm
Location: 1065 Engineering II

November 21, 2002 Seminar

Advanced Rocket Propulsion at Orbitec
Dr. Eric E. Rice
President and CEO, Orbital Technologies Corporation (Orbitec)
Madison, WI 53717

Date: Thursday, November 21, 2002
Time: 4:00 - 5:00 pm
Location: 1065 Engineering II

October 24,, 2002 Seminar

Attitude Dynamics and Control of Flexible Spacecraft
Professor Brij N. Agrawal
Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey

Date: Thursday, October 24, 2002
Time: 2:10 - 3:00 pm
Location: 1065 Engineering II

May 16, 2002 Seminar

Launch Vehicle Aerodynamics - Challenging Problems in
Computational Design and Analysis

Vice President of NEAR Inc.
Mountain View, CA 94043-2212

Date: Thursday, May 16, 2002
Time: 3:00-4:00 pm
Location: 1062 Bainer

February 21, 2002 Seminar

Selection of Space-Propulsion System Using a Dual-Optimum Principle
Oscar Biblarz
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA

Date: Thursday - February 21, 2002
Time: 4:00-5:00 pm
Location: 1065 Engineering II

About the speaker - Professor Oscar Biblarz joined the Naval Postgraduate School after obtaining his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. His academic interests have been in high-temperature gas dynamics, in space propulsion and in laser aerodynamics. He also has had industrial experience at Hughes and GTE, having been involved with space propulsion and power since his baccalaureate days. He earned both the BS and MS degrees in Engineering from UCLA. He is co-author of the VIIth edition of Rocket Propulsion Elements with George Sutton.

Abstract - As electric propulsion becomes more competitive in space applications, there are many more thrusters to choose from. For the purely chemical systems, the index of performance has been almost exclusively a higher specific impulse. Now, with a number of electro-thermal, electrostatic and electromagnetic devices to choose from, the existence of a theoretical optimum specific impulse for every mission becomes quite significant. With a simplified analysis first proposed in the 1950's we can readily define such an optimum specific impulse. One difficulty with that analysis is that the problem remains unconstrained in that both payload mass fraction and burn time are initially undefined (even when the payload itself is specified and there is an upper limit on operating time). Thus the selection of a thruster remains far from unique. It is possible to constrain the problem by seeking the shortest burn time jointly with the appropriate highest value of the payload mass fraction. Such a dual-optimum criterion yields interesting results, which will be explored in the talk. The possibility of working with a dual-optimum may reduce some of the iterative nature of the design process.

Click here for more information in Acrobat pdf format.

January 17, 2002 Seminar - CANCELLED

Launch Vehicle Design in a Changing World
Dr. Charles A. Smith
2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle Program
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL

Date: Thursday- January 17, 2002
Time: 4:00-5:00 pm
Location: 1065 Engineering II

This seminar will discuss latest developments in NASA's Space Launch Initiative. Specifically, we focus on the 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Program, which seeks to mature the technology that would enable the development of a future low-cost and highly reliable reusable launch vehicle architecture to replace the existing Space Shuttle System. The program follows a rigorous systems engineering process, driven by requirements, to ensure appropriate trade studies and systems analyses are conducted that identify the best and most innovative design solutions. The role of NASA's Intelligent Synthesis Environment in the 2nd Generation RLV Program will also be highlighted.

Click here for more information in Acrobat pdf format.

November 15, 2001 Seminar

Integrated Solar Thermal / Solar Dynamic / Solar Electric Power Generation and Propulsion for In-Space Transportation

Thomas L. Kessler
Mgr, Advanced Propulsion and Power Programs
Boeing Phantom Works, Seal Beach, CA

Date: Thursday- November 15, 2001
Time: 4:00-5:00 pm
Location: 1065 Engineering II

Thomas Kessler (Tom) is currently the Program Manager for the SOTV Space Experiment program. He has over 22 years experience designing and managing the development of advanced space systems. Tom is also manager of the Boeing Space Transfer Vehicle (STV) initiative which is seeking innovative near term market for an OTV such as satellite rescue, debris removal, satellite servicing and inspection. Before this, Tom was Study Manager for the heritage Boeing Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) upper stage effort for the USAF. Tom also worked for General Dynamics Space Systems Division for 14 years in a series of positions: Chief of the Advanced Systems Design group; lead engineer of the internal Atlas Alternate Engine Study, which led to the current Atlas III; and Chief Engineer of the BMDO Single-Stage-To-Orbit Technology Program where he lead a group of 30 engineers in developing a subscale flight demonstrator concept. He received his BS in AE/ME in 1978 and MBA in1979.

SpaceEd Press Release

The following is a news release issued by UC Davis on May 16, 2001. It describes the basic goals and objectives of the new "SpaceED" program.

Grant to Launch Graduate Program in Space Engineering

A new University of California, Davis, program to launch graduate students on careers in space engineering will be supported by a grant of $125,355 from the California Competitive Space Grants Program.

In recent years, the U.S. space industry has had increasing trouble recruiting qualified aerospace engineers, according to UC Davis engineering professor Nesrin Sarigul-Klijn, who leads the program. For example, NASA has more engineers over the age of 60 than under 30, she said.

The SpaceED program will build up the space aspect of the existing UC Davis graduate program in mechanical and aeronautical engineering, said Sarigul-Klijn. Initially, the state grant will partially support four graduate students, help with recruitment of additional students, and fund curriculum development, she said. It will also help attract further funding from government and private sources.

SpaceED participants will include industrial partners such as SpaceDev, a San Diego-based company that plans to develop commercially viable deep-space missions.

While the traditional aircraft industry has declined in California, there are several companies building rocket motors and satellite systems, and three government-supported space agencies in the state. California schools need to respond to this change by adding space components to engineering programs, Sarigul-Klijn said.

Currently, UC Davis researchers are studying topics such as flight mechanics, extreme heat during flight, space vehicle design, and the biological effects of space flight. Sarigul-Klijn's laboratory is developing a reusable space launch vehicle concept called SwiftLaunch.

SwiftLaunch would be launched from a large cargo airplane and carry up to three people or a small payload into orbit. The proposal is currently being reviewed by NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

More information:

California Space Authority:

Media contacts:

Nesrin Sarigul-Klijn
Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering
(530) 752-0682

Andy Fell
UC Davis News Service
(530) 752-4533