New AE professor studies space travel infrastructure, small satellite systems
New faculty member Koki Ho hopes to design infrastructure system support for interplanetary travel as well as add expertise to the Aerospace Engineering at Illinois small satellite program when he joins the department in Spring 2016.
A recent PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s aeronautics and astronautics department, Ho’s work has involved mathematical modeling of logistics in human space exploration to planets, including Mars. A supply chain network would need to be established between Earth and Mars so launches from Earth can be kept to a minimum, Ho maintains. “There are lots of logistics challenges.”
“My PhD research develops a dynamic network optimization methodology for interplanetary supply chain management of human/robotic space exploration missions,” he said. “The application cases include human Mars and asteroid exploration.”
Ho worked on small satellite projects as a master’s student at the University of Tokyo, including the Nano-JASMINE, a 50 centimeter-class micro satellite designed for astrometry, or creating a map of the stars. Small satellites could be used in interplanetary missions as well, Ho said. “We could send the small satellites before sending humans to Mars.”
The use of small satellite systems data can be used in combination with global positioning systems (GPS) data for agriculture, disaster recovery, healthcare, or other humanitarian projects, Ho believes. He hopes to collaborate with AE Prof. Vicki Coverstone on the CubeSat project she leads, as well as work with AE Associate Prof. Soon-Jo Chung, who has researched satellite swarm formations, and AE Assistant Prof. Grace Gao, an expert in navigation systems.
“Illinois is very good at optimal control on the more theoretical side,” Ho said. “Illinois also has a pretty strong background in astrodynamics, and that’s something I want to integrate into mission planning.”
Formally an AE research assistant professor for the Fall 2015 semester, Ho will be at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), working as a visiting researcher on robotic missions from September through December. He will begin on campus in January.