Supriya Ghosh

David A. Spencer

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Fields  Aerospace engineering
Field  Aerospace Engineering
David A. Spencer
Institutions  Purdue University Georgia Institute of Technology The Planetary Society
Residence  West Lafayette, Indiana, United States

David A. Spencer is an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics and the director of the Space Flight Projects Laboratory at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is the principal investigator for the Prox-1 mission, and project manager for LightSail, a solar sailing CubeSat sponsored by The Planetary Society.



Spencer received B.S. and M.S. degrees in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue University in W. Lafayette, Indiana. He earned his Ph.D. from the Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, completing a dissertation on automated proximity operations using relative orbital elements.

Spaceflight career

Spencer worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 1991 through 2008. He served on mission design and navigation team for the TOPEX/Poseidon mission, and he was the lead mission designer for Mars Pathfinder, responsible for the design of the interplanetary transfer and the entry, descent and landing trajectory. Spencer served as the mission manager for NASA’s Mars Odyssey from 1997-2002, and Deep Impact from 2004-2005. He was the deputy project manager for the Phoenix Mars Lander, before leaving JPL to join the Aerospace Engineering faculty at Georgia Tech.

At Georgia Tech, Spencer founded the Center for Space Systems, and was the Co-Director of the Space Systems Design Laboratory, a multi-disciplinary research and educational organization dedicated to the design, development and operations of advanced space systems and technologies.

Spencer assumed the role of mission manager for The Planetary Society’s LightSail 1 spacecraft in 2015. LightSail 1 was launched with the U.S. Air Force X-37B spacecraft on May 20, 2015. Spencer led the team through a successful solar sail deployment almost a month later, before LightSail 1 reentered Earth’s atmosphere. The Planetary Society intends to launch a second LightSail spacecraft, LightSail 2, in 2017. For that mission, LightSail will be enclosed within Prox-1, an autonomous rendezvous technology demonstration SmallSat that will fly aboard the first operational flight of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. Prox-1 will provide on-orbit inspection of the LightSail 2 sail deployment event. Spencer serves as the principal investigator for Prox-1, and will reprise his role as mission manager for LightSail 2.

Spencer left Georgia Tech in 2016 to join the faculty of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University, where he has an active research program on small satellite applications, proximity operations, and aeroassist technologies. He is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and serves on the Board of Directors of the American Astronautical Society.


David A. Spencer Wikipedia

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