My research expertise is in astrodynamics and space mission analysis and design, particularly as applied to constellations for Earth observation. I use analytical approaches, where possible, to understand space system dynamics and to generate mission designs that can meet a given set of requirements. I have developed analytical descriptions of low-thrust spacecraft manoeuvres to investigate the possibility of using future small-satellite reconnaissance constellations to provide targeted observations of regions of the Earth, as well as fast methods of satellite coverage calculation to aid rapid mission analysis. Working with colleagues at the University of Strathclyde and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I have investigated the potential for such future systems to provide vital, on-demand, responsive space data to support disaster response for forest fires and tropical storms.
At the core of my research is a desire to support people and life on Earth. Where possible, I have used my research to support organisations to make the best use of currently available space data, as well as to investigate the possible advantages of future space missions. This has included: working with Historic Environment Scotland to assess available space data suitability for archaeological site detection and condition monitoring; consulting with the Scottish Remote Sensing Working Group to establish satellite data needs to monitor and manage land-use change; and working with the University of Edinburgh to design a space lidar mission that could enhance our understanding of global biomass. Recently, work with Nith Inshore Rescue and Creative Help Ltd using satellite data to map navigable estuary channels, was shorlisted for the Copernicus Masters Prize 2020 and the E&T Innovation Awards. Testing of our developments is being undertaken by the dedicated volunteer crew at Nith Inshore Rescue, and it has already been used to rescue a pod of minke whales that had become trapped in the treacherous Solway Firth.