Rebecca Foust Receives NASA Fellowship to Work on Autonomous Assembly and Construction in Space

Graduate student Rebecca Foust


Rebecca Foust has been awarded National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) Space Technology Researcher Fellowships (NSTRF).

Working with Associate Prof. Soon-Jo Chung, Foust is developing formation flying satellites that autonomously assemble into a large satellite, like intelligent tinker toys, then reform into another satellite when the first mission is complete. Such satellite configurations will conduct missions that are a less expensive and more robust alternative to large-scale space systems.

“This NSTRF project aims to fill the gap of developing both conceptual design and guidance and control algorithms of autonomously constructing a large space structure out of a predefined set of heterogeneous component satellites,” according to Foust.

Rebecca Foust's plans for connecting satellites.

Rebecca Foust's plans for connecting satellites.

“In particular, new algorithms and technologies are needed to combine reconfigurable formation flying with rendezvous and docking algorithms that can deal with a large number (100s-1000s) of a few heterogeneous types of satellites to form a desired three-dimensional shape in low Earth orbit,” Foust said. “Algorithms will be developed to handle heterogeneous swarm guidance, robust docking, control of a structure with changing control points (as the structure is built), and optimal reconfiguration.”The fellowship will cover up to four years of Foust’s doctoral study. The NSTRF program sponsors U.S. graduate student researchers who show significant potential through their studies to contribute to NASA's strategic space technology objectives.