ISI Directory

David Barnhart

Research Professor


M.E., Aerospace & Ocean Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg VA
B.S., Aerospace Engineering, Boston University, Boston MA


David Barnhart is a Professor in the Department of Astronautical Engineering and Director of the Space Engineering Research Center within the Information Sciences Institute. At the SERC he has helped develop innovative solutions in aerospace and small satellite systems and technologies, new satellite design-synthesis tools to cut design time down to days from months, hybrid robotics concepts for satellites with the ability to be demonstrated in very large multi-dimensional low-cost ground testbed, and new technologies in rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO). The SERC created and launched USC’s first Cubesat’s into space and has clean room and electrical/mechanical labs that can support satellites up to 100kg. Previously he co-founded several companies in the space sector, the latest a Space Infrastructure-as-a-Service company that supports the new field of commercial Servicing. He has authored over 80 articles, conference and journal papers all available upon request and regularly moderates panels and forums at national and international conferences.

Research Summary

Rendezvous and Proximity Operations Research: Includes work in sensor fusion, “DNA” signature development of any/all objects in orbit, genetic algorithms applied to swarm or multi-body constellations, advanced ground tracking concepts, genderless docking systems development and cooperative vs non-cooperative efficiencies in fuel/safety.

Space Robotics: Includes development of conformable end affectors and robotic systems using novel gecko/electro adhesion technology for grasping, mapping the trade space between conformable and controllable systems, exploring self locomotive soft robot systems using non-fluidic mechanisms for on orbit inspection.

Spacecraft Technology: Includes pursuit of cellularized systems research for aggregation of normal satellite functionality to scale, exploration of design to code operations to accelerate integration, creation of process to enable bespoke systems to be built via students, etc.


· Office of Secretary of Defense Exceptional Public Service Medal
· USC Mentoring Award for Astronautics and Space Technology Division
· AIAA Space Systems Award, Team Member Recipient for Boeing/AFRL XSS-10 Spacecraft Mission
· Elected Member, National AIAA Space Logistics/Space Systems Technical Committee
· Elected Associate Fellow, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
· Air Force Research Laboratory, “Program Manager of the Quarter Award”
· Acquisition Professional Development Program Certification Level III: Program Management and Systems Engineering
· ACAT Team Honored at 25th Anniversary Celebration of Apollo XI by Vice President Al Gore, Los Angeles CA
· USC Viterbi Innovation in Research Award