Stardust Early Stage Researchers

ESR1 – Matteo Manzi

Project: Intelligent Uncertainty Treatment in Orbital Mechanics

Matteo is a Stardust-R Early Stage Researcher and PhD candidate at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow; his work focuses on the development of an AI-based framework for Space Environment Management.

He was born and raised in Montefiascone, a small village in Central Italy.
He obtained a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering, cum laude, at the University of Pisa. After winning a talent scholarship, he enrolled at the Technical University of Delft, where he obtained his Master of Science in Space Flight (Space Exploration track). His MSc thesis, written in the context of the Erasmus+ program at Politecnico di Milano, focused on the application of Lagrangian Coherent Structures in astrodynamics, in order to develop a flow-informed strategy for Ballistic Capture trajectory design. During his MSc, he worked as an intern at the NLR (Netherlands Aerospace Center), where he developed a Radio Frequency ranging system, suitable for CubeSats, in order to perform formation flying relative navigation.

He likes stand-up comedy, busking and teaching.

ESR1’s Project

This work relates to the development of methods and tools for uncertainty quantification and optimal control under uncertainty, the development of an AI-based tool in support of space traffic management and future satellite operations, the development of solutions to increase the resilience of the space environment, the definition of optimal strategies for collision avoidance and disposal of space debris and the deflection of asteroids, the improvement of our prediction capabilities and better manage high risk rare events.


ESR2 – Sai Abhishek Peddakotla

Project: Multi-fidelity demise and survivability modelling of complex re-entry objects

Sai Abhishek Peddakotla was born on the 22nd of May, 1995 in a traditional weaver’s family in Yadiki, a small village in the state of Andhra Pradesh and raised in the several areas of Andhra Pradesh throughout his schooling in India. He is a firm believer in “the law of attraction” and derives his motivation from the curiosity and boundless possibilities in space flight. His hobbies and interests include listening to classical guitar and piano music, an avid aficionado of Japanese anime, football, pencil sketching and a fountain pen enthusiast.
He obtained a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering (2012-2016) from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Coimbatore, India with a distinction. He obtained a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering specialised in aerodynamics (2016-2018) from the IITK, India where he also earned an Academic Excellence Award for his performance. Majority of his time at IITK during master’s degree was oriented towards studying and understanding several particle-based simulation techniques like DSMC and MD under the guidance of Prof. Rakesh Kumar at the Non-equilibrium Flow Simulation Laboratory (NFSL). Before joining his current position, he worked as a “Project Engineer” during 2018-2019 at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK), India with Prof. Rakesh Kumar on several phenomena related to rarefied, re-entry physics from a particle-based computational framework.
Sai Abhishek Peddakotla is currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early Stage Researcher in the “Stardust-R” project and a PhD candidate at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. His work focusses on the development and implementation of uncertainty based multi-fidelity approaches for the effective and efficient prediction of the demise of space objects during re-entry. Particular emphasis will be given to understand the relevant fragmentation process under the re-entry aero-thermal environment.

ESR2’s Project

This work relates to the development of methods and tools for the design and uncertainty quantification of space objects that are due to completely demise during re-entry. The work associated to this post will investigate both the physics of the re-entry process, including possible fragmentations, and the required computational tools to estimate the footprint of the fragments and the probability of a ground impact.


ESR3 -Mauricio Misquero
Project: Dynamics of space debris within different orbital elements regions

Analysis of lunisolar resonances, including the effect of solar radiation pressure; investigation of highly eccentric objects (HEO), which might be affected by conservative and dissipative forces along their orbits, according to the altitude as the eccentricity varies; study of highly inclined objects.


ESR4 – Tudor Vartolomei

Project: Proper elements for Space Debris

Tudor Vartolomei was born in 1995 in Vaslui, Romania. He studied Applied Mathematics at the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, from which he graduated in 2019. He had the BSc thesis in the field of Dynamical Systems (Fluid Dynamics) and the MSc thesis in the field of Machine Learning(Statistics and Optimization). His research interests include Celestial Mechanics, Hamiltonian Systems, Perturbation Theory and Numerical Methods. Tudor is currently an Early Stage Researcher in the “Stardust-R” project at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, where he is also a PhD student.
His work focuses on the calculation of proper elements of space debris.

ESR4’s Project

Characterization of the populations of space debris by using techniques of perturbation theory (normal forms); study how orbit determination uncertainty propagates for control and mitigation of space debris; implement perturbation theory to extend, to the fully non-linear regime, linear variational methods currently used for determination of the growth in time of separation between nearby orbits.

ESR5 – Edoardo Legnaro
Project: Resonant long term dynamics and the chaotic diffusion of space debris


ESR6 – Roberto Paoli

Project: Disposal orbits and asteroids debris

Roberto Paoli was born in Pisa, Italy, on January 30, 1991, but he has lived for most of his life in Livorno, a city on the west coast of the Italian peninsula.

He obtained a Master’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Pisa in 2019, with a master thesis titled “Chaos in the Anisotropic Kepler Problem”, under the supervision of Prof. Claudio Bonanno.
During his time at the University of Pisa he was part of the Physical Mathematics Working Group of the Department of Mathematics, and he took part in activities such as the Settimana Matematica (Mathematical Week), an outreach activity for high school students.

In the summer of 2019 he was selected as an ESR in the Stardust-R Project, and he was admitted in the PhD program at the Alexander Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, Romania, where he is currently living.

His research focuses mainly on Hamiltonian systems, Perturbation Theory and their applications to Celestial Mechanics, such as the dynamics of space debris or the motion of a body near an irregularly shaped object.

In his spare time he likes to play music, read and skateboarding.

ESR6’s Project

Design disposal orbits through dynamical studies based on the determination of regular and chaotic regions in the parameter space and orbital coordinates; Analyse the dynamics associated to objects with high area-to-mass ratio; Study the dynamics of space debris around asteroids as a generalization of the analysis around the Earth to objects with highly irregular shapes; Disseminate the results obtained;

ESR7 -Irene Cavallari
Project: Patching simple dynamics to model a more complex one

Study when a patched integrable dynamics is representative of a more complex one; study how linked integrable solutions can be used in orbit determination; search for a new definition of region of influence of the Earth by studying patching techniques in the restricted three body problem.

ESR8 -Oscar Rodriguez Del Rio
Project:  Identification and correlation of very short arcs of observations

Apply some of the new initial orbit determination (IOD) methods and create a complete OD pipeline which is able to deal with very large database of observations; include in the existing IOD methods some perturbations, e.g., planetary close approaches for asteroids, Earth oblateness
for debris.


ESR9 – Marco Fenucci

Project: Modelling and simulation of small asteroid populations

Marco Fenucci was born in San Miniato, a small village between Pisa and Firenze, on March 24 1992.

He graduated in Mathematics at the University of Pisa in October 2016. In November 2016, he joined the Ph.D in Mathematics in the same university, under the supervision of Prof. Giovanni Federico Gronchi. In October 2018 he visited the University of Barcelona for a period of four months, collaborating with Prof. Ángel Jorba.

In the summer 2019 he was elected as an ESR in the Stardust-R Project at the Faculty of Mathematics of the University of Belgrade. His work will focus on the dynamics and the criticality of small asteroids.

In his spare time he likes running, hiking and reading.

ESR9’s Project

Our current knowledge of the orbital and size distribution of a very small asteroids, down to few tens of meters in size may not be fully appropriate. Some available estimations are based only on indirect evidence, such as disruption rate of main belt asteroids. The asteroid belt is also subject to evolutionary processes, but so far, no model has included all the important processes affecting asteroid evolution. Besides, new models still have to be successfully tested against known constraints.

The project will be aiming to better understand the orbital and size distribution of small asteroids, below 100 meters in size. To achieve project’s goals the ESR should study dynamical and collisional evolution of asteroids in this size range, combine this in a single self-consistent model, and test the model against all available constraints.

In addition, the ESR will work on characterization of near Earth asteroids and should define a criticality index that provides a measure of how easy the asteroid is to deflect with a given deflection method, and how interesting the asteroid is to explore and to exploit.


ESR10 – Shubham Vyas

Project: On-Orbit Servicing with Robotic Manipulators

Shubham Vyas is an Early Stage Researcher within the Stardust Reloaded Marie Curie ITN at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). Shubham earned his Bachelors in Aerospace Engineering from SRM University in India and MSc from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. His research within the Stardust-R project is focused on developing and experimentally validating real-time control algorithms for space manipulators to be used in On-Orbit Servicing and Active Debris Removal missions. During his bachelors, he worked on developing an air-bearing testbed for free-floating manipulators. For his Master’s thesis, he researched Uncertainty estimation methods in vision-aided space-to-ground teleoperation systems at the Human Robot Interaction Laboratory at ESA-ESTEC. His professional experience includes working as a Software Engineer at the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON). His research interests are Space Robotics, On-orbit Servicing, Hardware-in-Loop Simulation, Satellite Thermal Control, and Teleoperation systems. In his free time, he enjoys playing Table Tennis, Floorball, and travelling.

ESR10′ Project

The ESR will work full-time in the field of space robotics towards the goal of developing and experimentally testing control algorithms for an autonomous free-floating manipulator system to capture and manipulate both non-cooperative and cooperative targets.

The main tasks will be:

Development of on-orbit servicing and active debris removal disposal solutions
Development of a real-time control system for a free-floating space manipulator to ensure the execution of a reference trajectory despite disturbances and parameters uncertainty
Development of control strategies to deal with contact interactions in microgravity and their evaluation using an underwater vehicle
Test final concepts on the flat-floor of the orbital robotics lab of ESTEC-ESA

ESR11 – Karl-Martin Kajak
Project: Autonomous Embedded Close-Proximity Navigation System

The ESR will work in the field of spaceborne close-proximity navigation towards the goal of developing an embedded navigation system for robust relative state estimation.

The tasks will be:
• Develop algorithms for 3D-reconstruction of a spacecraft.
• Implement robust and accurate methods for 6D pose estimation.
• Fuse several sensors to improve the system performance and robustness.
• Test and validate the algorithms using simulations and experimental facilities.

ESR12 – Emma Stevenson
Project: Advanced Machine Learning and Computational techniques for Space Traffic Management

The main objectives of this project are:

● To develop machine learning techniques to predict collisions, sequences of close encounters and plan collision avoidance manoeuvres.

● To develop methodologies to estimate the risk of the execution of collision avoidance manoeuvres by fusing simulated and historical scenarios.

● To develop methods to fuse multiple sources of information, with different levels of fidelity and reliability.

● To apply these methodologies to support ground operators.

● To develop visualisation and simulation environments to assess the performance of these methods.

ESR13 – Mattia Pugliatti
Project: Small spacecraft for minor bodies exploration and exploitation

Within Stardust-R, the ESR will cover the activities involving autonomous Guidance, Navigation, and Control of low-resources systems for exploration and exploitation of small bodies.
The scenario considers exploration and required prospection in view of a possible exploitation achieved through specific missions and related science realised with interplanetary CubeSats.
Autonomous deep-space and close proximity navigation, as well as autonomous orbit guidance and control will be the fundamental areas of research. The activities foresee the design and execution of hardware-in-the-loop experiments using breadboards.


  • To develop models for the simulation of orbit-attitude motion of under-actuated space systems;
  • To formulate novel astrodynamics methods accounting for low-resources, limited authority space systems;
  • To assess operations, autonomy, and navigation accuracy of small satellites in the proximity of small bodies;

Study cases:

1) stand-alone, deep-space CubeSat to a minor body,

2) CubeSat released in situ by a mothership about a minor body.

ESR14 – Pelayo Peñarroya
Project: Intelligent Navigation and Control System for Minor Celestial Body Descent and Ascent


ESR15 – Stefano Casini

Project: Design and Implementation of Navigation and AOCS Systems for Autonomous CubeSat

Stefano Casini is a Stardust-R ITN Early Stage Researcher at Hyperion Technologies BV and TU Delft, where he is also enrolled as a PhD student in the Space Engineering department. His current work involves the design and validation of autonomous navigation and AOCS systems for deep-space CubeSats. He obtained a BSc in Aerospace Engineering and then a MSc in Space and Astronautical Engineering with honors (cum laude), both from Sapienza University of Rome, from which he also received the 2019 excellent graduate award. He participated two times to the Erasmus+ program: first at Universidad Carlos III of Madrid, Spain, during his 3rd BSc year and then at Instituto Superior Técnico of Lisbon, Portugal, during his 2nd MSc year. He has been an intern at the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) both for his BSc and MSc thesis: the BSc thesis work focused on mapping and georeferencing lunar of landing sites for laser ranging purposes, while the MSc thesis work focused on the thermal analysis of a spherical laser ranged satellite. After his studies, he has been a post-graduate scholarship holder at INFN, where he continued his thermal analysis work in coupling with mechanical design and testing. He published two journal papers: ‘A Preliminary Design of a Mission to Triton: A Concurrent Engineering Approach’ and ‘Thermal Influence of the Screw Axial Load on a 1-mm Accuracy Laser Ranged Satellite’, excerpt from the MSc thesis, first presented at the 15th PEGASUS conference. In the spare time, he likes playing guitar, doing sports and travelling with his camera.

ESR15’s Project

The high-level objective of this project is to address the growing need for a sustainable exploration of space, the resilience of the space environment, the threats and opportunities coming from asteroids and comets and the compelling need for properly trained specialists who can tackle these issues.