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Space systems

The University of Washington is a major driver of the state’s hub of space research, industry and education. We contribute to and benefit from a unique intersection of aerospace, manufacturing, clean energy, data science and information technology. We have extensive experience attracting state and federal grants for space and have a demonstrated track record in technology transfer from basic research to startups.

The space sector is changing rapidly with exponential growth of commercial-led activities focused on off-planet science and eventual human habitation in a complex field of international players and rivals. We are also seeing the rapid evolution of traditional activities with the on-orbit servicing of satellites and systems as well as manufacturing and assembly in space. In addition, demand for data delivery and security and safety critical autonomy applications continues to rise.

A&A is leading the Space Systems and Infrastructure Networks (SSI-NET) cluster engaging faculty, departments and partners from across the University. Together, we will address key challenges to achieve off-planet activities that require vast increases in current technology to operate long-term in space and support biological life.

Key faculty

Key partners

Key research areas

  • Astronomy
  • Bioastronautics
  • Data science
  • GNC
  • Power
  • Robotics
  • Space systems
  • Structures/materials

Research highlights

Danylo Malyuta standing next to a whiteboard

Updating Apollo 11

Researchers show us what we gain by applying optimization algorithms to the iconic mission.

James Koch

More efficient rockets

Ph.D. student James Koch's research on rotating detonation engines may aid in building cheaper, lighter spacecraft.

A&A leads $1.2M NSF grant to advance autonomy through Mars missions insights

A research team spanning three universities led by A&A professor Behçet Açıkmeşe received a total of $1.2 million from the NSF.

Nailing the landings in space

A&A is solving the challenges of how and where to land on the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Award-winning student club

SEDS logo

SEDS: Students for the Exploration and Development of Space

SEDS is a national student organization that advocates for space exploration and development. Our UW SEDS chapter engages members with engineering challenges and competitions, space policy, and networking within the industry. We empower students to learn about space and engineer the solutions to reach it. 

Aeronautics & Astronautics CubeSat Team (AACT)

AACT is an organization of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students working together to design, build and test CubeSats. Our mission is to teach students the fundamentals of space systems and provide a hands-on experience that complements academic work.


As UW's student-run rocketry organization, we design, construct, test, and launch a hybrid engine rocket from the ground up every year. We participate in the international Experimental Sounding Rocket Association’s (ERSA) Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC). In 2018, we placed first in the highest altitude category at 30,000 feet with a student-researched and designed propulsion system.