Malcolm Macdonald, B. Eng. (Hons) PhD C.Eng. FRAeS


  • United Kingdom

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Personal profile

Research Interests

Distinctively my work spans both the upstream space sector (building and operating spacecraft), and downstream space sector (the services and data that come from the spacecraft). With a focus on the end-to-end development and application of space mission systems my work enables new space-derived data product concepts through advances in space technology.

My specific interests are in the use of advanced concepts, such as solar sailing, and multi-spacecraft platforms to enable new space services through the application of concepts from networked systems and swarm engineering, combined with astrodynamics and space system design. The recent development of small, low-cost spacecraft has led to increased interest in deploying large or even very-large constellations of spacecraft to enable new space-derived datasets and services. To-date, this remains challenging due to the limited resources on-board such platforms coupled with the limited payload capacity. By spanning the up and downstream my fundamental research is developing the means to maximise the performance of these resource-limited, low-cost platforms to enable radical enhancements of, or completely new space-derived services and data. As such my research seeks to develop concepts in, and applications of space technology, including solar sailing, nanosatellites, and constellations, by developing research into astrodynamics, networked systems, swarming, and distributed and collaborative systems.

Expertise & Capabilities

  • Space Mission Analysis & Design
  • Space Technology
  • Astrodynamics
  • Swarm Engineering
  • Network Systems
  • Systems Engineering
  • Technology Roadmapping and Analysis
  • Technical Foresight & Horizon Scanning
  • Advanced Concepts
  • CubeSats
  • Modelling & Simulation

Personal Statement

A professional space technology engineer, academic & director with a strong, proven and international record of accomplishment. I am the Director of the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications, and a Non-Executive Board Member of the UK Space Agency.

I was awarded the 2016 Royal Society of Edinburgh Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane Medal in recognition of my “outstanding research work in the development and application of space mission systems to challenge conventional ideas and advance new concepts in the exploration and exploitation of space.”

Distinctively for an engineer, my publications are in journals such as Scientific Reports, and Physical Review E, as well as top-ranking engineering journals. I also led the development of “The International Handbook of Space Technology”, which has sixty contributing authors, including high-profile contributors from Japan, the USA and Europe.

I was the only non-US member of a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s committee on ‘Achieving Science Goals with CubeSats’, and I am one of only two European Associate Editors of the Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics, the top-ranked archival journal in Aerospace Engineering. I am a member of Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Study Group on ‘Small Satellites for Space Sciences’, as well as providing expert advice to, amongst others, the Institute for Defense Analyses, Science and Technology Policy Institute, based in Washington, D.C.

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Projects 2009 2020

Research Output 2001 2018

Bipartite guidance, navigation and control architecture for autonomous aerial inspections under safety constraints

Punzo, G., MacLeod, C., Baumanis, K., Summan, R., Dobie, G., Pierce, S. & Macdonald, M., 19 Jan 2018, (Accepted/In press) In : Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems. 19 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Electronic guidance systems
Structural health monitoring

Combined high and low-thrust geostationary orbit insertion with radiation constraint

Macdonald, M. & Owens, S. R., 30 Jan 2018, In : Acta Astronautica. 142, p. 1-9 9 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Electric propulsion


Design and analysis of inflatable space structures

Author: Puri, M. S., 1 Jul 2014

Supervisor: Macdonald, M. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Activities 2014 2018

  • 1 Participation in workshop, seminar, course
  • 1 Journal or guest editorship
  • 1 Invited talk

Agile Satellite Systems for Responsive Earth Observation

Ciara McGrath (Invited speaker), Malcolm Macdonald (Invited speaker)
16 Oct 2018

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

Faculty Robotics and Automation Users Group Discussion

Gareth Pierce (Organiser), Alan Oakley (Participant), Dimitris Drikakis (Participant), Deepak Uttamchandani (Participant), William Ion (Participant), Xiu Yan (Participant), Erfu Yang (Participant), Massimiliano Vasile (Participant), Malcolm Macdonald (Participant), P J Rowe (Participant), Marcus Perry (Participant), Charles Norman MacLeod (Participant), Gordon Dobie (Participant), Daniel McMahon (Participant), Stephen Marshall (Participant), Mark Post (Participant), Lykourgos Petropoulakis (Participant), Carmelo Mineo (Participant), Gaetano Di Caterina (Participant), David Harle (Participant), Walter Michie (Participant), Robert Stewart (Participant), Janine de fence (Participant), Stephen McArthur (Participant), Alexander Galloway (Participant), Daryl Landeg (Participant), Atilla Incecik (Participant), Campbell Booth (Participant), Andrew Heyes (Participant), Alexander Duffy (Participant), Zoe Shipton (Participant), Anthony Gachagan (Participant), Remi Christophe Zante (Participant), Tony Rodden (Participant), Rahul Summan (Participant), Graham Wren (Participant)
10 Oct 2017

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course


Novel orbits for solar sail spacecraft: adoption by international space agencies and influence on their policies and investment

Colin McInnes (Participant), Malcolm Macdonald (Participant), Massimiliano Vasile (Participant), James Biggs (Participant)

Impact: Impact - for External PortalEconomic and commerce, Policy and legislation