Michael Swartwout, PhD
Associate Professor and Chair
Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Parks College of Engineering, Aviation, and Technology
Saint Louis University
3450 Lindell Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63103 

Member of AIAA, IEEE

McDonnell Douglas Hall 1017
(314) 977-8214
(314) 977-9510
McDonnell Douglas Hall 2110
phone: (314) 977-8214

  • PhD, Aeronautics & Astronautics, Stanford University, 2000
    Dissertation:  "Theory and Implementation of Summarization:  Improving Sensor Interpretation for Spacecraft Mission Operations"
  • MS, Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering, University of Illinois, 1992
    Thesis:  "An Investigation of Minimum-Fuel Rendezvous for Low-Thrust, Constant Specific Impulse Engines in a Linearized Gravity Field"
  • BS, Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering, University of Illinois, 1991
[Clearly, I did not earn a degree in "Succinct Title-Writing" ...]

Research Interests
My primary research work is performed through the Space Systems Research Laboratory (information on our spacecraft missions is contained there).
  • CubeSat Design, Success and Debris - I've developed an online database of every CubeSat (and secondary spacecraft) ever flown. Using that data, I am interested in improving our understanding how mission success (or lack thereof) relates to both the composition of the design team, the type of mission attempted and outside factors. The end goal is to be able to recommend mission categories and best-practices that will maximize the success rate for any type of CubeSat developer, whether they are hobbyists, high-schools, university clubs, startups or space behemoths. Recently, questions of the debris "problem" posed by CubeSats have surfaced, and I'm adapting my database to study that as well.
  • Design and operation of low-cost spacecraft - I'm particularly interested in the ways that universities can leverage their very high tolerance for risk to introduce new technologies and architectures that will improve the "professional" space industry.  The best recent example of this is the CubeSat standard, developed by Profs. Twiggs (then at Stanford) and Puig-Suari (Cal-Poly), where more than 50 CubeSats were launched in the first six years - a blink of the eye in aerospace time.  My interests are in identifying technologies, yes, but also understanding why certain ideas catch on and others don't.
  • Space situational awareness - SSA is the ability to define and (very importantly) predict the space environment.  SSA includes both the natural space environment (radiation, electromagnetic activity, the trace atmosphere) and man-made (both active spacecraft and debris).  My particular interest is in detecting, characterizing and observing nearby spacecraft.
  • Space history, space logistics, and space mission failures - While those topics appear to have very little in common (other than the word "space"), the three are tightly intertwined:  the success and failure of past space missions (and especially the reasons for those failures) have a direct effect on the logistics of modern space missions (i.e., the organizations involved in space and the manner in which spacecraft are designed, tested, launched and operated).  Some speak of the "cost and risk death spiral" of modern space missions, where expensive spacecraft cannot be allowed to fail, which means additional time and money is spent on redundancies, analysis and testing, which means they are even more expensive, which makes it even more necessary to eliminate failure, which means additional time and money on redundancies, analysis, and testing ... well, I'm interested in spiraling the other direction, where we build missions so inexpensively that we can fly more of them, and can afford to let one or two fail.  This isn't a matter of just spending less money, but of carefully defining missions, risk and the way in which one will approach the design process.

Courses Taught at SLU
•  ESCI 2150: Dynamics (formerly ESCI 211) Fall: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010
Spring: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011
•  ESCI 3110: Linear Vibrations (formerly ESCI 330) Fall 2011, Spring 2011
•  AENG 4050: Space Mission Analysis and Design (formerly AENG 493-17) Fall 2015, Fall 2014, Fall 2013 (Advanced), Spring 2013, Fall 2012 (I&T), Spring 2012, Fall 2010
•  MENG 4300: Heat Transfer (formerly AENG 455) Spring 2016Summer 2011, Summer 2010
•  AENG 3150: Astrodynamics (formerly AENG 322) Spring: 20162015, 2014, 2010
•  AENG 2000: Introduction to Aeronautics & Astronautics Fall 2009
•  AENG/MENG 1001: Introduction to Aerospace/Mechanical Engineering   Fall: 2015, 2014
Spring 2016, 2015
•  ESCI 102: Freshman Engineering II (replaced by AENG/MENG 1002) Spring: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010
•  ESCI 101: Freshman Engineering (replaced by AENG/MENG 1001) Fall: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009