Dr Alan Stirling Brown Prize won by aerospace engineering PhD graduate

The School of Engineering has awarded the prestigious Dr Alan Stirling Brown Prize to Dr Alessandro Peloni, a PhD graduate in Aerospace Engineering.  This prize is awarded annually in recognition of the outstanding research by a postgraduate student in the School of Engineering.

During his doctoral studies, supervised by Dr Matteo Ceriotti, Alessandro collaborated with professors in Germany and the USA, researchers at the German Aerospace Center DLR as well as professors in the School of Engineering. In fact, he spent four months in the USA at the University of Florida collaborating with Prof Anil V. Rao. This visit was made possible by the grants awarded by the University of Glasgow and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Alessandro published his PhD research in five journal papers and in the proceedings of six international conferences.

Alessandro’s research aims at exploiting solar sailing for designing missions to rendezvous several near-Earth asteroids (NEAs). In fact, the scientific interest for NEAs and the classification of some of those as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) for the Earth stimulated the interest in their exploration. Due to its propellantless characteristic, solar sailing is a good candidate for a mission to several NEAs.

Alessandro’s PhD provides a set of feasible mission scenarios for informing the stakeholders on future mission options. It is shown that a large number of five-NEA rendezvous missions are feasible in a ten-year launch window, if a solar sail is used. Moreover, this research shows that the mission-related technology readiness level for the available solar-sail technology is larger than it was previously thought and that such a mission can be performed with current or at least near-term solar sail technology. Lastly, multiple-NEA rendezvous missions as the ones proposed in this research can be determinant for planetary defence as well. In fact, a knowledge about NEAs is needed to plan mitigation strategies against the potential threat to our planet caused by PHAs. The better our knowledge about these objects, the more successful a mitigation mission will be.

Founded in 2005 by Pamela and Gordon Cairns in the name of Pamela's father Dr Alan Stirling Brown, as acknowledgement of 35 years contribution to the University of Glasgow and in celebration of the honorary award of doctor of the University in 2001.

Alessandro Peloni

First published: 25 June 2018