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  James W. Cutler -- Home Page


[contact info] [student opportunities] Office hours (F17)
Wed 14:00 - 15:00
Fri 13:00 - 14:00

Thank you for visiting! I am an associate professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan. My research interests center on space systems--a multidisciplinary approach to enabling future space capability with particular emphasis on novel, nanosatellite missions. Other topics include (but are not limited to):

RAX Engineering Development Unit
  • Nanosatellites -- We are pushing the state of the art in what can be done with small satellites. Our current emphasis is on nanosatellites, systems that weigh between 1-10kg. We are developing novel subsystems including radios, power systems, high speed computing (FPGA-based), and attitude determination and control. Our current mission is the Radio Aurora Explorer, a 3U Cubesat mission for the NSF measuring space weather processes.

  • Optimization of Design and Operation of Resource Constrained Vehicles -- Small vehicles, nanosatellites for example, are constrained in mass, volume, and surface areas. This limits power production and available resources for systems such as payloads, communication, and attitude determination and control. We are developing analytical models based on first principles to optimize vehicle design given requirements and vehicle operation given flight envelopes and operational desires. Our initial development is focused on optimal small satellite design and operations.

  • Vehicle communication networks -- Sensor systems generally produce more data than what can be communicated. Our goal is to reduce this communication contraint on mobile platforms such as satellites and UAVs. We are currently working to develop analytical models for ground communication networks that have dynamic availability and modeling vehicle operational communication needs. Following this, we will develop algorithms for optimal utilization of both ground communication and vehicle resources.

  • Sensor Systems -- We are developing novel approaches to low-cost sensor systems and noise reduction techniques. For example, how do we make precise measurements when the act of measurement itself disturbs the quantity we are measuring?. Our initial work is with magnetometers. This work will benefit systems such as satellites, UAVs, and distributed, low-power sensor networks.

  • Other topics of interest -- Robust space computing infrastructure, deep space exploration.

News and Updates...

  • Latest news and updates are found on the blogs below:
    • Research Blog - Updates from MXL - The Michigan Exploration Laboratory.

Student Opportunities...

  • Research: If you are interested in research with me, feel free to contact me by email. My research is described in the text above, and independent study work is described below.

  • Independent Study: Please send me an email if you are interested in any of the following or something related that is not listed. I have worked with students on these types of projects in AE390, AE490, AE590, AE405, and similar classes in other departments. Specific projects are posted here.


  • AEROSP 347 -- Spaec Flight Mechanics
  • AEROSP 450 -- Flight Software
    Fall Semester: 2009, 2010
    This course introduces fundamental computing theory and programming practices for robust design, implementation, and testing of modern flight software systems. Lectures follow parallel theory and practice tracks. Topics in computational theory include discrete mathematics, finite automata, computational complexity, and model checking. Equally-emphasized, software development topics include object-oriented programming, network and multi-threaded software, and embedded system programming. Projects and assignments focus on Aerospace applications, ranging from sensor data processing to embedded guidance, navigation, and control.

  • AEROSP 483 -- Space System Design
    Winter Semester: 2009 - 2015, 2018 (planned)
    Introduction to the engineering design process for space systems. Includes a lecture phase that covers mission planning, launch vehicle integration, propulsion, power systems, communications, budgeting, and reliability. Subsequently, students experience the latest practices in space-systems engineering by forming into mission-component teams and collectively designing a space mission. Effective team and communication skills are emphasized. Report writing and presentations are required throughout, culminating in the final report and public presentation.

  • AEROSP 548 -- Astrodynamics
    Fall Semester: 2011 - 2013, 2016
    Review of two-body problem for spacecraft: orbital trajectories, transfers, targeting, and time of flight. Orbit perturbation formulations and analysis. Restricted 3-body problem and applications.

Also, I thank AGI for their generous sponosorship of our classes through their supply of STK.

Contact Information...

James W. Cutler
1320 Beal Avenue
3013 Francois Xavier Bagnoud Building
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2140
Email: jwcutler_AT_umich.edu
Phone: 734-615-7238
Fax: 734-763-0578


Office hours (F16)
Wed 14:00 - 15:00
Fri 13:00 - 14:00
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