About the Author

Mason Peck Official Portrait

Mason Peck is Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University. From 2012 to 2013, Peck served as NASA’s Chief Technologist.

Peck has a broad background in aerospace technology, which comes from nearly 20 years in industry and academia. He has worked with NASA as an engineer on a variety of technology programs, including the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites. The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts sponsored his academic research in modular spacecraft architectures and propellant-less propulsion, and the International Space Station currently hosts his research group’s flight experiment in microchip-size spacecraft.

As an engineer and consultant in the aerospace industry, he has worked with organizations including Boeing, Honeywell, Northrop Grumman, Goodrich and Lockheed Martin. He has authored 82 academic articles and holds 17 patents in the U.S. and European Union.
Peck spent some of his early career at Bell Helicopter, where he worked on the V-22 Osprey and a smaller tilt-rotor aircraft that later would become the BA609. He also has experience with commercial communications satellites and military spacecraft as a guidance and control engineer and in mission operations at Boeing Defense, Space and Security. He was a principal fellow at Honeywell Defense and Space Electronic Systems, where he led advanced-technology programs, helped direct patent and intellectual-property investments, and worked in business development.

At Cornell, Peck’s work focuses on spacecraft dynamics, control and mission architectures. His long-term research objectives focus on the next frontiers in space-system design: spacecraft that exploit physics, particularly rigid and flexible dynamics at many length scales, to achieve innovative and surprising missions. His work represents a fusion of dynamical systems and systems engineering, two disciplines that are rarely considered in the same context. 

 The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and aerospace contractors have funded his academic research. Some of this research includes microscale flight dynamics, gyroscopic robotics, and magnetically controlled spacecraft, most of which have been demonstrated on NASA microgravity flights. Through Cornell’s Space Systems Design Studio, Peck supervises student satellite projects, including the CUSat in-orbit inspection technology demonstration and the Violet experiment. Violet will provide an orbiting test bed for investigations in technology that will enable more capable commercial earth-imaging satellites. Violet carries an ultraviolet spectrometer that will be used as a precursor to understanding exoplanet atmospheres.  One of his lab’s projects, the Kicksat spacecraft, will be the first flight demonstration of satellite-on-a-chip spacecraft and is planned for launch in March 2014.

Education

  • BA (English), University of Texas, Austin, 1989
  • MA (English Language and Literature), University of Chicago, 1990
  • BS (Aerospace Engineering), University of Texas, Austin, 1994
  • MS (Aerospace Engineering), University of California, Los Angeles, 1999
  • Ph D (Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineering), University of California, Los Angeles, 2001
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