Jay McMahon

Assistant Professor

Aerospace Engineering Sciences
University of Colorado Boulder

Contact Info
Phone: (303) 492-3944
Address: 431 UCB, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309
Email: jay.mcmahon@colorado.edu

Research Interests
I conduct research in spacecraft guidance, navigation, and control (GNC), astrodynamics, and small body science - specifically asteroids and comets. Although there are many exciting areas of research in these fields today, my focus is on the following areas which I find to be crucial to humanity’s future in space:
- spacecraft autonomy
- asteroid missions and resource utilization
- orbital debris
- asteroid dynamics and evolution
- commercial space

Professional Experience
- Assistant Professor, University of Colorado at Boulder, 2016-Present
- Assistant Research Professor, University of Colorado at Boulder, 2013-2016
- Research Associate, University of Colorado at Boulder, 2011-2013
- Graduate Research Assistant, University of Colorado at Boulder, 2008-2011
- Member of the Technical Staff, The Aerospace Corporation, 2004-2008

- Ph.D. Aerospace Engineering Sciences, University of Colorado, 2011
- M.S.E. Astronautical Engineering, University of Southern California, 2006
- B.S.E. Aerospace Engineering, University of Michigan, 2004

Find the details on my CV


The images above illustrate some of the areas of research I have worked on. Starting from the top left: an artists illustration of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft performing its touch-and-go sampline of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu; a simulated flash LIDAR image of Itokawa used for on-board orbit detrmination (courtesy Ann Dietrich); an example of a 3-spacecraft formation flight controller performance; the Lofted Regolith Sampling (LoRS) concept of operations; a high area-to-mass ration (HAMR) shape model with the corresponding SRP force maps below; the Golevka shape model with the surface colored to illustrate the angle with respect to an incoming laser ablation beam; the KW4 binary asteroid shape models used as the basis for dynamical studies.


Space Vehicle Guidance & Control

This course gives a comprehensive view of guidance systems used in space vehicles, and methods for analyzing the performance of these systems. The types of guidance systems covered include launch vehicle ascent, intercept/rendezvous, interplanetary, orbit station-keeping, atmospheric re-entry, lander, and low-thrust. The mathematical foundation of these systems is derived and discussed. Real world applications are presented by reviewing selections from published literature. Course work emphasizes performance analysis.

Statistical Orbit Determination 2

This course provides an in-depth discussion of advanced orbit determination techniques.The focus is on the fundamentals of these methods based on non-linear estimation theory. Topics covered include extended Kalman filters, unscented Kalman filters, square-root information filters, consider covariance analysis, and particle filters.


I’m lucky to have an amazing family! My wife, Sarah, and two kids Maggie & Finn, and of course our faithful hound Kona. They make sure that I am never bored and alway happy!