Saroj Kumar, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and mission designer for advanced propulsion systems in the Propulsion Research Center (PRC) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, has been recognized by Space & Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) as one of 20 outstanding young space and satellite professionals age 35 and under. The announcement came in September 2022.
“This was something which I had never dreamed of, that I would be selected as a top young professional in the space industry on a global level,” says Kumar, who was nominated by Dr. Jason Cassibry, a UAH professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and has had his research supported by UAH’s Complex Systems Integration Laboratory.
“I am truly honored and thrilled to be recognized as one among the top 20 young professionals globally to watch in the coming years.”
The honorees were celebrated at SSPI’s 17th annual Future Leaders Celebration on October 12 during Silicon Valley Space Week in Mountain View, Calif.
His research at UAH started with nuclear fusion propulsion and now involves nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP), says Kumar, who is advised by Dr. Cassibry and Dr. Dale Thomas, a UAH professor and eminent scholar of industrial and systems engineering.
“Without their guidance and support I do not think I would have been able to succeed in this exciting and challenging research area,” he says.
SSPI’s annual list of the 20 Under 35 were selected from nominations submitted by the membership and evaluated by a panel of judges made up of many mentors supporting SSPI’s student outreach programs. At the Future Leaders Celebration, the three top-ranked members of the 20 Under 35 will be named as this year’s Promise Award winners.
Currently, Kumar is working on modeling NTP systems for robotic exploration missions to the outer solar system, along with determining NTP engine parameters for NASA’s Flagship and New Frontiers class robotic exploration missions. He’s been rewarded for his work with numerous best paper and presentation awards at various conferences.
“Along with the current research, I also believe my past research work and experience have contributed for this award, such as on the nuclear fusion propulsion during my master’s degree at UAH under the guidance of Dr. Cassibry and work on small satellite mission development for remote sensing applications in India,” Kumar says.
He holds a patent on a three-axis spacecraft reaction wheel actuator system design developed with his team while working on the small satellite mission.
SSPI Executive Director Robert Bell says this is the most global group of honorees in five years of the 20 Under 35 program, with executives and entrepreneurs from seven nations.
“They work in satellite fleet operations, spacecraft manufacturing, satellite service delivery, meteorology, testing, robotics, space medicine and the cutting edge of research into the systems of the future,” Bell says. “They are people we should all get to know if we can –because we may be working for them someday.”