Lassonde PhD students make history with award for young scientists

Two PhD students in York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering are among the only five Canadians to ever receive the highly prestigious COSPAR Outstanding Paper Award for Young Scientists.

photo of Junjie Kang

Junjie Kang

Junjie Kang and Peng Li were both named recipients of the 2018 Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) award for their papers published in COSPAR’s journal, Advances in Space Research.

This award is widely recognized as the most valued paper award in the field of space research, said Lassonde Professor George Zhu, who supervises both students. Zhu is a Tier I York Research Chair in Space Technology in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and is co-author on both papers.

Kang is a third-year PhD student and earned the award for his paper titled “Fractional order sliding mode control for tethered satellite deployment with disturbances.” The paper seeks a fast and stable way to deliver a satellite into lower Earth orbits using a tether. His research topic is about the dynamics and control of the tethered spacecraft system and its application in space debris removal.

photo of Peng Li

Peng Li

Li is a fourth-year PhD student, and earned the award for his paper titled “State Dependent Model Predictive Control for Orbital Rendezvous Using Pulse-Width Pulse-Frequency Modulated Thrusters.” The paper explores a new control scheme for spacecraft rendezvous in space. His research topic is about the model predictive control theory and its application in spacecraft rendezvous.

COSPAR was established by the International Council for Science in 1958. Every two years, it selects approximately 25 papers from its flagship publication, Advances in Space Research, for the Outstanding Paper Award for Young Scientists. The recipients must be the first authors under 31 years of age. Since the establishment of the award in 2008, only three Canadians have been recipients (including Kang and Li).

Zhu’s research is in the areas of dynamics and control of the tethered spacecraft system, spacecraft rendezvous, and space robotics for on-orbit service and space debris removal. He is the principal investigator of two Canadian CubeSat missions to be launched in April 2019 and 2021. His team has published more than 125 papers in high-impact peer-reviewed journals and a similar number of papers in conference proceedings.