Research Groups


Astronaut Performance Lab

Working Towards Next Generation Deep Space Habitats

The Astronaut Performance Lab (APL) is a research initiative at the University of Southern California as a part of the Habitats Optimized for Missions of Exploration (HOME), a specialized NASA Space Technology Research Institute. With a primary emphasis on human factors engineering, our objective is to deepen the understanding of human and AI-based autonomous system interactions within the challenging environment of deep space habitats. Our mission at APL is to explore and optimize human performance in space habitats where astronauts execute various hands-on tasks in teaming with AI-based autonomous systems. We adopt a human-centric research approach, seeking to unravel astronauts' cognitive, psychological, and physiological intricacies and how these elements influence their interactions with autonomous systems across diverse operational scenarios. Although we are not involved in designing and developing AI-based systems, the insights gained from our research can serve as a valuable guide for AI developers. Our findings can aid in crafting these systems that work harmoniously and intuitively with human operators, fostering a seamless and efficient work environment in space habitats. A key component of our work lies in our experimental design, where we simulate the conditions of deep-space habitats to investigate human-autonomy teaming. These experiments allow us to generate crucial insights that inform strategies to bolster the collaboration between astronauts and AI systems. Our focus is on enhancing safety, efficiency, and productivity in space operations, ensuring that future deep space missions are as successful as they are ambitious. (This description was generated in collaboration with ChatGPT 4.0)

For HOME website please click here.

Professor Garrett Reisman


Laboratory for Exploration and Astronautical Physics (LEAP)

Pushing the boundaries of knowledge on astronautical plasma physics

The Laboratory for Exploration and Astronautical Physics (LEAP) is one of the foundational laboratories of the Department of Astronautical Engineering at the University of Southern California. Its primary vision concerns deepening the understanding of underlying plasma physics principles presented in the exploratory ventures of human kind through cosmos. As such, LEAP features a multitude of research lines ranging from space weather interactions with celestial and anthropomorphic bodies, space suit design, electric propulsion, atmospheric reentry, and planetary science.
LEAP employs a multitude of research methodologies, with a meritorious track record on numerical modeling resorting to the development of new computational methods for high-performance computing, and advanced expertise on experimental techniques deployed on the group's vacuum chambers.

For LEAP website please click here.

Professor Joseph Wang


Space Engineering Research Center (SERC)

Charting Next-Generation Space Research

The Space Engineering Research Center (SERC) is dedicated to disruptive space engineering, research and education of the second-generation workforce – including hands-on build, test and flight demonstrations of spacecraft and satellites. SERC seeks to challenge traditional methods of space R&D, manufacturing and exploration with approaches that dramatically reduce costs, enable novel capabilities and support vital democratization of the space domain.

For SERC website please click here.

Professor David Barnhart


Space Science, Technology, and Applications (SSTA)

Space Science, Technology, and Applications

Published on March 2nd, 2017

Last updated on October 17th, 2023