Dr. Pablo Machuca

Dr. Pablo Machuca Varela

Visiting Professor
Academic Affairs
College of Engineering
Department of Aerospace Engineering



Primary Email: [email protected]


Primary Phone: 619-594-0637


Room 101 Building A
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182



Pablo’s research interests lie in the field of (deep-) space exploration, involving areas like astrodynamics, trajectory design, (autonomous) guidance, navigation and control (GNC), spacecraft attitude dynamics, (small-spacecraft) mission design and analysis, and systems design.

Research topics include Earth-orbiting missions and space debris modeling, cislunar space exploration (Earth-Moon region), small-body exploration (asteroids and comets), and planetary exploration. Current research efforts focus on cislunar optical navigation, uncertainty propagation in cislunar space, robust, autonomous cislunar guidance, asteroid gravitational modeling, autonomous attitude determination and control for comet fly-by missions, and small-spacecraft systems design and mission analysis.

If you are interested in undergraduate or graduate research in these topics, feel free to stop by my office in Building A, Room 101, or reach out via email at [email protected]


  • Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering – Cranfield University, UK (2017–2021)
  • M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics (Astrodynamics and Space Applications) – Purdue University, USA (2015–2017)
  • Bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering – Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain (2011–2014) 

Areas of Specialization

  • Astrodynamics and Trajectory Design
  • Deep-space Exploration, Mission Analysis, and Systems Design
  • Autonomous Guidance, Navigation and Control, and Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics 


Machuca, P., Ozaki, N., Sánchez, J.P., Felicetti, L., “Dust Impact and Attitude Analysis for JAXA’s Probe on the Comet Interceptor Mission,” Advances in Space Research, May 2022, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.asr.2022.05.070 

Machuca, P., Sánchez, J.P., “CubeSat Autonomous Navigation and Guidance for Low-cost Asteroid Fly-by Missions,” Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, November 2021, https://doi.org/10.2514/1.A34986 

Machuca, P., Sánchez, J.P., Masdemont, J.J., Gómez, G., “High-fidelity Trajectory Design to Fly-by Near-Earth Asteroids Using CubeSats,” Acta Astronautica, February 2020, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2019.09.041 

Machuca, P., Sánchez, J.P., Greenland, S., “Asteroid Fly-by Opportunities Using Semi-autonomous CubeSats: Mission Design and Science Opportunities,” Planetary and Space Science, January 2019, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pss.2018.11.002