The Penn State Department of Aerospace Engineering

Robert G. Melton

Professor of Aerospace Engineering
    and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Ph.D. (engineering physics), University of Virginia, 1982.


Room Address: 
229B Hammond Bldg.
Dept. of Aerospace Engineering 
Penn State University 
University Park, PA  16802-1401
Phone:  814-865-1185 Fax: 814-865-7092
photograph of R.G. Melton


Professor Melton performs research in low-thrust spacecraft trajectories, including the use of perturbation methods and the related development of alternative characterizations of unperturbed Keplerian trajectories. Increasingly, spacecraft will employ higher-efficiency, low-thrust engines for maneuvering, station-keeping. Earth-escape and planetary capture; efficient orbital motion under the influence of low-thrust and other non-gravitational influences. Professor Melton also studies satellite attitude dynamics and control of multi-body and flexible-body spacecraft. His students engage in analytical and computational studies of these problems.

Professor Melton received the Milton S. Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching (2006), the Lawrence J. Perez Memorial Student Advocate Award (2001), the PSES Premier Teaching Award (1992), PSES Outstanding Advising Award (1986), SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award (1986), and the PSES Outstanding Teaching Award (1985), and was president of the Penn State chapter of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society (1989-92). He is an Associate Fellow of AIAA and a Fellow of the American Astronautical Society (AAS), where he has chaired the Space Flight Mechanics technical committee and served as Vice President-Technical, Vice President-Publications, and as a member of the Board of Directors. He has also been a member of the International Astronautics Federation Astrodynamics Technical Committee.

Research Interests:
Orbital Mechanics, trajectory optimization, spacecraft attitude dynamics and control.

Selected Publications:

Yutko, B.M., and Melton, R.G., Optimizing Spacecraft Reorientation Maneuvers Using a Pseudospectral Method, J. Aerospace Engineering, Sciences and Applications, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2010, pp. 1-14.

Hur, P.-S., Melton, R.G., and Spencer, D.B., Meeting Science Requirements for Attitude Determination and Control in a Low-Power, Spinning Nanosatellite, J. Aerospace Engineering, Sciences and Applications, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2008, pp. 25-33.

Wissler, M.A., Spencer, D.B., and Melton, R.G., Coast-Arc Orbit Stability During Spiral-Down Trajectories about Irregularly Shaped Bodies, J. Spacecraft and Rockets, Vol. 44, No. 1, 2007, pp. 254-263.

Chianese, S., Spencer, D.B., and Melton, R.G., Selecting Projects for a Capstone Spacecraft Design Course from Real World Solicitations, J. Aviation/Aerospace Education and Research, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2006, pp. 27-40.

Chadwick III, W.J, Spencer, D.B., and Melton, R.G., Geometric Visibility of Ground Sites for Beacon/Relays on the Martian Moons, J. Spacecraft and Rockets, Vol. 43, No. 1, Jan-Feb. 2006, pp. 228-231.

Cichan, T., Melton, R.G., and Spencer, D.B., Control Laws for Minimum Orbital Change -- The Satellite Retrieval Problem, J. Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, Vol. 24, No. 6, Nov.-Dec. 2001, pp. 1231-1233.

Melton, R.G., Time-Explicit Representation of Relative Motion Between Elliptical Orbits, J. Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, Vol. 23, No. 4, July-August 2000, pp. 604-610.

Rubenstein, D.S. and Melton, R.G., Multiple Rigid Body Reorientation Using Relative Motion With Constrained Final System Configuration, J. Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, May-June 1999, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 441-446.

Starchville, T.F. and Melton, R.G., Optimal Low-Thrust Transfers to Halo Orbits About the L2 Libration Point in the Earth-Moon System (Elliptical Problem), Advances in the Astronautical Sciences, 1998, Vol. 99, pp. 1489-1506.

Mrad, N., Melton, R.G., and Kulakowski, B.T., Performance of Optical Sensors in the Control of Flexible StructuresJ. Intelligent Material Systems and Structures, Nov. 1997, Vol. 8, No. 11,  pp. 920-928.

Staugler, A.J., Chart, D.A., and Melton, R.G., A Reversed-Series Solution to the Universal Kepler Equation, J. Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, Nov.-Dec. 1997, Vol. 20, No. 6, pp. 1276-1277.

Ross, I.M., and Melton, R.G., Singular Arcs for Blunt Endoatmospheric Vehicles, J. Astronautical Sciences, 1993, Vol. 41, No.1,  pp. 35-51.

Stewart, D.J., and Melton, R.G., Approximate Analytic Representations for Low-Thrust Trajectories, Advances in the Astronautical Sciences, 1992, Vol. 76, pp. 1455-1467.

Melton, R.G., Lajoie, K.M., and Woodburn, J.W., Optimum Burn Scheduling for Low-Thrust Orbital Transfers, J. Guidance, Control and Dynamics, Jan.-Feb. 1989, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 13-18.

Ross, I.M., and Melton, R.G., A Symmetric Kinematic Transformation Pair Using Euler Parameters, J. Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, 1987, Vol. 10, No. 5, pp. 506-507.