David Surovik

Research Profile

My predominant interests are in motion planning and control for dynamically complex and highly unintuitive systems — particularly via methods that leverage natural quirks and idiosyncrasies rather than avoiding or bluntly suppressing them. This theme binds together my recent PhD work in astrodynamics, my current postdoctoral studies in robotics, and maybe even a bit of my personal outlook.

Postdoc Topic - Robust Planning for Dynamic Tensegrity Structures

I am pursuing effective control and motion planning techniques for the spherical tensegrity robot SUPERball. This platform has been proposed as a planetary lander due to its modularity, low cost, light weight, and general ruggedness. It is a high-dimensional system capable of producing a wide variety of configurations and locomotive behaviors such as rolling, crawling, and perhaps jumping; however, the highly coupled and unintuitive mapping between system controls and resultant platform motion is well beyond the scope of standard control methods. The dual problems for tensegrity are to design a library of effective short-horizon motions, and a planner that intelligently reasons over these options to plot a robust long-horizon route over varying terrain.

PhD Topic - Autonomous Mission Design in Extreme Orbit Environments

In my former project, I developed an autonomous mission (trajectory sequence) design algorithm for spacecraft pursuing abstractly-defined science goals in orbit around asteroids or comets. The low masses and irregular shapes of these celestial bodies produce chaotic, dynamically rich orbit environments that cannot be effectively navigated with conventional methods based upon Kepler's laws. My approach instead leveraged adaptive sampling-based planning in a heuristic-guided receding-horizon scheme such that missions were constructed on-the-fly, with errors mitigated through a combination of robust design and reactive execution.


I grew up in central Texas and obtained my BS in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M University in 2011. From 2011 to 2016, I studied at the University of Colorado at Boulder, culminating in a PhD in Aerospace Engineering Sciences. I've also served twice on a NASA JPL team performing backup navigation operations and analysis for ESA's comet-rendezvous mission Rosetta during its most crucial operations: initial rendezvous and lander deployment in summer/fall 2014, and close-proximity study and orbiter landing in summer 2016.

Selected Publications


NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship, 2012-2016.

Contact Info

Department of Computer Science
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
110 Frelinghuysen Road
Piscataway, NJ 08854-8019, USA

Phone : 979.255.5323
Email : davidsurovik XatX gmail.com
Office : CBIM Room 14