Zac Manchester is Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University, a member of the Breakthrough Starshot advisory committee, and founder of the KickSat project. He holds a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and a B.S. in applied physics from Cornell University. Zac has previously worked at Harvard University, NASA Ames Research Center, and Analytical Graphics, Inc. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, control, optimization, spacecraft, and robotics.
Zac initiated the KickSat project during graduate school, where he developed the electrical, mechanical, and communications systems underlying the Sprite - the world's smallest spacecraft. The project has the goal of dramatically reducing the cost of access to space and has drawn participants from all over the world. KickSat was financed through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter and awarded a launch through NASA's ELaNa Program.
From 2015 to 2017, Zac worked in the Agile Robotics Lab at Harvard, where he developed novel trajectory optimization and control algorithms for autonomous aircraft and legged robots. This work included new optimization-based methods for modeling, simulating, and performing motion planning through contact interactions (impacts and friction) between complex robotic systems and their environment, which has broad applications to robotic locomotion, grasping, and manipulation.
From 2012 to 2014, Zac worked at NASA Ames Research Center. In addition to his own research, he developed attitude determination and control algorithms for use on several Ames spacecraft. He also worked in the Ames SpaceShop experimenting with rapid prototyping equipment (3D printers, laser cutters, and desktop CNC machines) to build spacecraft components.
Prior to entering the Ph.D. program at Cornell, Zac also worked at the aerospace software firm Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI), where he contributed to the development of several AGI products including Satellite Tool Kit (STK) and the STK Components software development library.