Nicolas Lee is currently a Research Engineer in Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University, working primarily on asteroid resource characterization and CubeSat technologies. Previously, Nicolas was a Ph.D. student at Stanford studying meteoroid impact effects on spacecraft, and a W. M. Keck Institute for Space Studies postdoctoral scholar in aerospace at Caltech, researching technologies for robotically assembled space telecopes, membrane structures for space solar power applications, and small satellite high voltage electronics.

Academic Appointments

  • Research Engineer, Aeronautics and Astronautics

Honors & Awards

  • Prize Postdoctoral Fellowship, W. M. Keck Institute for Space Studies (2013-2016)
  • First place, Ernest K. Smith Student Paper Competition, USNC-URSI (2013)

Professional Education

  • Ph.D., Stanford University, Aeronautics and Astronautics (2013)
  • M.S., Stanford University, Aeronautics and Astronautics (2007)
  • B.A.Sc., University of Toronto, Engineering Science - Aerospace (2005)


  • Asteroid surface resource characterization through plasma analysis of meteoroid impact ejecta, Stanford University

    Asteroids are constantly bombarded by much smaller meteoroids at extremely high speeds, which results in erosion of the material on the asteroid surface. Some of this material is vaporized and ionized, forming a plasma that is ejected into the environment around the asteroid where it can produce an effect on closely orbiting spacecraft.

    We present a concept to leverage this natural phenomenon and to analyze this excavated material using low-power plasma sensors in order to build a map of the composition on the asteroid surface. This concept would enable a constellation of small satellites to provide useful data complementing existing techniques such as spectroscopy, which require larger and more power-hungry sensors. By using a cluster of small satellites rather than just one single spacecraft, the asteroid surface can be mapped more rapidly in order to determine if it is a suitable candidate for further activities such as asteroid mining.


    Stanford, CA

    For More Information:

  • QB50, Stanford University


    Stanford, CA

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2021-22 Courses

All Publications

  • Estimation of hypervelocity impact parameters from measurements of optical flash INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF IMPACT ENGINEERING Goel, A., Lee, N., Close, S. 2015; 84: 54-63
  • A design algorithm for the placement of identical segments in a large spherical mirror Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems Lee, N., Pellegrino, S., Wu, Y. 2015; 1 (2)
  • Detection of electromagnetic pulses produced by hypervelocity micro particle impact plasmas PHYSICS OF PLASMAS Close, S., Linscott, I., Lee, N., Johnson, T., Strauss, D., Goel, A., Fletcher, A., Lauben, D., Srama, R., Mocker, A., Bugiel, S. 2013; 20 (9)

    View details for DOI 10.1063/1.4819777

    View details for Web of Science ID 000325399400004

  • Curved pleat folding for smooth wrapping PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A-MATHEMATICAL PHYSICAL AND ENGINEERING SCIENCES Lee, N., Close, S. 2013; 469 (2155)
  • Theory and experiments characterizing hypervelocity impact plasmas on biased spacecraft materials PHYSICS OF PLASMAS Lee, N., Close, S., Goel, A., Lauben, D., Linscott, I., Johnson, T., Strauss, D., Bugiel, S., Mocker, A., Srama, R. 2013; 20 (3)

    View details for DOI 10.1063/1.4794331

    View details for Web of Science ID 000317295200050

  • Measurements of freely-expanding plasma from hypervelocity impacts INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF IMPACT ENGINEERING Lee, N., Close, S., Lauben, D., Linscott, I., Goel, A., Johnson, T., Yee, J., FLETCHER, A., Srama, R., BUGIEL, S., Mocker, A., Colestock, P., Green, S. 2012; 44: 40-49
  • Electromagnetic pulses generated by meteoroid impacts on spacecraft JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-SPACE PHYSICS Close, S., Colestock, P., Cox, L., Kelley, M., Lee, N. 2010; 115