David Barnhart Research Professor, Director, Space Engineering Research Center, Information Sciences Institute and Department of Astronautical Engineering University of Southern California


David Barnhart is currently an active Research Professor in the Department of Astronautical Engineering at USC, and the Director/Co- Founder of the USC Space Engineering Research Center at the Information Sciences Institute (ISI). 

At USC David specializes in developing innovative technologies and architectures for 2nd generation space morphologies, rendezvous and proximity operations technologies/techniques, and hands-on projects with students, faculty and staff through an “engineering teaching hospital” construct. The SERC created and launched USC’s first two Cubesat’s into space in 2010 and 2012, and just completed its third in 2018. Over 200 students have graduated through the SERC’s hands on training capabilities and every summer hosts US and international student interns. SERC is currently the technical arm for a national and global standards development push for commercial rendezvous and servicing missions (CONFERS), creating a larger re-usable Lunar Lander simulator project, and has the third USC Satellite flight planned for Fall 2019.

David also serves as the faculty mentor and support lead for the Astronautic Departments student led and managed Rocket Propulsion Laboratory and Liquid Propulsion Laboratory. The RPL undergraduate student team recently completed their decade old goal of reaching the Von Karman Line and recovery using a solid rocket.

David was most recently a senior space Project Manager at DARPA, pioneering cellular spacecraft morphologies, satbotics, space robotics and low cost high volume manufacturing on the Phoenix and SeeMe projects. He represented the first DARPA space project at the United Nations COPUOS in Vienna Austria addressing new technology pushing the need for updates to space regulations and policy issues for next generation missions.

Prior to USC and DARPA David helped initiate two commercial space companies; co-founding and serving as Vice President and CFO for Millennium Space Systems in Los Angeles CA; and was the youngest elected member of a three-person international Executive Management board for a German startup in Bremen, Vanguard Space, one of the first companies working commercial spacecraft servicing.

David started his career as a civilian for the Air Force Research Labs spending over 13 years helping to birth several notable innovations in micro-miniature electronic technologies, micro-chemical/electric propulsion systems, some of the first small satellites for remote observations, and the first independent RPO missions. David has a Bachelors from Boston University and Master of Engineering from Virginia Tech both in Aerospace and Ocean engineering. He has published over 40 research papers and articles and speaks on 2nd generation space technologies nationally and internationally.