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Professor Hugh G Lewis BSc, MSc, PhD


Professor Hugh G Lewis's photo

Dr Hugh G Lewis is a Professor within Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton.

I gained a Masters degree in Control Systems from the University of Sheffield in 1993 and a PhD in Remote Sensing from the University of Southampton in 1998.  Afterwards, I worked as a research assistant on the EU Framework 4 project FLIERS (Fuzzy Land Information from Environmental Remote Sensing), based in Electronics and Computer Science, before commencing a three-year contract at the end of 1999 as a researcher on an EPSRC funded project on the long-term evolution of the space debris environment.  This work led to a decade-long working relationship with Dr Graham Swinerd, the development of the DAMAGE space debris model, my work for the UK Space Agency, numerous publications and an inspiring (and also challenging) journey into the realm of space debris and Near Earth Objects.  For the last six years I have represented the UK Space Agency (previously the British National Space Centre) in Working Group 2 of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) and I now lead the Group's research on space debris modelling.  In 2011 I was nominated as the United Kingdom's representative to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) Expert Group B (Space Debris, Space Operations and Tools to Support Collaborative Space Situational Awareness), supporting the activities of the UN COPUOS STSC Working Group on the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities.

Research interests

My research falls into three main areas:

Space Debris
The Astronautics Research Group has been involved in work on space debris modelling since 1992.  I started in this area in 1999, working with Dr Graham Swinerd.  We have developed a number of models, including DAMAGE, a state-of-the-art evolutionary model, and FADE.  Our space debris research has been supported by research studentships funded by the EPSRC, the former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), QinetiQ, the European Union Framework 7 Programme and internally here at the University.  I also represent the UK Space Agency on the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), the intergovernmental forum for discussing space debris issues.

Near Earth Objects
Due to their high relative speeds with respect to the Earth and large mass, NEOs can have extremely high kinetic energies, which on impact can be equivalent to the detonation of many nuclear weapons.  Impact effects include atmospheric blast waves, thermal radiation, seismic shock and, for ocean impacts, tsunami.  The impact of a NEO on the Earth represents a catastrophic, multi-hazard, natural disaster.  Research efforts are targeting the technical roadblocks to the development of a science-based policy that addresses the NEO impact hazard.  My focus has been on the development of risk assessment and decision-support tools.  These include NEOSim, NEOImpactor and, more recently, NEOMiSS.

Remote Sensing
With the arrival of a new generation of Earth observation spacecraft with high spatial, spectral and temporal resolution, better technologies are required to process the large volume of data they provide.  Research into these technologies is focusing on generalisable solutions that aim to reduce the errors and uncertainties in more traditional approaches.  With Professor Peter Atkinson in Geography, we have developed an artificial neural network approach to resolve information at a finer spatial resolution than the sensor provides.  This tool was built using a software framework for processing remotely sensed images, which I wrote whilst working on the EU Framework 4 project FLIERS.  Other work addresses the need to understand changes arising from natural disasters or from pre-planned urban development, and reducing risk from natural hazards.

Other research areas
I also have interests in fractionated satellite concepts, cloud computing and human cognitive modelling using artificial neural networks.  With Dr Sarah Stevenage in Psychology, we wrote the IACAPA person acquisition simulator, which is based on the Rochester Connectionist Simulator.  I am currently working with Professor Simon Cox and Dr Kenji Takeda to develop a cloud computing solution for some of the operational aspects of space debris removal.


Research group


Research project(s)



Fractionated satellites

A new way of implementing space systems.

CANOPUS: low cost access to space

CANOPUS is a proposed new concept of space launch operations designed to lift very light payloads over the Kármán line (the edge of space, at 100km above ground level) at a considerably lower cost than current systems, as well as offering the potential of near-immediate launch slot availability.

Technology for Improving Re-Entry Predictions of European Upper Stages through Dedicated Observations

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Book Chapters



Module titleModule codeDisciplineRole
Concurrent Design for Space Applications SESA3024 Aerospace Engineering Course leader
TT Pt I Induction Programme SESG1010 Engineering Sciences Course leader
Astronautics SESA3005 Aerospace Engineering Tutor
Computing SESA2006 Aerospace Engineering Tutor
Spacecraft Systems and Design SESA3010 Aerospace Engineering Tutor
Professor Hugh G Lewis
Southampton Boldrewood Innovation Campus
University of Southampton
Building 176
Burgess Road
SO16 7QF

Room Number : 176/2041

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