James E. McKevitt

Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering Department

Loughborough University

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Multiphysics feasibility study of ‘aerial-aquatic’ spacecraft entry into Titan surface lakes.


The proposed spacecraft ASTrAEUS (Aerial Surveyor for Titan with Aquatic Operation for Extended Usability) is the 'aerial-aquatic' aerobot submitted to the European Space Agency Voyage 2050 Science Programme to enable further exploration of Titan. With roots in the fields of bioinspiration, biomimetics and microrobotics, this work furthers recent developments in the replication of the natural world, enabling 'aerial-aquatic' traversal.

Impression of a ‘plunge diving’ manoeuvre by an aerial-aquatic aircraft inspired by the gannet seabird (inset). Inset adapted from Design and Experiment of a Bionic Gannet for Plunge-Diving (Liang et al., 2013).

Other work

Research Timeline

May 2020

British Interplanetary Society, London

International Astronautical Congress Student Paper Competition (UK)

A presentation showing the ASTrAEUS mission concept and supporting multiphysics simulation results was presented to the British Interplanetary Society in May 2020, subsequently winning the undergraduate paper competition, further funding, and a position to present at the coming International Astronautical Congress in Dubai in October.


January 2020

Department of Physics, University of Oxford

British Planetary Science Conference

A poster showing the ASTrAEUS mission concept with supporting LS-DYNA simulations will be presented at the British Planetary Science Conference at the University of Oxford in January.


McKevitt, J., (2020). Aerial-Aquatic Titan Mission Profile [Poster]. In: British Planetary Science Conference, 13-15 January, University of Oxford. Pre-publication.

Event sponsors:

October 2019

Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid

Voyage 2050: Long-term Planning of the ESA Science Programme

The Voyage 2050 'bottom-up, peer-reviewed' Science Programme has been started by the European Space Agency to establish the agency's science goals for the coming decades. ASTrAEUS was included as an enabling technology in a White Paper, coordinated by A. Sulaiman from the University of Iowa.


Sulaiman, A. et al. (2019), 'Enceladus and Titan: Emerging Worlds of the Solar System', Voyage 2050 Workshop: Shaping The European Space Agency's Space Science Plan For 2035-2050. Salon de Actos, CSIC, Madrid, 29-31 October. Paris: European Space Agency.

Event sponsors:

September 2019

Centre International de Conférences de Genève, Geneva

European Planetary Science Congress - Division for Planetary Sciences Joint Meeting

The EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva was the largest joint meeting between the two organisations so far. J. McKevitt was a delegate representing Imperial College London and the ASTrAEUS vehicle, discussing the early stages of the research with other delegates.

Event sponsors:

July 2019

Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London

Undergraduate Research Position: Imperial College London

The ASTrAEUS project is started with the supervision of Dr I.C.F. Mueller-Wodarg and Dr A. Masters in the Space and Atmospheric Physics Group at the Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London. Work consists of fluid mechanical considerations on spacecraft entry and exit from Titan surface liquid.

December 2018

Royal Astronomical Society, 


Royal Astronomical Society Lecture

Following a lecture at the Royal Astronomical Society about the exploration of the solar system, by leading scientists including Dr I.C.F. Mueller-Wodarg, J. McKevitt approaches Imperial College London with the ASTrAEUS idea.

Research Partners

Royal Academy of Engineering

Royal Astronomical Society

Imperial College London

Loughborough University