TU Delft Space Institute

Spaceflight serves scientific, economic and societal needs. The TU Delft Space Institute contributes to the space sector with ground-breaking research. And since the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the institute demonstrates new techniques on missions in space. “Miniaturization is reshaping spaceflight”, says Eberhard Gill, director of TU Delft Space Institute. “By doing innovative interdisciplinary research our institute contributes to renewing spaceflight.” Sensing from Space, Distributed Space Systems and Space Robotics are the three focal themes of TU Delft Space Institute.

Sensing from Space
Sensing from Space is focused on improving remote sensing capabilities, the bedrock of many missions to space. Innovative sensor systems are crucial for observing the universe and monitoring our own planet. Read more

Distributed Space Systems
Sensing from Space intersects with the second theme, Distributed Space Systems, where multicomponent systems can form virtual instruments spread over several satellites. Navigation of constellations, and even swarms, is a challenging research area. TU Delft has all the necessary in-house expertise to do innovative research in this field. Read more

Space Robotics
Nowadays, the performance of small satellites is often severely limited by the lack of a propulsion system. The development of miniaturized propulsion systems is an important research topic within Space Robotics. Other topics are orbital servicing and space debris handling, as well as testing commercial devices under space condition. Read more

The TU Delft Space Institute is an open institute. The scientists collaborate with partners both from within and outside university. The research institute was founded in 2015. It is part of Delft University of Technology. Director Eberhard Gill: “It is a privilege to bundle the creative energy of all those great scientists, who do space research at TU Delft.” Read more

The mission of the TU Delft Space Institute is to bundle and create expertise on Space for local, regional and global impact on research, education and valorization. Our vision is to contribute to ground-breaking solutions to the Space sector to serve scientific, economic and societal needs.


The TU Delft Space Institute shall:
1. stimulate and jointly develop and conduct ground-breaking research on Space,
2. jointly demonstrate innovative systems in Space and realize valorization opportunities with Space and non-Space partners, and
3. increase the visibility and impact of Space expertise and activities at Delft University of Technology as a whole
4. stimulate and further develop education on Space.

The TU Delft Space Institute wants to be an open institute in facilitating internally and externally spin-in and spin-out with domains other than Space.


The TU Delft institute is headed by the Institute board (see below) which is composed of the six theme leaders and the director. The Institute Board comprises the theme leaders and representatives from the five faculties and will meet quarterly to discuss and decide on operational and strategic topics. The director reports to the Steering Board which is composed by the deans of the five faculties and a member of the TU Delft Executive Board. The director and institute board are supported by the institute secretary and advised by the Advisory board.

Institute Board

Prof. Dr. Eberhard Gill


Dr. Jian Rong Gao

Sensing from Space

Dr. Jian Guo

Distributed Space Systems

Dr. André Schiele

Space Robotics

Mariëlle Hoefakker

Institute secretary

Dr. Sandra Verhagen

Sensing from Space

Dr. Tamas Keviczky

Distributed Space Systems

Dr. Chris Verhoeven

Space Robotics

News & Events

News: PhD Board

Graphene as a material for solar sails

A team of researchers, the TU Delft GrapheneX-team, is preparing an experiment to test graphene in space-like zero-gravity, for potential future use as a light sail in space-craft propulsion, such as for Starshot (article Volkskrant May 27th 2017, in Dutch).

The GrapheneX team successfully submitted their experiment proposal to ESA Education’s Drop Your Thesis! Programme in October 2016. The team will travel to Bremen, Germany between 6-17 November 2017 to perform their experiment at the 146 m ZARM Drop Tower.

Propelling without fuel
Light sails can be used in space as a method of propelling spacecraft using light from the sun or from Earth-based lasers. When light is reflected from or absorbed by a surface, it exerts a force that pushes the surface away from the light source. This radiation pressure can be used to propel objects in space without using fuel or gases. However, the thrust generated by radiation pressure is very low. For effective propulsion, the light sail must have a large surface and be as light as possible. Graphene is very light and strong, and could be a good candidate for solar sails. The GrapheneX team plan to investigate how graphene could work as a light sail in an experiment that simulates the low-gravity and high-vacuum conditions of space. The sails to be tested by the GrapheneX team are graphene membranes, supplied by Graphene Flagship partner Graphenea. The radiation pressure from shining high-power laser light onto the graphene membranes will should cause the sails to move approximately 2 mm. This displacement will be measured with a simple microscope to determine the thrust on the graphene sails. The team plan to use different colours of laser light, to investigate the exact mechanism of how momentum is transferred to the graphene from light.

Rise and Fall
At the ZARM Drop Tower, the experiment – including graphene sails, lasers and cameras – will be loaded into a capsule and catapulted the height of the tower. Inside the tower, vacuum conditions allow the capsule to rise and fall without friction or air resistance, so that the capsule experiences apparent weightlessness down to one-millionth of the Earth’s gravitational force. As the capsule accelerates, the graphene sails will be released into almost gravity-free free-fall. At this point, the laser will be allowed to shine onto the graphene chip, and the pressure generated by the laser falling onto the graphene will be detected. A key challenge of this experiment is automating the experiment procedures to initiate and record the results in the 9.3 seconds of free fall. This experiment is supported by the TU Delft Space Institute, ESA Education, and the Graphene Flagship.



TU Delft Space Institute
Kluyverweg 1
2629 HS Delft
Telephone: +31 (0)15-2781721

For general questions regarding the TU Delft Space institute please contact the institute secretary Mariëlle Hoefakker at M.E.Hoefakker@tudelft.nl. For expertise on specific space-related topics we have created a web directory on this website which you may consult for contact details of relevant experts.

External parties interested in cooperating with the TU Delft Space Institute can contact the Business Developer Anke Peters via A.Peters@tudelft.nl.

Contact information on other TU Delft employees can be found on the TU Delft website.

The TU Delft Space Institute is present at five different faculties of Delft University of Technology. Directions to the TU Delft campus and maps of the campus can be found here.