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Welcome from the Chair

Charbel Farhat headshot

On behalf of our faculty, staff and students, I welcome you to the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University.

We are proud of our culture of innovation and leadership, our alumni, and their exceptional achievements in government, academia and industry.

Although we are a relatively small, graduate-only department of the Stanford School of Engineering, we graduate 11 percent of our nation’s PhDs in aeronautics and astronautics. We recruit from a large and exceptionally strong pool of applicants with diverse backgrounds, including physics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and, of course, aerospace engineering. Our mission is two-fold: to perform research dedicated to advancing the state-of-the-art disciplines, systems, and design and analysis methods needed to further our nation’s aerospace enterprise, and to educate our students to be lifetime learners, entrepreneurs, achievers and leaders.

We work closely with government research laboratories and industry. We specialize in high-risk research that leads to disruptive technologies. Our current strategic thrusts focus on:

  • Autonomous systems, with emphasis on trustworthy autonomy, integrated ground, air and space systems, and system autonomy at multiple scales.
  • Cyber safety for transportation, with attention to digital authentication for satellite messages.
  • Future aircraft design, where we are rethinking aircraft configurations and advanced technologies for a better future.
  • Distributed space systems, with a new vision based on fractionated buses, femto-satellites and smart dust.

The department is also home to four major interdisciplinary research centers:

  • The Stanford Center for Position and Navigation in Time, which builds on the department’s pioneering work on GPS and enjoys close collaborations with many of the major players in aeronautics, space systems, telecommunication systems and the semiconductor industry.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation, where research focuses on space traffic management and operations, space transportation operations, technologies and payload, human space flight and the viability of a space transportation industry. This center also enjoys a strong participation from the aerospace and satellite communication industries.
  • The King Abdullah City of Science and Technology (KACST) Center of Research Excellence in Aeronautics and Astronautics, which is a collaborative partnership with Stanford’s Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory (HEPL) and KACST on research topics of pressing concerns. Examples include developing new green propellants, performing synergistic experimental and computational studies of winged flight of birds, improving the safety of small aircraft and developing new designs for space systems. This center also enjoys many additional national and international collaborations.
  • The Army High-Performance Computing Research Center (AHPCRC), which, in collaboration with the Army Research Laboratory (ARL), focuses on advancing the state-of-the-art of computation-based engineering science and high-performance computing in order to foster better and faster scientific discovery, innovate technology, reduce design-cycle times and improve  system performance.

With a history rich with five Guggenheim Medal recipients and 15 living members of the National Academy of Engineering, our faculty and emeriti faculty continue to be among the most highly decorated in the world. But it is because of our amazingly talented students that we continue to be ranked among the top of all aerospace engineering departments in the nation.

Please browse our website, learn more about us and contact us should you have any questions. We look forward to teaming with you for ensuring an even brighter future of aeronautics and astronautics.


Charbel Farhat
Vivian Church Hoff Professor of Aircraft Structures
Professor and Chair, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Stanford University