Dr Patrick Harkness is from Ballyclog, in Co. Tyrone. Patrick obtained a MEng degree in Aeronautical Engineering from The Queen’s University of Belfast in 2003 and a PhD in space debris mitigation from Cranfield University in 2007. He is now an academic in space systems engineering.
Patrick’s research interests include exploration technology of samples from planetary surfaces, deployable structures in space such as solar sails and antennae and access to space with solid fuel rockets. With respect to planetary surfaces, he has worked to create robotic devices which can take and containerise rock samples on Mars. These technologies have led to further work for polar as well as space applications. Their development has been underpinned by research in the behaviour of granular materials. This has led to use of ultrasonic vibration which significantly reduces the drilling forces needed in differing gravities ranging from planets to asteroids. Lastly, Patrick has been working in collaboration with Dnipro National University, Ukraine, in test firing solid fuel rockets which can be throttled up and down on demand.