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Faculty Profile Directory


Timothy A Sands

Professor of the Practice
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering



Recipient of the prestigious Theodore von Kármán award, Dr. Timothy Sands graduated from Columbia University and Stanford University. He is an Eminent Engineer (Tau Beta Pi), an International Scholar Laureate (Golden Key International Honor Society), a Fellow of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and panelist of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship program and an interviewer for undergraduate admissions at Stanford University. He has published prolifically in archival journals, conference proceedings, books, and book chapters, in addition to giving plenary, keynote, and invitational presentations, and holds one shared patent in spacecraft attitude control. He is currently Astronautics Professor of Practice at Cornell University and NPS having previously served at disparate universities as Chief Academic Officer, Dean, Associate Dean, and Research Center Director.

Ph.D. Astronautical Engineering, Naval Postgraduate School; Dissertation: Fine pointing of military spacecraft
M.S. Space Studies (distance learning) University of North Dakota; Research: Chinese space program, asteroid mining
M.Eng. Space Operations (distance learning) University of Colorado; Research: Space-based Electronic Countermeasures
Certificate, Astronautical Engineering, UCLA; Emphasis: structural dynamics and aeroacoustics
Certificate, Aeronautics and Astronautics (distance learning) Stanford University; Emphasis: guidance and control

Degree of Mechanical Engineer (distance learning) Columbia University; Emphasis: manufacturing
M.S. Mechanical Engineering (distance learning) Stanford University; Emphasis: linear systems
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, North Carolina State University; Emphasis: turbomachinery

NPS Experience
  • 2021 - current: Professor of Astronautics Practice, AD-7 (Naval Postgraduate School)
  • 2017 - 2020: Associate Professor (Naval Postgraduate School)
  • 2013 - 2017: Senior Military Professor (Air Force Institute of Technology)
  • 2010 - 2013: Assistant Professor (Naval Postgraduate School)
  • 2007 - 2010: Weapons Instructor - Electronic Warfare (USAF)
  • 2005 - 2007: PhD Candidate
  • 2004 - 2005: PhD Student
  • 2000 - 2004: Instructor - Electronic Warfare (USAF)
Other Experience
  • 2013 - 2017 Colonel/Senior Military Professor/Dean, Associate Provost (interim, 1-yr), Chief Academic Officer (interim, 1-yr), Air Force Institute of Technology
  • 2010 - 2011 Service Chief's Fellow, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
  • 2009 - 2010 Deputy Division Chief, Combat Plans, Korean Air & Space Operations Center
  • 2007 - 2009 Chief of Plans, 53rd Electronic Warfare Group
  • 1998 - 2004 B-52 Electronic Warfare Officer, Instructor, Weapons Instructor Course (WIC), U.S. Air Force
  • 1997 - 1998 Flight Officer Training, VT-10 Naval Air Station Pensacola
  • 1996 - 1997 Scuba Diver Course (CIN A-433-0023), Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center
  • 1995 - 1997 Propulsion Engineer, Atlas Medium Launch Vehicle
  • 1993 - 1995 Spaceflight Planner, Space Test Program
Research Interests
Nuclear Deterrence, Chinese Studies, Korean Studies
Technical Translation
Deterministic Artificial Intelligence
Dynamics & control flexible spacecraft structures
Spacecraft attitude control with control moment gyroscopes
Adaptive controls
Physics-based modeling
System identification
Model Predictive Control
Teaching Interests
Dynamics, mechanics
Nonlinear and adaptive controls
Spacecraft rotational mechanics, advanced mechanics and orbital robotics
Spacecraft attitude determination and control
Orbital mechanics, advanced astrodynamics
Advanced heat transfer
Signals and systems


  • 2022 - Top cited paper of the year (#1 of top 10), Aerospace (Impact Factor 2.660)
  • 2022 - Excellent Reviewer, Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) (Impact factor 2.048)
  • 2022 - Top Cited Paper Award (#8 of top 10), “Robotics and Automation” Section of Applied Sciences (Impact factor 2.838)
  • 2022 - Top Cited Paper Award (#2 of top 10), “Robotics and Automation” Section of Applied Sciences (Impact factor 2.838)
  • 2021 - Best Paper Award, Journal of Marine Science and Engineering (Impact factor 2.744)
  • 2020 - Editor's Choice Article Award, Algorithms (Impact factor 2.267)
  • 2012 - Eminent Engineer, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society
  • 2010 - Theodore von Kármán Award, AFA (most outstanding contribution to national defense in the field of science and engineering)
  • 2010 - Fellow, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
  • 2009 - Science and Engineering Award, US Air Force's Air Combat Command
  • 2009 - International Scholar Laureate, Golden Key International Honour Society
  • 2007 - Best Student Paper National Finalist, AIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference
  • 2003 - Air Medal for single act of heroism, United States Air Force
  • 2001 - Air Medal for single act of heroism, United States Air Force
  • 1999 - Air Medal for single act of heroism, United State Air Force

Boards, Memberships, & Certifications

Professional Memberships
  • 2017 - 2019 Panelist, Graduate Research Fellowship Program, National Science Foundation
  • 2016 - 2018 Panelist, National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, Department of Defense
Licensures and Certifications
  • 2015 Chief Developmental Tester, Key Leadership Position Joint Qualification Board
  • 2014 Level II Certification - Systems Planning, Research, Development and Engineering - Science and Technology Management, Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act
  • 2013 Level III Certification - Program Management, Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act
  • 2010 Level III Certification - Test and Evaluation, Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act

Scholarly Work

  • Keynotes/Plenary Addresses
  • Sands, T., Plenary: International Conference on Materials Science & Engineering 2022, "Evolution of digital manufacturing," Switzerland. (May 27, 2022).
  • Sands, T., Keynote: ICAMME2022 - International Conference on Aerospace, Mechanical & Mechatronic Engineering, May 19-20, 2022;, "Treatise on optimization," Courtyard by Marriott Munich City East Orleansstraße 81-83, 81667, Germany. (May 19, 2022).
  • Sands, T. A., Plenary: InovSciTech, No. 302, "Controlling Highly Flexible Space Robotics," Uttarahalli, Bangalore-560061, India. (May 14, 2022).
  • Sands, T., Closing Plenary: AOC Asia Virtual Summit 2021, "Aspirational Future of Space EW," Association of Old Crows, Hosted virtually, Japan. (September 28, 2021).
  • Sands, T. A., Keynote: Wireless, Aerospace & Satellite Communications, "SatCom for Command and control communications," International Journal of Sensor Networks and Data Communications, Netherlands. (April 15, 2019).
  • Sands, T. A., Keynote: Robotics and Automation Conference, "Safe penetration of Jacobian-based singularities," EuroSciCon Conference & Expo, Marne La Vallee 2 boulevard, France. (April 8, 2019).
  • Sands, T. A., Keynote: Applied Physics and Mathematics Conference, "Controlling chaos-forced van der pol equation," Keyaki Conference Hall, Japan. (October 22, 2018).
  • Sands, T. A., Plenary: Aerospace 2018 - The International Conference on Aerospace and Aerodynamics, "Controlling chaos – forced van der Pol equation," Journal of Aeronautics and Aerospace Engineering, Hotel Augusta Barcelona Valles, Spain. (August 2, 2018).
  • Sands, T. A., Keynote: MechAero 2017, "Improved Hamiltonian adaptive control of rotational mechanics," NV, United States. (October 2, 2017).
  • Sands, T. A., Keynote: International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, "Automated Mechanical Control," Industrial Automation Conference Series, CA, United States. (June 28, 2017).
  • Sands, T. A., Plenary: Air Force Research Lab – Air Force Institute of Technology Summit, "Plenary Presentation," United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH, United States. (November 13, 2014).
  • Sands, T. A., Plenary: Air Force Research Lab Autonomy Innovation Technology Interchange, "Plenary Address," Air Force Research Lab, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH, United States. (April 8, 2014).
  • Panels
  • Sands, T. A., 44th Annual AOC International Symposium & Convention, "Panel Presentation - The Cyber Domain: The Newest Horizon for EW/IO," Association of Old Crows, Caribe Royale All-Suites Resort and Convention Center, FL, United States. (October 28, 2007).
  • Patents
  • Agrawal, B. N., Kim, J., Sands, T. A. "Method and apparatus for singularity avoidance for control moment gyroscope (CMG) systems without using null motion" US 9,567,112 B1