The Catholic University of America

Steven A Curtis

Current Position

Research Associate Professor, Department of Physics, The Catholic University of America

Brief Bio

Dr. Curtis has been a Principal Investigator in NASA’s Space Physics Theory Program (Global Magnetospheric Simulations). He has also been a Principal Investigator in JPL’s Remote Experimentation and Exploration Program. He is the GSFC lead for the successful JPL ST-8 phase 1 proposal to demonstrate methods of greatly increasing computational bandwidth in space. He was a Principal Investigator also in the NASA RASC (Revolutionary Aerospace Systems and Concepts) program in which he developed an operational scenario for the application of his ANTS (Autonomous Nano Technology Swarm) concept to an Asteroid Belt exploration mission PAM ( Prospecting Asteroid Mission) using an advanced synthetic neural system. As a result of this research, he has obtained patent submissions for a totally new form of autonomous, undifferentiated space architecture with applications to planetary rovers, landers, and human support and enhancement in space. He had earlier been a Principal Investigator in NASA’s Planetary Atmospheres Program and sat on their advisory committee. He has served as AMPTE Project Scientist and as the U.S. Project Scientist for the Russian ACTIVA mission. He has also served as ISTP Project Scientist for Theory and Ground-based Experiments. During his tenure, he pioneered methods of simulation code intercalibration as well as the successfully implemented concept of mission-oriented theory. He was Project Scientist for the 4 platform Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, a mission which will address fundamental space physics problems on previously inaccessible scales, which he originally conceived. Dr. Curtis was the first to show, working with private industry, that robust 4 platform missions could fit in the MIDEX cost class. This result directly contributed to the start of NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Probe line for which he served as the Study Scientist. He has been the Principal Investigator on two MIDEX proposals and one DISCOVERY proposal, all of which utilized 4 or more platforms and state of the art computational capabilities. He holds a patent for a fully autonomous synthetic neural systems, has developed a psychological instability approach for the development of neural systems, and a method for embedding emotions in artificial intelligence.

Professional Activities: Dr. Curtis is a member of APS, AGU, IEEE,ACM,AIAA, and AAS/DPS. He has served as an Associate Editor of RADIO SCIENCE. He worked with GSFC’s EEO Office to restructure the grants program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities to place it on a competitive basis which resulted in a much better program. He has served on numerous review and advisory programs.


Research Areas: His research interests include the multiscale structure of plasmas and its simulations, planetary atmosphere-plasma interactions, and wave-particle interactions in the planetary plasmas all inn the context of implementing NASA’s strategic plans. He has focused on the multiscale closure between theory and observations. He has played leadership roles on related multiplatform missions. His research on the coupling of autonomy and space structures has resulted in the development of novel refigurable space architecture concepts which are the subjects of patent submissions. His development of a scaling law for planetary magnetic dynamos resulted in the correct prediction that remanent magnetism would be dominant at Mars almost a decade before that was shown to be the case by MGS. He also developed the radio emission theories for Saturn and Uranus. His interest in plasma - dust interactions has resulted in a patent application for a method to remove dust from vehicles on the Moon and Mars.

Positions and Appointments

Head, Planetary Magnetospheres Laboratory
Solar System Exploration Division
1968-1971 - GSFC Co-op Student, Theoretical Studies Division
1971-1974 - Mathematician, Data Analysis Branch, Laboratory for Planetary Atmospheres
1974-1983 - Physicist, Planetary Aeronomy Branch, Laboratory for Planetary Atmospheres
1983-1988 - Space Scientist , Planetary Magnetospheres Branch, Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics
1988-2004 - Head, Planetary Magnetospheres Branch, Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics
2004- present - Chief, Planetary Magnetospheres Laboratory, Solar System Exploration Division
1979-1988 - PI, Plasma Dynamics Grant
1979-1980 - Consultant, Department of Energy
1981-1983 - Consultant, Los Alamos National Laboratory
1981-1992 - PI, Planetary Plasma Interaction Grant
1983-1987 - Associate Editor of Radio Science
1987-1989 - Discipline Scientist, Solar Terrestrial Theory Program, NASA Headquarters.
1987-1989 - Program Scientist, STTP
1989 - Acting Chief Space Physics Theory Program
1986-1992 - Project Scientist, AMPTE
1988-2001 Project Scientist for Theory & Ground-based Observations, ISTP
1989-1991 - U. S. Project Scientist, ACTIVA
1989-1995 - NASA-NSF CEDAR/ISTP Liaison
1990-1995 - NASA-NSF Geospace Environment Modeling Liaison
1990-1995 - ISTP/STEP Liaison
1992-1995 - Grand Tour Cluster Deputy Study Scientist
1994-1995 - Grand Tour Cluster Study Scientist
1995-1999 - PI, STTP Global Magnetospheric Simulation
1996-1997 - Geospace Multiprobe Study Scientist
1998- 2006 - Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) Project Scientist
1997- 2003 - PI, REE Program HPCC advanced s/c computations
1999-2001 RTD (Radiation, Technology Demonstration) Spacecraft Project Scientist
2004 - PI NASA Revolutionary Aerospace Systems and Concepts (RASC) - Autonomous Nano Technology Swarm (ANTS) Prospecting Asteroid Mission (PAM)
2004-2006 PI multimillion dollar Tet Walker IRAD development program
2006-2008- Autonomy Demonstration Lead for ST-8 on advanced Honeywell processor
2006 -present PI ESMD ETDP SPARCLE - flight instrument development


1971 - B.S, High Honors, (Physics) University of Maryland
1974 - M.S., (Physics) University of Maryland
1978 - Ph.D., (Physics) University of Maryland

Professional Memberships

American Geophysical Union
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Institute of Aeronautics and Aeronautics
Association for Computing Machinery
International Union of Radio Science (URSI)
American Physical Society

Professional Services

GSFC Scientific Colloquium Committee 1979-1983
Space and Earth Sciences Directorate Space Station Committee 1983-1984 Vice Chairman
USRI Commission H Nomination Committee 1986 Member 1986
GSFC Code 600 Strategic Planning Committee, Chair 1990-1993
NASA Headquarter Planetary Atmospheric MOWG Member 1990-1992


Sigma Pi Sigma
Phi Kappa Phi
Outstanding Physics Senior Undergraduate Award
1976 National Space Club Certificate of Achievement
1985 Outstanding Performance Award
1986 Outstanding Performance Award
1986 Exceptional Achievement Award
1989 Outstanding Performance Award
1996 Outstanding Performance Award
Evolvable Synthetic Neural System US 7.512,568 B2
PATENTS (FILED by GSFC Patent Office)
Tetrahedral Synthetic Skeletal Muscular System
Stability Algorithm for Neural Entities (SANE)
Formulation for Emotion Embedding in Logic Systems (FEELS)
Space Plasma Alleviation of Regolith Concentration in Lunar Environments (SPARCLE)
Field Reactive Amplification Controlling Total Adhesion Loading (FRACTAL)