Masataka Okutsu, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Engineering, Engineering
Office Phone: 215-881-7562
Office Location: Rydal Building, 217

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Biographical Sketch

Dr. Masataka (“Masa”) Okutsu received his Ph.D. (2006) in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue University, where he also served as a postdoctoral researcher and a course instructor. From 2012 to 2017, he has taught as Clinical Assistant Professor at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. In 2017, Dr. Okutsu joined Penn State Abington as Assistant Professor of Engineering.

Research Interests

Dr. Okutsu’s primary interest is design of space missions and flight vehicles. His original field of research is astrodynamics with specialization in gravity assists—a technique to change spacecraft’s velocities via flybys of moving planets or satellites. He designed a number of multiple-gravity-assist trajectories for NASA’s mission studies, including Jovian tours for Europa Orbiter and end-of-mission scenarios for Cassini. A large portion of his mission design work is devoted also to human exploration of Mars.

Currently, Dr. Okutsu works with his students and collaborators on such topics as design of Mars surface structure made of Martian regolith; high-altitude testing of CubeSat prototype via weather balloon; and prototype demonstration of fixed-wing cross-domain drone that could fly and swim. His past project includes development of 3D multi-user virtual environments, using which he has taught an engineering course and conducted pedagogical research.

Throughout his research career, Dr. Okutsu has advised students and collaborated with researchers across disciplines (e.g., aerospace engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, computer science, computer graphics technology, engineering education, and fine arts). Dr. Okutsu’s work has been covered by the national and the international media including Science News, MSNBC, and BBC.

Courses Taught

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

  • AAE251 - Introduction to Aerospace Design

The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

  • ME554 - Aerospace Design
  • ME552 - Introduction to Flight Dynamics
  • ME441/442 - Senior Capstone Design/Project
  • ENGR222 - Differential Equations
  • CSC113 - Introduction to Computer Programming with MATLAB

Penn State University, Abington, PA

  • ME201 - Introduction to Thermal Science
  • EDSGN100 - Introduction to Engineering Design


  1. Lloyd, S., Jeong, C., and Okutsu, M., “Numerical Investigation on the Feasibility of Estimating the Thickness of Europa’s Ice Shell by a Planned Impact,” Journal of Aerospace Engineering (ASCE) 29 (2016). doi:
  2. Okutsu, M., Landau, D. F., Rogers, B. A., Longuski, J. M., “Low-Thrust Roundtrip Trajectories to Mars with One-Synodic-Period Repeat Time,” Acta Astronautica, Vol. 110, 2015, pp. 191-205. doi: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2015.01.006
  3. Okutsu, M., Yam, C. H., Longuski, J. M., and Strange, N. J., “Cassini Saturn-Escape Trajectories to Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune,” Acta Astronautica, Vol. 79, 2012, pp. 157-167. doi: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2012.04.034
  4. Chen, K. J., Rogers, B. A., Okutsu, M., Landau, D. F., and Longuski, J. M., “Low-Thrust Aldrin Cycler with Reduced Encounter Velocities,” Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, Vol. 49, No. 5, 2012. doi: 10.2514/1.A32109
  5. Okutsu, M. and Longuski, J. M., “Mars Free Returns via Gravity Assist from Venus,” Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, Vol. 9, No.1, 2002. doi: 10.2514/2.3778
  6. Okutsu, M., DeLaurentis, D. A., Brophy, S. P., and Lambert, J. B., “Teaching Aerospace Engineering Design Course via Virtual World: Comparative Assessment of Learning Outcomes,” Computers and Education, Vol. 60, 2013, pp. 288-298. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.07.012