Professor Lewis gained a Masters degree in Control Systems from the University of Sheffield in 1993 and a PhD in Remote Sensing from the University of Southampton in 1998. Afterwards, he worked as a research assistant on the EU Framework 4 project FLIERS (Fuzzy Land Information from Environmental Remote Sensing), based in Electronics and Computer Science, before commencing a three-year contract at the end of 1999 as a researcher on an EPSRC funded project on the long-term evolution of the space debris environment. This work led to a decade-long working relationship with Dr Graham Swinerd, the development of the DAMAGE space debris model, his work for the UK Space Agency, numerous publications and an inspiring (and also challenging) journey into the realm of space debris and Near Earth Objects. For the last six years Prof. Lewis has represented the UK Space Agency (previously the British National Space Centre) in Working Group 2 of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) and he now leads the Group’s research on space debris modelling. In 2011 Prof. Lewis was nominated as the United Kingdom’s representative to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) Expert Group B (Space Debris, Space Operations and Tools to Support Collaborative Space Situational Awareness), supporting the activities of the UN COPUOS STSC Working Group on the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities.
The Astronautics Research Group has been involved in work on space debris modelling since 1992. Prof. Lewis started in this area in 1999, working with Dr Graham Swinerd. They have developed a number of models, including DAMAGE, a state-of-the-art evolutionary model, and FADE. Their space debris research has been supported by research studentships funded by the EPSRC, the former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), QinetiQ, the European Union Framework 7 Programme and internally here at the University. Prof. Lewis also represents the UK Space Agency on the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), the intergovernmental forum for discussing space debris issues.
Near Earth Objects
Due to their high relative speeds with respect to the Earth and large mass, NEOs can have extremely high kinetic energies, which on impact can be equivalent to the detonation of many nuclear weapons. Impact effects include atmospheric blast waves, thermal radiation, seismic shock and, for ocean impacts, tsunami. The impact of a NEO on the Earth represents a catastrophic, multi-hazard, natural disaster. Research efforts are targeting the technical roadblocks to the development of a science-based policy that addresses the NEO impact hazard. My focus has been on the development of risk assessment and decision-support tools. These include NEOSim, NEOImpactor and, more recently, NEOMiSS.
With the arrival of a new generation of Earth observation spacecraft with high spatial, spectral and temporal resolution, better technologies are required to process the large volume of data they provide. Research into these technologies is focusing on generalisable solutions that aim to reduce the errors and uncertainties in more traditional approaches. With Professor Peter Atkinson in Geography, they have developed an artificial neural network approach to resolve information at a finer spatial resolution than the sensor provides. This tool was built using a software framework for processing remotely sensed images, which Prof. Lewis wrote whilst working on the EU Framework 4 project FLIERS. Other work addresses the need to understand changes arising from natural disasters or from pre-planned urban development, and reducing risk from natural hazards.
Other research areas
Prof. Lewis also has interests in fractionated satellite concepts, cloud computing and human cognitive modelling using artificial neural networks. With Dr Sarah Stevenage in Psychology, they wrote the IACAPA person acquisition simulator, which is based on the Rochester Connectionist Simulator. Prof. Lewis is currently working with Professor Simon Cox and Dr Kenji Takeda to develop a cloud computing solution for some of the operational aspects of space debris removal.