Professor Richard Ambrosi

Professor of Space Instrumentation and Space Nuclear Power Systems

Richard Ambrosi

School/Department: Physics and Astronomy, School of



Science, Instrumentation, Technology, Automation, Productivity. The ‘space economy’ as the next frontier for cooperation and exploitation. Professor Ambrosi – our resident expert in space exploration - leads on these key issues for the space sector, as part of his teaching and research at the University but also as a key national and international space advisor. 

His astonishing portfolio of research has contributed enormously to the ongoing conversation of how the UK government can achieve its goal of tripling the size of the UK space sector by 2030.  

Professor Ambrosi’s aim is to assist - with transforming the space sector from space 2.0 to space 4.0 - bringing the space sector into a time when there is an increased number of diverse space actors around the world and when collaboration between academia and the private sector, can play a key role in making space exploration more accessible to all. 


My research interests include the development of instrumentation and detector systems for gamma ray, X-ray, neutron detection and spectroscopy for planetary science and terrestrial applications.

Exploiting the interaction of high-energy cosmic ray and solar radiation with planetary surfaces for planetary science is of particular interest as is the impact of the space environment on the performance of detector systems.

Recently I have been leading the development of space nuclear power systems and in particular radioisotope thermoelectric generators, heater units and novel radioisotope containment systems. I have a specific interest in the lifecycle of research projects from concept to deployment.


Watkinson, E. J., Ambrosi, R. M., et al., (2017), “Sintering-trials of analogues of americium oxides for radioisotope power systems” Journal Of Nuclear Materials, 491, 18-30.doi: 10.1016/j.jnucmat.2017.04.028

Watkinson, E. J., Ambrosi, R. M., et al., (2017), “Cerium neodymium oxide solid solution synthesis as a potential analogue for substoichiometric AmO2 for radioisotope power systems”,  Journal Of Nuclear Materials, 486, 308-322. doi: 10.1016/j.jnucmat.2017.01.011

B. Sanchez-Cano, B. E. S. Hall, M. Lester, M. L. Mays, O. Witasse, R. Ambrosi, et al., (2017) “Mars plasma system response to solar wind disturbances during solar minimum”, Journal of Geophysical Research, 122 (6) 6611-6634, DOI: 10.1002/2016JA023587.

Whiting, C. E., Knachel, H., Watkinson, E. J., Ambrosi, R. M. (2017), “Validating a model to predict the chemistry of the fuel used in radioisotope power systems”, IEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings. doi:10.1109/AERO.2017.7943635

Williams, HR; Ning, H.; Reece, MJ; Ambrosi, RM; et al., 2013, ‘Metal matrix composite fuel for space radioisotope energy sources’, Journal of Nuclear Materials, vol. 433, issues 1-3, pp. 116-123. (doi:10.1016/j.jnucmat.2012.09.030)

Williams HR, Ambrosi RM, Bannister NP, Samara-Ratna P, Sykes J. 2012. 'A conceptual spacecraft Radioisotope Thermoelectric and Heating Unit (RTHU)'. International Journal of Energy Research, vol.36, pp. 1192-1200. (doi:10.1002/er.1864)

Williams, HR; Bridges, JC; Ambrosi, RM; et al., 2011, ‘Mars reconnaissance lander: Vehicle and mission design, Planetary and Space Science’, vol. 59, issue 13, pp. 1621-1631. (doi:10.1016/j.pss.2011.07.011)

Williams, HR; Ambrosi, RM; Bannister, NP; 2011, ‘A Mars hopping vehicle propelled by a radioisotope thermal rocket: thermofluid design and materials selection’, Proceedings of the Royal Society A, vol. 467, issue 2129, pp. 1290-1309. (doi:10.1098/rspa.2010.0438)

Skidmore, MS; Ambrosi, RM; 2010, ‘Verification of a Monte-Carlo planetary surface radiation environment model using gamma-ray data from Lunar Prospector and 2001 Mars Odyssey’, Nuclear Instruments and Methods A, vol. 612, issue 2, pp. 296-302. (

Skidmore, MS; Ambrosi, RM; et al.; 2009, 'Prompt gamma-ray activation analysis of Martian analogues at the FRM II neutron reactor and the verification of a Monte Carlo planetary radiation environment model', Nuclear Instruments and Methods A, vol. 607, issue 2, pp. 421-431. (


  • MSc/PGDip course in Space Exploration Systems - Course Director.
  • Lean LaunchPad®: Evidence Based Entrepreneurship
  • PA4634 Planetary Surfaces
  • PA7011 Foundations of Professional Space Science and Engineering
  • PA7015 Spacecraft Instrumentation for Space and Planetary Science
  • PA7051 Human Spaceflight & Nuclear Systems
  • PA7014 Space and Planetary Environment, Planetary Surfaces
  • PA7091 Major Project (UK Based)
  • PA7092 Major Project, International Placement - Space Exploration Development Systems in collaboration with Politecnico di Torino (Italy), ISAE (Toulouse)
  • Collaborative Partnership Manager for Space Exploration Development Systems international project placement.


Visiting Scholar, University of Dayton, Ohio, USA.

Chair of UK Space Agency's Space Exploration Advisory Committee (SEAC)

Member of UK Space Agency's Science Programme Advisory Committee (SPAC)

Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer Mission (JUICE), Member of UK Space Agency's Programme Management Board.

Universities Space Research Association Council of Institutions Representative for Leicester.

Co-chair of the NEREUS Working Group on Technologies from Space Exploration.


Joint research programmes and close links with the space and nuclear industries in the UK. Lean LaunchPad® Programme coordinator as part of Skills Electives for undergraduate students which focuses on evidence based entrepreneurship as a methodology for creating new startups.


Associate Member of the Association for Project Management

Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society

Member of the International Society for Neutron Radiology


BSc, BSc (Hons), PhD


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