Elaine Petro

Elaine Petro

Assistant Professor
Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Elaine Petro joined the Cornell University faculty as an Assistant Professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at in 2020. She is the director of the newly formed ASTRAlab, which focuses on plasma science and sustainable space exploration architectures. Elaine did her graduate work at the University of Maryland’s Space Power and Propulsion Laboratory studying water plasma propulsion. She also spent time in the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics as a visiting student and post-doctoral researcher, studying electrospray thruster technology for small satellite platforms. Elaine has been named an ARCS Scholar, National Science Foundation and Amelia Earhart fellow, and was recognized as one of AIAA / Aviation Week & Space Technology’s Twenty20s emerging leaders in aerospace in 2016.

Prior to graduate studies at UMD, Petro worked on the MAVEN Mars Orbiter, and James Webb Space Telescope, and Hubble Space Telescope missions at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Elaine participated in the 2015 NASA/Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory Planetary Science Summer School (PSSS) on the THEO concept mission to Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn. Elaine is passionate about diversity and inclusion in STEM and is a founding member of the national Women of Aeronautics and Astronautics organization. Outside of academia, Elaine enjoys outdoor activities and cooking, including imagining how recipes might be adapted to space.

Research Interests

Selected Publications

Petro, E. and Sedwick, R. "Effects of Water-Vapor Propellant on Electrodeless Thruster Performance," Journal of
Propulsion and Power, Articles in Advance (2017). https://doi.org/10.2514/1.B36389

Petro, E. and Sedwick, R. "Survey of Moderate-Power Electric Propulsion Systems," Journal of Spacecraft and
Rockets, Vol. 54, No. 3 (2017), pp. 529-541. https://doi.org/10.2514/1.A33647 

S. MacKenzie, V. Sun, J. Hofgartner, S. Leung, A. Krishnamurthy, T. Caswell, K. Powell, E. Petro, E. Stavros, J.
Dhaliwali, K. John, C. Phillips-Lander, C. Steuer, J. Wynne, K. DeBruin, J. O’Rourke, S. Phan, M. Crismani, C.
Budney, and K. Mitchell (2016), “THEO Concept Mission: Testing the Habitability of Enceladus's Ocean,” Advances
in Space Research, Vol. 58 (6): 1117-1137, 2016.


B.S. (Aerospace Engineering), University of Maryland, College Park, 2010

M.S. (Aerospace Engineering), University of Maryland, College Park, 2015

Ph.D. (Aerospace Engineering), University of Maryland, College Park, 2019