Picture of Prof Michael Brooks

Prof Michael Brooks

Professor Michael Brooks is the Director of the Aerospace Systems Research Institute and an associate professor in UKZN’s Mechanical Engineering department. He holds a BScEng degree from the University of Natal, and MScEng and PhD degrees from Stellenbosch University and is a registered Professional Engineer. His research interests include thermal management systems, solar radiometry, and rocket propulsion. Prof Brooks is a member of the South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering (SAIMechE) and the Aeronautical Society of South Africa (AeSSA), and a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). He’s an alumnus of the Fulbright Scholarship Programme and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Tel: +2731 260 3201/ 7667


Picture of Prof Jean Pitot

Prof Jean Pitot

Professor Jean Pitot is an associate professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), where he teaches thermodynamics. He holds a PhD from Stellenbosch University and BScEng and MScEng degrees from UKZN. He is co-founder and chief engineer of the Aerospace Systems Research Institute (ASRI) and is programme manager of ASRI's SAFFIRE liquid rocket engine development programme. His research interests include liquid and hybrid rocket propulsion, as well as small launch vehicle technologies. He is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and is a Fulbright Scholar.

Tel: +27 31 260 3200


Picture of Prof Glen Snedden

Prof Glen Snedden

Professor Glen Snedden holds multiple degrees including a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Durham University. A highly experienced gas turbine researcher, he worked for 25 years within the CSIR's Aeronautical Systems division where he collaborated with engine manufacturers worldwide, specializing in military jet engine life improvement analysis. He led South African contributions to EU Framework projects focusing on high bypass engine efficiency and fan blade flutter. Glen's expertise extends to being a test engineer at South Africa's largest tri-sonic wind tunnel. Since joining UKZN in 2020, he has become the Academic Leader of Mechanical Engineering and teaches Fluid Mechanics, Turbomachine Design, and Heat and Mass Transfer, while contributing to the Aerospace Systems Research Institute's goal of developing a small satellite launch capability for South Africa through turbopump research and development. Glen is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the Treasurer of the International Society for Airbreathing Engines (ISABE), and Vice-President of the Aeronautical Society of South Africa.

Tel: +27 31 260 1215


Senior Engineers

Picture of Mr Ryan Cooper

Mr Ryan Cooper

Senior Engineer: Fluid Systems

Ryan Cooper is ASRI’s Senior Engineer in facility design and the testing of liquid rocket engine components and systems. Ryan has extensive experience in the design and cold-flow testing of injectors, in the hot-fire testing of liquid rocket engines and torch igniters, in the design of cryogenic propellant systems, and in multiple Phoenix hybrid rocket launch campaigns. He holds BScEng and a MScEng degrees from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and his interests include fluid dynamics, cryogenic systems, and system modelling.


Picture of Mr Timothy Velthuysen

Mr Timothy Velthuysen

Senior Engineer: Propellants

Timothy Velthuysen is a Senior Engineer responsible for propellants research in ASRI. He is also a lecturer in the Discipline of Mechanical Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he obtained a BScEng and an MScEng degree. His research specialisation is in hybrid rocket control and in gelled propellants for rocket motors. His role within ASRI includes propellant formulation and testing, material compatibility, and integrating new propulsion technologies into rocket subsystems. He is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the Aeronautical Society of South Africa (AeSSA).


Picture of Mr Bernard Genevieve

Mr Bernard Genevieve

Senior Engineer: Project Management

Bernard Genevieve is a Senior Engineer responsible for managing ASRI project portfolios. The role involves leading, planning, and executing engineering projects. He holds an MSc in Mechanical Engineering involving hybrid rocket motor design, manufacture, and testing. One of the core objectives of his research was to develop a Hybrid Rocket Performance Code for the design and performance analysis of hybrid propulsion systems, specifically focusing on the combustion modelling of paraffin-wax and nitrous oxide propellant combination. He accumulated 10 years of post-qualification experience in the field of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, during which his primary responsibilities revolved around engineering design and assuming project lead roles.


Picture of Mr Nino Wunderlin

Mr Nino Wunderlin

Senior Engineer: Aerospace Structures

Meet Nino Wunderlin, ASRI’s seasoned Senior Engineer primarily responsible for the Institute’s work in structures. With many years of experience, he excels in designing, analysing, and optimizing aerospace structures to meet safety and performance standards. Nino's expertise includes material selection, structural design, finite element analysis, testing, and project management for several initiatives under the SAFFIRE and Phoenix Programmes.


Picture of Mr Jason Denny

Mr Jason Denny

Senior Engineer: Testing and Facilities

Jason Denny is ASRI’s Senior Engineer primarily responsible for the design of testing facilities for liquid rocket engine components and systems. He holds a MSc degree in Mechanical Engineering involving composite structures design and analysis. One of the core objectives of his research was to develop a design methodology for the optimisation of a composite monocoque chassis through
finite element analysis. Drawing from over 5 years of hands-on experience in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, Jason has honed his skills in engineering design and project management. His diverse background equips him with a holistic understanding of complex engineering challenges across industries. Jason's proficiency spans across various domains, encompassing finite element analysis, mechanical design, and process flow systems.



Picture of Mr Celimpilo Damane

Mr Celimpilo Damane

Celimpilo Damane’s work at the Aerospace Systems Research Institute (ASRI) involves developing ablative materials for advanced, high-temperature applications in rocket engines. His master’s project focused on manufacturing and testing of low-cost ablative materials for rocket engine chambers, which served as preliminary work towards a larger objective, which is to develop a means of manufacturing rocket engine ablative liners rapidly and cost-effectively via compression molding. He holds a BScEng in Mechanical Engineering from UKZN, and he is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the Aeronautical Society of South Africa (AeSSA).


Picture of Dr Sarisha Harrylal

Dr Sarisha Harrylal

Sarisha Harrylal’s work at ASRI includes modifications to the SAFFIRE test facility, Phoenix payload bay design, aerodynamic CFD on STeVe and roll control system design. Her responsibilities in ASRI include research, vehicle flight dynamics, aerodynamics and biomedical devices. She has played a role in both Phoenix hybrid rocket flight campaigns and the ABLE test campaign. Her master’s work involved the design of a cold gas roll control system (RCS) for a single engine, finned, suborbital vehicle. The optimal roll rate to avoid roll lock in and ensure dynamic stability was determined analytically using aerodynamic data from a semi-empirical prediction code and flight data from the HYROPS in-house flight trajectory simulation tool. The RCS thrust and fuel requirements, based on the necessary roll rate were used to perform a system level design of a cold gas system. Sarisha holds a BScEng in Mechanical Engineering and a MBChB.


Picture of Mr Thabang Mdhluli

Mr Thabang Mdhluli

Thabang Mdhluli is an Engineer at ASRI responsible for the design, manufacture, and assessment of test equipment for development of gelled rocket propellants. Thabang’s expertise extend to LabVIEW programming and development, instrument control, and data acquisition. He holds a BScEng and an MScEng from the University of KwaZulu Natal. His MScEng work focused on developing an injector test rig for shear-thinning gelled propellants to study injection and impingement characteristics of gels through a single-element injector, allowing for droplet characterization and qualitative analysis. His research was part of a broader effort that includes research into the behavior of gelled rocket propellants. He is a student member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the Aeronautical Society of South Africa (AeSSA). He has a strong interest in control systems and electronics, particularly in aerospace applications.


Picture of Mr Vedanth Reddy

Mr Vedanth Reddy

Vedanth Reddy is an Engineer at ASRI responsible for the hydrodynamic analysis and CFD surrogate-assisted optimization of the electrically driven rocket propellant pumps for project SAFFIRE. Vedanth’s CFD expertise in turbomachinery includes Ansys CFX and the Cadence Numeca suite. He holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN). His MScEng project involved improving the performance of a scaled kerosene, water-analog pump that is part of the SAFFIRE project. The methodology implemented CFD, parametric design, and surrogate modelling to achieve multi-objective pump optimization. Tuned Radial Basis Function Networks were investigated to create a meta-model of the design space using numerical simulations and variable impeller geometries as inputs. Multi-Objective Genetic Algorithms (MOGA) coupled with Pareto front analysis were used to identify optimized geometries that improved efficiency and reduced cavitation. Vedanth is a member of the Aeronautical Society of South Africa (AeSSA) and a student member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). He practices martial and fine arts when he is off the clock.


Picture of Mr Yashik Singh

Mr Yashik Singh

Yashik Singh is an engineer at ASRI whose primary work involves the design, manufacture and performance assessment of high-speed liquid rocket propellant pumps along with the development of associated high-pressure test infrastructure. His work also includes the development of fluid systems and installations such as an injector cold flow test stand hardware and rocket engine facility plumbing. He holds a BScEng and completed his MScEng at UKZN which focused on the development of low specific speed pump design capabilities applicable to the SAFFIRE programme. Investigations pertaining to the efficacy of hydraulic components such as expeller vanes and different diffuser configurations were conducted to inform the development path of full-scale pump hardware. In his down time, Yashik enjoys farming and restoring cars.


Picture of Mr Mthobisi Tshomela

Mr Mthobisi Tshomela

Mthobisi Tshomela is an Engineer at the Aerospace Systems Research Institute (ASRI) responsible for designing, manufacturing and assessing the performance of suborbital rocket payload deployment modules and suborbital recovery systems. He holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN). His MSc Eng research focused on the development of a payload module for the ASRI’s Phoenix 1C suborbital hybrid rocket and accommodated three 1U experimental payloads. His Master's research also focused on recovery system design, which was successfully demonstrated through ground testing. His interest lies in recovery systems and payload module designs for high-performance rockets.


Picture of Mr Tyrone Swanepoel

Mr Tyrone Swanepoel

Tyrone Antonio Swanepoel is an Engineer at ASRI and is responsible for the design of components and assemblies for aerospace applications utilizing computer aided design (CAD) and finite element analysis (FEA) software. His work also includes electrical upgrades to the SAFFIRE test facility and development of the data acquisition system for the SAFFIRE injector cold flow test stand. Tyrone is a member of the Telemetry and Flight Termination System (FTS) working group at ASRI developing electronic hardware and various termination systems for sounding, sub-orbital, and orbital rockets for the Phoenix, STeVe and SAFFIRE programmes. He obtained his BScEng in Mechanical Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal with his MScEng in Mechatronics Engineering research focusing on the development of a low-cost 3D printed bilaterally teleoperated surgical system with haptic feedback for minimally invasive surgery. The proposed minimally invasive robotic system comprised of a Master and Slave robotic arm, with bilaterally controlled tool manipulators allowing for the surgeon’s hand movements to be captured and replicated remotely. Additionally, an investigation into haptic and tactile feedback was conducted and implemented to improve the transparency of the system, along with various control schemes to mitigate latency effects and minimize communication bandwidth requirements. Validation of the design methodology involved the design, manufacture, and testing of the 3D printed surgical system. He has a keen interest in robotics, aerospace propulsion, subtractive and additive manufacturing. In his free time Tyrone is an avid sportsman.


Picture of Mr Jordan Silver

Mr Jordan Silver

Jordan Silver is an ASRI engineer and a member of the propellants and applications team. His involvement in the project consists of developing an on-orbit flight-weight monopropellant thruster. Jordan currently assists in developing and testing Hydroxylammonium Nitrate (HAN), focusing on designing, manufacturing, and testing a technology demonstrator thruster that will utilize HAN as the propellant. He is also actively assisting with SAFFIRE Programme tests and oversees the manufacturing of the Phoenix fuel grains for the Phoenix Programme. He holds a BScEng and completed his MScEng at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, which consisted of conducting a comparative performance analysis of the electropump and gas generator engine cycles under ablative and regenerative cooling, currently under consideration for the SAFFIRE liquid rocket engine. The results from these simulations enable the determination of an approximate payload mass for the small satellite launch vehicle powered by each engine configuration. Jordan is an avid adventurist, sportsman, and adrenaline seeker in his free time.


Postgraduate Students

Picture of Mr Byron Blakey-Milner

Mr Byron Blakey-Milner

Byron Blakey-Milner recently completed his MScEng and is in the process of upgrading his project to a PhD. His project entails the characterization and optimization of additively manufactured components and materials for the SAFFIRE flight-weight engines. A particular focus of his research is on applying design for additive manufacturing concepts for weight reduction, cost reduction, and part consolidation for propellant pumps. The aim of his research is to design, manufacture and test the pump components to assess the viability and advantages associated with using additive manufacturing supply chains. His work includes both physical and non-destructive testing methods such as X-ray tomography. In his spare time, he can be found rock climbing in the Western Cape.


Picture of Mr Duran Martin

Mr Duran Martin

Duran is an experienced engineer and PhD candidate at ASRI. Throughout his tenure at ASRI, Duran played a pivotal role in the research and development of systems and components in both hybrid and liquid propulsion systems, launch vehicles, and testing infrastructure. Notably, in the SAFFIRE flight weight engine project and the 2021 ABLE campaign, he led the development of the injector, ignition system, cavitating venturis, testing outcomes and procedures, and engine startup and shutdown sequences. His PhD topic is on a novel and systematic approach to LOX/Kerosene injector design.


Picture of Mr Mario Mouzouris

Mr Mario Mouzouris

Mario Mouzouris is a postgraduate student ASRI, having completed his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He is currently working on designing, manufacturing, and testing flight-weight propellant control valves. Industrially available valves that meet the operating requirements of the rocket systems are costly and designed with longevity and safety as their focus, which often make them heavy and ill-suited for operation on launch vehicles where weight savings are critical. This project focuses on developing flight-weight propellant control valves that provide safe and stable control actuation at operating temperatures and pressures on the SAFFIRE liquid rocket engine.


Picture of Mr Sanele Msomi

Mr Sanele Msomi

Sanele Msomi is an MScEng postgraduate student with ASRI and holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His research focuses on the design and manufacture of a mechanical pressure regulator for tank pressurization in commercial space vehicles. The aim of his work is to devise a flight weight pressure regulator with appropriate performance to replace commercially available pressure regulators unsuitable for space propulsion systems due to bulkiness and mass. As part of his work, he is modelling and optimizing the new regulator through software simulation and will manufacture and test new regulator designs.


Picture of Mr Prince Ngomane

Mr Prince Ngomane

Prince Ngomane obtained a BScEng in Mechanical Engineering at UKZN in 2022 and is now an MScEng student in ASRI. His research deals with developing an experimental test rig and selecting suitable candidate fuels to evaluate the coking characteristics of propellants in the regeneratively cooled SAFFIRE liquid rocket engine.


Picture of Mr Mzwandile Nzimande

Mr Mzwandile Nzimande

Mzwandile Nzimande is investigating the hydrodynamic response of sloshing fluid in a rocket propellant tank. The aim of the project is to predict the effects of moving propellants in partially filled rocket tanks. The investigation is conducted using experimental and numerical approaches. An experimental test rig is under development to represent a scaled-down model of ASRI’s STeVe rocket propellant tank. The numerical approach will be conducted using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). This project forms part of ASRI’s SAFFIRE programme.


Picture of Mr Rylan Odayan

Mr Rylan Odayan

Rylan Odayan’s research focuses on evaluating the Denel Overberg Test Range (OTR) as a potential launch facility for future sounding rocket missions. This is conducted by performing simulations of sounding rocket missions from OTR with different vehicle types, payloads and altitude specifications. The analysis includes determining safety footprints. An analysis of the weather conditions at OTR will also be carried out to build a useful picture of launch windows throughout the year. ASRI supports the development of suborbital sounding rocket missions and is looking to partner with international agencies in this regard. The present study aims to facilitate this goal, along with the development of a permanent sounding rocket launch gantry at OTR.


Picture of Mr Jared Sabbagha

Mr Jared Sabbagha

Jared Sabbagha is currently a postgraduate student in ASRI having completed his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. His research deals with ASRI’s Suborbital Test Vehicle (STeVe), which functions as an in-flight testing platform for the SAFFIRE engine currently under development. Jared's work relates to the macro-conceptual design of a rocket to ensure that it is statically stable in flight and capable of carrying a payload beyond the Kármán line into space. His research encompasses the design of components and sub-systems of the vehicle as well as inertial modelling and aerodynamic/flight simulations.


Picture of Mr Matthew Schneider

Mr Matthew Schneider

Matthew Schneider is currently an MEng student at Stellenbosch University (SU), working on a collaborative project in aerospace engineering between ASRI and SU. His research involves the design of a gas generator and impulse turbine for the SAFFIRE liquid rocket engine turbopump. The gas generator will run on liquid oxygen and kerosene and must produce sufficient power at speeds over 20,000 rev/min to power the SAFFIRE turbopump. The turbine design aims to satisfy the power requirements of the pumps, while maximizing the turbine’s efficiency and minimizing its power requirement. Material limitations posed by available materials and manufacturing methods in the country will be considered in the design.


Picture of Mr Ruben Tukker

Mr Ruben Tukker

Ruben is a mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Pretoria who joined ASRI in the pursuit of becoming a rocket propulsion engineer. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree which entails doing shaft design for the SAFFIRE rocket engine’s electro-pumps as well as conducting axial thrust load optimization for the SAFFIRE’s pumps. His work includes topics in bearing and shaft sealing arrangement, rotor-dynamics, finite element analysis, computational fluid dynamics as well as centrifugal pump and shaft design.


Picture of Mr Ewan Slabber

Mr Ewan Slabber

Ewan Slabber is an MScEng student in ASRI and holds a BScEng in Mechanical Engineering from UKZN. His research involves designing and implementing a high-level language software solution to model the trajectories and streamline the design process for various aerospace vehicles. The project aims to investigate launch vehicle design specifications and validate them virtually using experimental data gathered from ASRI launch campaigns. The modelling tool that Ewan is working on will generate trajectories and safety footprints for future flight vehicles yet to be built and launched, and will be updated as ASRI’s flight test requirements change according to its vehicle
mission objectives. Ewan was a flight engineer in the 2023 Phoenix hybrid rocket launch campaign and is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). In his spare time, Ewan enjoys composing music.


Picture of Mr Brent Yelland

Mr Brent Yelland

Brent Yelland completed his BSc in mechanical engineering at UKZN, and started his postgraduate research in 2024 at ASRI. His research involves characterising and optimising the external flow over the STEVE sounding rocket. Ansys fluent CFD will be used to determine the aerodynamic properties of STEVE, such as the drag coefficient, lift coefficient, and the centre of pressure for different angles of attack and Mach numbers. Knowing these values will allow ASRI to more accurately determine the flight of STEVE. The study will also involve experimental validation of the CFD results through wind-tunnel testing of a STEVE model. Brent spends his free time cycling, surfing, and hiking.


Undergraduate Interns

Picture of Ms Xolile Malembe

Ms Xolile Malembe

Xolile Malembe is a student intern with ASRI and is currently completing her undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. She is a member of the ASRI talent pipeline programme aims to join the Institute for a master’s degree after finishing her BScEng degree at UKZN.


Picture of Mr Philani Ngcobo

Mr Philani Ngcobo

Philani Ngcobo has a passion for everything aerospace-related and is in his 3rd year of a Mechanical Engineering degree at UKZN. He is a student intern and member of the ASRI talent pipeline programme and will be joining ASRI as a postgraduate student on completion of his bachelor’s degree. He was a member of the Phoenix hybrid rocket launch team during the successful 2023 campaign held at Denel Overberg Test Range.


Picture of Mr Ayanda Shwala

Mr Ayanda Shwala

Ayanda Shwala is a student intern and member of the ASRI talent pipeline programme who is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. He aims to join ASRI at the completion of his undergraduate degree for a master’s degree. Ayanda is passionate about working with aerospace systems.



Picture of  Ms Kukhanyakwethu Mhlongo

Ms Kukhanyakwethu Mhlongo

Kukhanyakwethu Mhlongo is a Financial Administrator with ASRI. She provides general administration duties in the institute. She holds a BCom in Accounting (Rhodes University) and a PDFBIM from UKZN.


Associated Advisors

  • Professor Anton du Plessis (Stellenbosch University)
  • Professor Johan Van der Spuy (Stellenbosch University
  • Professor Laurent Dala (Northumbria University)


2023 – 2020

  • Byron Blakey-Milner – MScEng: Characterization and Optimization of Additively Manufactured Rocket Engine Components (2023).
  • Kirsty Veale – PhD: Structural Characterisation and Response Modelling of Paraffin Rocket Motor Fuel Grains (2022).
  • Phillip Gyasi-Agyei – MScEng: Preliminary Design Considerations for a Liquid Rocket Commercial Launch Vehicle Upper Stage (2021).
  • Ryan Cooper – MscEng: Liquid Rocket Engine Injector Test Rig (2021).
  • Dylan Williams – MScEng: Design of the Phoenix-1B Mk. II Hybrid Rocket Composite Pressure Tank (2020).


  • Duran Martin – MScEng: Injector Design for a LOX/RP-1 Liquid Rocket Engine (2019).
  • Nino Wunderlin – MScEng: Design of a Liquid Propellant Rocket Engine Combustion Chamber (2019).


  • Kai Broughton – MScEng: Motor Design for a Sub-orbital Hybrid Rocket (2018).
  • Chikhar Maharaj  –  MScEng: Performance Characterisation of Metal Additives in Paraffin Wax Hybrid Rocket Fuel Grains (2018).
  • Creason Chetty  –  MScEng: The design and hydrodynamic analysis of a novel kerosene electro-pump for a modular liquid rocket engine (2018).
  • Nalendran Singh  –  MScEng: The hydrodynamic design of a liquid oxygen electro-pump for a liquid rocket engine (SAFFIRE) (2018).
  • Raisa Theba  –  MScEng: An Investigation of Regression Rate in Paraffin-Based Hybrid Rocket Fuel Grains (2018).
  • Timothy Velthuysen  –  MScEng: Closed loop throttle control of a hybrid rocket motor (2018).

2017 – 2014

  • Udil Balmogim  –  MScEng: Design and Development of the Phoenix-1B Hybrid Sounding Rocket (2017).
  • Donald Fitzgerald  –  MScEng: Turbine design for a commercial launch vehicle engine (2016).
  • Luke Philogene  –  MScEng: Development of a Universal Impeller Test Rig (2015).
  • Matthew Richings  –  MScEng: The Prediction of Cavitation in High Speed Centrifugal Pumps (2015).
  • Jonathan Smyth  –  MScEng: Design of Kerosene Turbopump for a Liquid-Propellant Rocket Engine (2014).



  • Bernard Genevieve  –  MScEng: Development of a Hybrid Sounding Rocket Motor (2013).
  • Fiona Leverone  –  MScEng: Performance Modelling and Simulation of a 100 km Apogee Hybrid Sounding Rocket (2013).
  • Matthew Page  –  MScEng: Modeling and Experimental Validation of a Loop Heat Pipe for Terrestrial Thermal Management Applications (2013).
  • Seffat Chowdhury  –  MScEng: Design and Performance Simulation of a Hybrid Sounding Rocket (2013).
  • Sven du Clou  –  MScEng:A Semi-Passive Thermal Management System for Terrestrial and Space Applications (2013).