Brief Bio

Dr. Collinson is a PHaSER / NASA Goddard researcher with a published record of success in the two complimentary fields of Instrument Science and Space Physics. 14+ years of experience developing, designing, & calibrating particle instruments, including for nine flight projects. Principal Investigator for NASA’s “Endurance” Sounding Rocket Mission. Member of Venus Express and MAVEN science teams. Regular publications highlighted in NASA and ESA press releases, by the American Geophysical Union, and in the journal “Nature”.

Research Interests

Principal Investigator, NASA Endurance 2022 Sounding Rocket Mission
Leading a rocket mission that will aim to make the first ever measurement of the “ambipolar” electrical field generated by Earth’s ionosphere, which may play an important role in Earth’s habitability and evolution.
Instrument scientist and systems engineer for the new technology that will enable Endurance. Lead investigator for test-flight of the technology on the DYNAMO-2 rockets (Summer 2021)

Venus Exploration
Discovered natural radio emission at Venus during the third flyby of NASA's Parker Solar Probe, confirming that the ionosphere of Venus changes substantially over the solar cycle [Collinson et al., 2021]. Discovered that the ionosphere of Venus generates an electric field so powerful that it can drive the escape of Oxygen and all water group ions, and Venus would lose water to space without stripping by the solar wind [Collinson et al., 2016]. Probed the impact of a large but slow Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejection on Venus and discovered that even slow and weak ICMEs can cause enormous increases in the outflow of oxygen from unmagnetized planets [Collinson et al, 2015a]. Charted the extension of mysterious holes in the ionosphere of Venus out into the tail [Collinson et al, 2014b], discovering them to be caused by magnetic forces coming from the solar wind.

Made the first confirmed discovery of Hot Flow Anomolies at Venus, confirming that these are a fundamental mode of interaction between stars and planets. [Collinson et al, 2012b]. A follow up study determined that HFAs are common at Venus and have potentially global consequences [Collinson et al., 2014a].

First observation of Short Large Amplitude Magnetic Structures in the foreshock of Venus [Collinson et al, 2012c], suggesting that the mechanism for the formation of quasi-parallel bow shocks is universal.

Team member of NASA's MAVEN Mission to Mars
Identified Sporadic-E-like Layers and Rifts in the ionosphere of Mars, which at Earth are highly disruptive to radio communication [Collinson et al, 2020]. First identification of Traveling Ionospheric Disturbances at a planet besides Earth [Collinson et al, 2019]. Searching for the ambipolar electric field at Mars thought to be responsible for Earth's Polar Wind, [Collinson et al, 2015].

Confirmed the existence of explosive Hot Flow Anomalies at Mars and identified the disturbances in the solar wind caused by them, which have the potential to cause global impact to the planet, [Collinson et al, 2015b]. Participated in an investigation into the impact of an Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejection (ICME) on Mars [Jakosky et al., Science, 2015].

Instrument science - Developing space plasma instrumentation

 2022 NASA Endurance Rocket Mission / 2021 DYNAMO-2 Rocket Missions
Instrument scientist responsible for optics of the Photoelectron Spectrometer. A new technology that measures the energy spectra of plasmas at extremely high resolution. Primary instrument for the 2022 Endurance Rocket Mission. Test flight of two prototypes planned for Summer 2021 (DYANAMO-2)

2022 NASA Dione 6U Cubesat - Dual Electrostatic Analyzer (DESA)
Led development of the initial concept, electron-optical design, and preliminary mechanical design. Thereafter led overall development of DESA prototype through integration and laboratory testing. Instrument scientist for Engineering Test Unit and Flight Unit. 

2024 - NASA HERMES Electrostatic Electron Analyzer
Instrument scientist for the optics of the HERMES EEA instrument, launching on NASA's Lunar Gateway Power and Propulsion module.

2020 - ESA Solar Orbiter
Contributed to the design of the Electron Spectrometers flying as part of the Solar Wind Analyzer Package [Collinson, Ph.D Thesis, UCL, 2010]. Investigated and optimized the Variable Geometric Factor technology flying aboard SWA [Collinson and Kataria 2010].

2018 - ESA/JAXA Bepi Colombo Mission to Mercury
Member of the calibration team for the Energetic Neutral Atom (ENA) instrument, flying on the JAXA Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).

2015 - NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Fast Plasma Investigation (FPI) Dual Electron Spectrometer (DES)
Member of FPI team, from development through launch.

2006-2014 ESA Venus Express
Member of ASPERA-4 instrument team. Participated in calibration of Electron Spectrometer (ELS) instrument [Collinson et al., 2009].

Current Projects

Rocket mission from Svalbard to attempt to make the first measurement of Earth's ambipolar electric field
Exploring physical phenomena in the upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and space around Mars
Venus Express ASPERA-4
Calibration and analysis of data productsGalileo at Ganymede
Data analysis from the Galileo flybys


1/2010 - 1/2013
NASA Postdoctoral Fellow
Oak Ridge, NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center - Code 670
3/2013 - 7/2013
Institutet för rymdfysik, Kiruna, Sweden
9/2013 - Present
Research Associate
Catholic University of America, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Code 673
Ph.D Space and Climate Physics - University College London, UK (2010)
MSci Physics with Industrial Experience - University of Bristol, UK (2005)

Selected Public Outreach

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Discovers Natural Radio Emission in Venus’ Atmosphere5 / 2021 - Present
During a brief swing by Venus, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe detected a natural radio signal that revealed the spacecraft had flown through the planet’s upper atmosphere. This was the first direct measurement of the Venusian atmosphere in nearly 30 years — and it looks quite different from Venus past. A study published today confirms that Venus’ upper atmosphere undergoes puzzling changes over a solar cycle, the Sun’s 11-year activity cycle. This marks the latest clue to untangling how and why Venus and Earth are so different.

NASA’s MAVEN Explores Mars to Understand Radio Interference at Earth2 / 2020 - 2 / 2020
NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) spacecraft has discovered “layers” and “rifts” in the electrically charged part of the upper atmosphere (the ionosphere) of Mars. The phenomenon is very common at Earth and causes unpredictable disruptions to radio communications. However, we do not fully understand them because they form at altitudes that are very difficult to explore at Earth. The unexpected discovery by MAVEN shows that Mars is a unique laboratory to explore and better understand this highly disruptive phenomenon.

‘Electric Wind’ Can Strip Earth-like Planets of Oceans, Atmospheres6 / 2016 - Present
Venus has an “electric wind” strong enough to remove the components of water from its upper atmosphere, which may have played a significant role in stripping Earth’s twin planet of its oceans, according to new results from ESA’s (European Space Agency) Venus Express mission by NASA-funded researchers.

NASA Research Helps Unravel Mysteries Of The Venusian Atmosphere9 / 2014 - 9 / 2014
Underscoring the vast differences between Earth and its neighbor Venus, new research shows a glimpse of giant holes in the electrically charged layer of the Venusian atmosphere, called the ionosphere. The observations point to a more complicated magnetic environment than previously thought – which in turn helps us better understand this neighboring, rocky planet.