Center for Laboratory Astrophysics and Space Science Experiments

A SwRI conglomerate of planetary scientists in the Space Science and Engineering Division, engaged in experimental research to understand the nature of astrophysical environments and processes as revealed by space missions to extraterrestrial targets.


Charon’s Polar Color

Surface-Exosphere Connection on Icy Satellites

Far-Ultraviolet Spectroscopy of Apollo-era Soils

Gas-Surface Interactions on Airless Bodies

Gas Capture Device for Mass Spectrometers

Lunar Advanced Vacuum Apparatus (LAVA)

People & Publications

Ujjwal Raut

Program Manager- R&D
UTSA Adjoint Professor

Dr. Raut is an experimental physicist and planetary scientist whose research addresses fundamental questions that emerge following detection of molecules in extraterrestrial environments by observational efforts. Within CLASSE, Dr. Raut creates laboratory-scale replicas of the extraterrestrial environments and conducts experiments with cosmic analogs (ices, minerals) to elucidate the nature, origin, and evolution of icy surfaces ubiquitous in the outer Solar System and beyond.

(210) 522-2178

Kurt Retherford

Senior Program Manger
UTSA Adjoint Professor

Dr. Retherford is a planetary scientist specializing in the use of space-based UV observations to study planetary atmospheres and surfaces. His research interests include the aurorae and airglow of the Galilean satellites, Jupiter, the Moon, Mars, and Pluto.

(210) 522-3809

Benjamin D. Teolis

Principal Scientist
UTSA Adjoint Professor

Dr. Teolis is a physicist, experimentalist and planetary scientist whose expertise include the formation and evolution of planetary atmospheres and magnetospheres, and the chemical and radiation processing of the surfaces of icy bodies in the outer solar system.

(210) 522-5975

Michael Poston

Senior Research Scientist

Dr. Poston is a planetary surface chemist. His areas of focus include 1) surface properties and habitability of Ocean Worlds; 2) present-day solar system volatiles, thermal and non-thermal processes, surface-bound exospheres, and atmospheric processes; 3) In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) and power generation; and 4) flight instrumentation and mission formulation.

(210) 522-6353

Josh Kammer

Sr. Research Scientist

Dr. Kammer is a planetary scientist specializing in the study of tenuous atmospheres and the retrieval of atmospheric composition using solar and stellar occultation observations in the far- and extreme-ultraviolet. His research interests also include hydrocarbon photochemistry and its effects on the evolution of planetary atmospheres/surfaces of all sizes, from smaller bodies such as Titan, Pluto, and Charon, to the largest planets such as Jupiter and Saturn.

At CLASSE, Josh contributes to Charon project investigating the origin of its red polar albedo. He has led the comparative analyses of photoproduct distribution emerging from Lab experiments and Exosphere model against New Horizons images, especially from MVIC and LORRI. Josh recently secured another New Frontiers Data Analysis Program (NFDAP) funding to continue this exciting research!

(210) 522-5826

Silvia Protopapa

Principal Scientist

Dr. Protopapa’s research focuses on the compositional characterization of small bodies in the outer solar system (comets, trans-Neptunian objects), as well as the Moon. Her work folds together infrared spectral-imaging observations from spacecraft (New Horizons, Rosetta, Deep Impact) and ground-based instruments (VLT, Keck, and IRTF), laboratory measurements and theoretical radiative transfer models. Dr. Protopapa has an active involvement in several mission teams. She is Co-I on the ESA Comet Interceptor Mission and the NASA New Horizons Mission.

Within CLASSE, Dr. Protopapa analyzes and model LAMP phase curves across the surface of the Moon and work in photometric modeling of laboratory phase curves of Apollo soils in dry and water-infused states. She also contributes to NFDAP projects investigating the origin of Charon’s red polar albedo.

(210) 522-7253

Danna Qasim

Research Scientist

Dr. Qasim experimentally investigates ice and mineral-ice chemistry that occurs from interstellar clouds to the small bodies of our solar system. She is also involved in astrobiology and astronomical observations of interstellar molecules. Within CLASSE, she will lead experimental work expanding into ice chemistry on planetary surfaces such as the radiolysis and sputtering of Europan salty ices, relevant to the Clipper mission.   

(210) 522-4669

Ana Stevanovic

Scientific Core Director

Dr. Stevanovic is a director of the Kleberg Advanced Microscopy Center, a shared-core user facility at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). Her expertise involves in-situ TEM/SEM characterization of materials under externally applied stimuli: heat, gas, and liquid. Her research focuses on bridging the "pressure gap" in electron microscopy: from high-vacuum to dynamic in-situ imaging of real-time structural and chemical changes in materials.

Within CLASSE, Dr. Stevanovic collaborates on nanoscale imaging and chemical characterization of planetary analogs and extraterrestrial samples by employing Focused Ion Beam, aberration-corrected Transmission Electron Microscopy, Raman Microscopy, and X-Ray Diffraction.

(210) 458-8735

Bereket Mamo

Graduate Student

Bereket Mamo is a graduate student in the joint UTSA-SwRI Space Physics program. His research focuses on understanding far ultraviolet reflectance of the surface of Europa and the Moon leveraging laboratory experiments, observations and modeling.

(210) 522-6216

Caleb Gimar

Graduate Student

Caleb Gimar is currently a graduate student in the joint UTSA-SwRI Space Physics program. His research contributions within CLASSE focus on far-ultraviolet reflectance studies of lunar simulants and soils and the optical properties of radiation-processed methane relevant to Charon.

(210) 522-5767

Ashley Reisig

Research Engineer

Ashley is a mechanical engineer with SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. Her role in CLASSE includes – tracking CAD model progression, design, assembly and install of hardware subsystems.

(210) 522-4616

Brandon Perez


Mr. Brandon Perez is a mechanical engineer at SwRI that contributes to CLASSE projects with hardware design and assembly of ultra-high vacuum components.

(210) 522-6742

Jephthah O Akene

Research Engineer

Mr. Akene is a Mechanical Engineer with the Space Science Division at Southwest Research Institute. He supports CLASSE projects in software development focused towards hardware control and data acquisition.

(210) 522-3671

Andrew Renzetti


Mr. Renzetti is a mechanical engineer aiding in the design and implementation of laboratory hardware and subsystems such as sample holders and drive and motion control mechanisms.

(210) 522-6776

Joshua Brody

Staff Technician

(210) 522-2478

Brian T. Tew


Mr. Tew works on building, implementing, and maintaining lab equipment, instrumentation, and vacuum systems.

(210) 522-5226

Jacob Friday


(210) 522-5985

Jacob Grimes

Sr. Research Scientist

(210) 522-6475

Edward L. Patrick

Lead Scientist

Mr. Patrick is a physicist specializing in the design, assembly, and operation of laboratory systems for space environment simulation. His research interests include the chemistry of the interstellar medium (ISM), Titan’s atmosphere, cave atmospheres, and volatiles at the lunar surface.

(210) 522-5398

Preston Karnes

Research Affiliate

Dave Cronk

Research Affiliate


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Contact Info

6220 Culebra Road
San Antonio, TX 78238-5166
+1 210 684 5111