Position: CEO at Argo Navis Aerospace.
Field: Electronics and rocket control systems.
When we first met Avinash Rao he was a PhD student investigating rocket control systems at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Canterbury University. He was working in conjunction with Malcolm Snowdon and Rocket Lab Ltd on sounding rocket control systems. Avinash spent six years with Rocket Lab, where he worked as a guidance, navigation and control engineer for the Electron project. Avinash is currently CEO at Argo Navis Aerospace, a venture that develops innovative chemical propulsion systems for the space industry.
The main aim of Avinash’s PhD was to develop new methodologies for controlling rocket trajectories throughout the various stages of flight. This includes real-time adaptive control to enable the rocket to learn how to better control itself as it flies in real time, he completed his PhD in 2014.
Avinash grew up in Wellington before moving to Hawke’s Bay. He enjoyed the sciences, especially physics and biology, while at school but was also keen on learning new languages, leading to a year on exchange in France at the end of high school.
It’s great that, in New Zealand, we are getting these opportunities to do high-tech research with some pretty cool equipment.
Upon his return to New Zealand, Avinash came to Canterbury University to study a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours. He chose the mechatronics programme, based on his keen interest in robotics and aerospace.
Avinash graduated at the end of 2009, having spent a challenging but enjoyable and rewarding 4 years as an undergraduate student. Highlights included winning the inaugural mechatronics Robocup competition in 2008 as well as the IPENZ Ray Meyer Medal in 2010 for best student project in a team of four. Also in his final year, Avinash enrolled in the rocket systems engineering special paper offered by the Engineering Department, which led to a summer scholarship and then his postgraduate study in the field.
Avinash has been impressed by the wide variety of opportunities offered at Canterbury University and in Canterbury in general while he lived in the region, as well as the calibre of staff and students. Aside from academic studies, Avinash enjoys playing sport, music, travel and aviation. He was heavily involved in the University of Canterbury Hockey Club, both as funding officer and treasurer, and whilst there worked towards gaining a private pilot’s licence through the Canterbury Aero Club.
In the future, Avinash would like to work in the aerospace industry as a control systems engineer.
This article is based on information current in 2011 and updated in 2018 and 2021.