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Brett Kennedy


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 82-105

Pasadena, CA 91109

Member of:

3470 - Section Management

Brett Kennedy

Section Manager


Brett Kennedy graduated from University of California, Berkeley in 1996 with his B.S. in mechanical engineering with an emphasis in controls and robotics. As an undergraduate, he was involved in research covering the design of composite material parts, the design of human amplification mechanisms, and the finite-element modeling of bones. In 1997, he received his M.S. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University concentrating on mechatronics and robotics.

Professional Experience

Brett Kennedy has been the Section Manager for the Mobility & Robotics Section since 2021 and was the Supervisor of the Robotic Vehicles and Manipulators Group from 2010 - 2021. Brett has also been named a JPL Principal Engineer. His areas of expertise include space robotics, novel mobility systems, robotic manipulators and grippers, and bio-inspired robotics.

In his time at JPL, he has divided his time between research and space flight robotics. On the space side, his most notable role has been as the lead for the Robotic Arm aboard the Curiosity rover, for which he was responsible for the design, fabrication, and testing. He was also responsible for two elements of the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER). On the research front, he conceived and led the development of the bio-inspired Lemur series of robots as well as acting as the lead mechanical engineer for JPL’s Tactical Mobile Robot (TMR) program, the Exploration Technology Rover (FIDO), and the All-Terrain Explorer tasks, among others. He has also acted as the lead robotic engineer on several DARPA studies of subjects such as orbital telescopes and humanoid robotic mobility. From 2012 to 2015, he was the Principle Investigator for JPL’s entry into the DARPA Robotics Challenge, RoboSimian, a four-limbed robot inspired by the body layout of apes.

Research Interests

-novel robotic mobility systems

-robotic assembly, inspection, and maintenance for space operations

-high dexterity robotic systems

-underactuated gripping systems


  1. K. Carpenter, M. L. Cable, M. Choukroun, S. Iacoponi, S. Moreland, M. Heverly, H. Nayar, B. Kennedy, J. Bowkett, W. Reid, "The Science Case for Surface Mobility on Icy Worlds," Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, vol. 53, p. 186, 01 May 2021.
  1. P. Tavallali, S. Karumanchi, J. Bowkett, W. Reid, B. Kennedy, "A Reinforcement Learning Framework for Space Missions in Unknown Environments," IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, MT, 07 March 2020.
  1. S. Karumanchi, K. Edelberg, J. Nash, C. Bergh, R. Smith, B. Emanuel, J. Carlton, J.Koehler, J.Kim, R. Mukherjee, B. Kennedy, P. Backes, "Payload-Centric Autonomy for In-Space Robotic Assembly of Modular Space Structures," Journal of Field Robotics, vol 35, issue 6, pp. 1005-1021, 14 June 2018.
  1. A. Parness, N. Abcouwer, C. Fuller, N. Wiltsie, J. Nash, and B. Kennedy, "LEMUR 3: A Limbed Climbing Robot for Extreme Terrain Mobility in Space," 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pp. 5467-5473, 29 May 2017.
  1. S. Karumanchi, K. Edelberg, I. Baldwin, J. Nash, J. Reid, C. Bergh, J. Leichty, K. Carpenter, M. Shekels, M. Gildner, D. Newill-Smith, J. Carlton, J. Koehler, T. Dobreva, M. Frost, P. Hebert, J, Borders, J. Ma, B. Douillard, P. Backes, B. Kennedy, B. Satzinger, C. Lau, K. Byl, K. Shankar, J. Burdick, "Team RoboSimian: Semi-autonomous Mobile Manipulation at the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals," Journal of Field Robotics: Special Issue on the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, vol 34, issue 2, pp. 305-332, 18 October 2016.
  1. K. Nickels, B. Kennedy, H. Aghazarian, C. Collins, M. Garrett, A. Okon, J. Townsend, "Vision-Guided Self-Alignment and Manipulation in a Walking Robot," Proceedings, 2006 IEEE International Conference on System of Systems Engineering, 24 April 2006.