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J. (Bob) Balaram


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 198-219

Pasadena, CA 91109

Member of:

3471 - Section Staff

J. (Bob) Balaram

Principal Member of Technical Staff


Bob Balaram is a Principal Member of Staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. in Computer & Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1985 where his doctoral thesis addressed the control of highly non-linear systems. He has been at JPL ever since and works in the area of Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL), Modeling & Simulation, Telerobotics Technology, and Mobility Concept Development.

Bob is the originator of the concept that became the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars. He served as its Chief Engineer during its development, test and operations. Bob has also served as the Initiative Lead for a Strategic Research and Technology Development effort to develop science helicopters on Mars as a follow-up to the success of Ingenuity.

Previously Bob researched precision landing methods for Mars as well as advanced simulation techniques for planetary EDL. He led the team that developed a high-fidelity EDL simulator that has been adopted for use by the Curiosity and Perseverance missions. He is also the co-developer of a simulator used for planetary rover simulation. Bob has led design teams for developing Mars aerobot (aerial robot) perception systems, a deep-diving Venus balloon gondola concept, and balloon-carried imaging sondes for deployment at Venus. He was also a co-developer of the Rocky-7 rover platform ' a prototype and precursor to the new generation of rovers such as those on the MER mission.


Ph.D Computer & Systems Engineering. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1985.
Thesis: Suboptimal Control of Nonlinear Systems
M.S. Computer & Systems Engineering. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1982.
Thesis: Analysis of Boiling Water Nuclear Reactor Stability Margins
B.Tech. Mechanical Engineering. Indian Institute of Technology, 1980.

Professional Experience


  • Principal Member Technical Staff. Mobility & Robotics Section. JPL.

Research & Systems Development Experience

  • Mars Ingenuity Project. Chief Engineer. 2014-2021

Research Interests

  • planetary rotorcraft
  • high-fidelity physics-based modeling & simulation
  • advanced Monte-Carlo and related methods for verification and validation of space systems
  • entry, descent and landing
  • applying simulation technology for EDL, rovers, autonomy validation and advanced design environments
  • methods for rover and aerobot (aerial robot) navigation
  • telerobotic systems


  1. J. Balaram and S. Hayati, "A Supervisory Telerobotics Testbed for Unstructured Environments," Journal of Robotic Systems,, Vol. 9-2, pp. 261-280, 1992., 17 September 2020.
  2. J. A. Cutts, K. T. Nock, J. A. Jones, G. Rodriguez and J. Balaram, "Planetary Exploration by Robotic AeroVehicles," Autonomous Robots, 2, 261-282 (1995)., 17 September 2020.
  3. Kerry T. Nock, J. Balaram, Matthew K. Heun, I. Steve Smith and Terry Gamber, "Mars 2001 Aerobot/Balloon System Overview," AIAA Intl. Balloon Technology Conf., AIAA 97-1447, June 3-5, 1997, San Francisco, CA., 17 September 2020.
  4. J. Balaram, Jonathan M. Cameron, James W. Cutts and Kerry T. Nock, "Autonomous Mobility, Navigation, and Control for Venus Aerobots," I-SAIRAS 97, July 14-15, Tokyo, Japan., 17 September 2020.
  5. J. Balaram, "Kinematic Observers For Articulated Rovers," 2000 IEEE Conference on Robotics & Automation, San Francisco, USA, April 2000., 17 September 2020.
  6. J. Balaram, "Kinematic State Estimation for a Mars Rover," Robotica, 18, 251-262, (2000)., 17 September 2020.
  7. J. Yen, A. Jain and J. Balaram, "ROAMS : Rover Analysis, Modeling and Simulation Software," Fifth International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence and Automation in Space, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, 1-3 June 1999, 17 September 2020.
  8. James A. Cutts, Viktor Kerzhanovich, J. Balaram, Bruce Campbell, Robert Gershman, Ronald Greeley, Jeffrey L. Hall, Jonathan Cameron, Kenneth Klaasen and David M. Hansen, "Venus Aerobot Multisonde Mission," AIAA Intl. Balloon Technology Conf., 1999, Norfolk, Virginia., 17 September 2020.
  1. J. Balaram, R. Mukherjee, "Attitude Dynamics and Control of Moving Mass Multibody Aeromaneuver Vehicle," AIAA Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Conference. AIAA-2008-6390., 01 August 2008.
  1. S. A. Striepe, D. W. Way, A. M. Dwyer; J. Balaram, "Mars Science Laboratory Simulations for Entry, Descent, and Landing," Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, vol.43 no.2, 311-323, 01 January 2006.
  1. A. Jain, J. Balaram, J. Cameron, J. Guineau, C. Lim, M. Pomerantz, G. Sohl, "Recent Developments in the ROAMS Planetary Rover Simulation Environment," IEEE 2004 Aerospace Conf., Big Sky, Montana, March 6-13, 2004, 06 March 2004.
  1. B. Martin, J. Balaram, D. Henriquez, G. Sohl, C. Miller, M. Pomerantz, "System Engineering Challenges of Real-Time Simulation for Mars Smart Lander Entry, Descent, and Landing," AIAA Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Conf., Monterery, California, 5-8 August, 2002., 01 May 2002.
  2. S. Striepe, J. Balaram, "Mars Smart Lander Simulations for Entry, Descent, and Landing," AIAA Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Conf., Monetery, California, 5-8 August, 2002., 01 May 2002.
  3. J. Balaram, R. Austin, P. Banerjee, T. Bentley, D. Henriquez, B. Martin, E. McMahon, G. Sohl, "DSENDS - A High-Fidelity Dynamics and Spacecraft Simulator for Entry, Descent and Surface Landing," IEEE 2002 Aerospace Conf., Big Sky, Montana, 09 March 2002.
  1. 25. P. S. Schenker, P. Pirjanian, B. Balaram, K. S. Ali, A. Trebi-Ollennu, T. L. Huntsberger, H. Aghazarian, B. A. Kennedy and E. T. Baumgartner, Jet Propulsion Laboratory; K. Iagnemma, A. Rzepniewski, and S. Dubowsky, P. C. Leger and D. Apostolopoulos,G. T. McKee, "Reconfigurable robots for all terrain exploration," in Proc. SPIE Vol. 4196, Sensor Fusion and Decentralized Control in Robotic Systems III, Boston, MA, Nov. 5-8, 2000, 01 January 2000.
  1. S. Hayati, J. Balaram, H. Seraji, W. S. Kim, and K. Tso, "Remote surface inspection system," International Journal of Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 45-59, 01 May 1993.
  1. J. Balaram and H. Stone, "Automated Assembly in the JPL Telerobot Testbed," Intelligent Robotic Systems for Space Exploration, Chapter 8, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Norwell, MA, pp.297-342,, 01 January 1992.
  1. G. N. Saridis and J. Balaram, "Suboptimal Control for Nonlinear Systems," Control-Theory and Advanced Technology, Vol.2, No.3, 547-562, 01 January 1986.
  1. C.N. Shen, R. Lahey and J. Balaram, "A State Variable Formulation of Density-Wave Oscillation in Boiling Water Reactors," ANS Transactions, 36, 01 January 1981.