Roy Sterritt is using automatic computing to make craft self-controlled, instead of mission control having to guide them. Swarms of small spaceships would replace single vehicles.
Mr Sterritt and Nasa scientist Mike Hinchey have collaborated on the projects and US authorities granted the space agency two patents on the men's work.
The University of Ulster researcher was recently honoured for his work by Nasa.
He said: "Nasa's recognition adds a whole new dimension to my activity at Ulster which I hope will develop further and lead to other innovative work that will make space exploration more secure."
Mr Sterritt lectures in informatics at the university.