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PhD Studentship: In-Space Propulsion Dual Mode Electron Cyclotron Resonance Gridded Ion Thrusters for all-electric Telecommunication Satellites

Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Saturday 31 August 2019
Reference:  1158319DA

Project Reference: AACE-ASTRO-573

A unique opportunity for UK & EU residents to undertake a fully funded PhD studentship in the internationally recognized Astronautics Research Group in the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department at the University of Southampton under the supervision of Dr. Angelo Grubisic. The studentships cover tuition fees and provide a tax-free stipend for a three-year programme. Additional funding will also support participation in international conferences, summer schools and workshops, research equipment and visits to project partners. Entry requirements include a Bachelor degree (minimum high upper second class) in Aerospace Engineering, Materials Science, any other Applied Science or a related subject. Experience in the space industry or metal printing industry is highly valued.

This project will provide the basis for a highly innovative and disruptive microwave electric propulsion architecture to allow a new generation of fully all-electric small geostationary (GEO) telecommunication satellites to expand on UK strength in telecoms. The PhD project will revolve around the development of an electrostatic electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) microwave gridded ion thruster system utilising state of the art additive manufacturing, solid state microwave power generation and high voltage power electronics.

The project shall in include ECR plasma modelling, electrostatic ion optics design, high voltage power electronics design and development, and the application of advanced manufacturing techniques for the development of a new generation of high performance ion thrusters. The project will be in collaboration with Surrey Satellite Technology, a world leading manufacturer of commercial spacecraft, and a The Low Energy Beam Group of the Science and Technology Facilities Council for specialist ECR plasma modelling support. Internally, the project will bridge the domains of two key areas of research with the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences including high voltage power electronics and isolation from the Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory within, and space propulsion systems research and development from the Astronautics Research Group within the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department. After the PhD, you can expect to be in demand from space agencies, prime contractors and OEMs such as ESA, UK Space Agency, Airbus DS, SSTL, Thales, QinetiQ and SMEs.

The PhD position will be hands on experimental development and testing focussed within the David Fearn Electric Propulsion Plasma Physics Laboratory, with supporting computational engineering. You can expect to gain an expert knowledge of electric propulsion systems and the skills to develop, manufacture and test new thruster technologies for space propulsion. You will have advanced knowledge of diagnostics, data acquisition systems, metal 3D printing and materials. As is an increasingly major theme of our activities, our research also focuses on enabling greater potential value and application by integrating additional engineering or systems functionality within a single component.

 If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact name, Dr. Angelo Grubisic Research Group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2319. 

How to apply:

The closing date for this job opportunity has now passed, and applications are no longer being accepted for this position

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