PhD Studentship: Development of an Integrated Microwave Propulsion Architecture for Telecommunicati

Southampton, United Kingdom
Dec 19, 2016
Dec 15, 2017
Contract Type
Full Time
Job Type
Senior Scientist
PhD Studentship: Development of an Integrated Microwave Propulsion Architecture for Telecommunication Satellites

Astronautics Group

Location: Highfield Campus

Closing Date:  Friday 15 December 2017

Reference: 818316AK

Project Reference: AACE-Astro-110

Project Themes: Computational Engineering, Materials & Surface Engineering  

The high performance of electric propulsion (EP) has enabled radical science missions such as GOCE, Hyabusa, SMART-1, Deep Space 1 and Bepi Colombo, however commercially EP has enabled over on-hundred high value telecommunication satellites with a significant fraction of those provided by the UK. The UK has a 20% share of the global telecoms satellite market, the largest area of the UK space industry including building applications for high capacity broadband, broadcast and fixed satellite services.  The growth in the UK market has been driven by innovation in niche applications such as the highly successful ‘affordable satellite’ concept. Large GEO telecoms satellites such as the US Boeing-HP702 and European Eurostar-3000 have successfully utilised electric propulsion for station keeping or orbit raising, significantly improving the cost effectiveness and flexibility of telecoms. Geostationary Minisatellite Platforms (GMP-T) developed by SSTL could extend this capability down to smaller GEO telecommunications satellites.

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 electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) gridded ion thruster system utilising state of the art additive manufacturing and solid state microwave power generation. This will include ECR plasma modelling, ion optics design and the application of advanced manufacturing techniques for the development of a new generation of high performance ion thrusters, followed by performance testing. The project will work hand in hand with an industry customer, Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, 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. The development will lead to greater opportunities due to the additional capabilities offered by the system architecture, but will also lead to winning a better return on further preparatory development programs within the UK, EU and ESA, allowing the UK to maintain a competitive edge in the global GEO telecoms market.

The candidate would ideally hold a first degree in applied physics, engineering or mathematics with a very strong analytical background. Preference will be for knowledge of plasma physics, with the ability to develop simulations in analytical models and multiphysics modelling packages such as COMSOL as well as bespoke packages. Experience in additive manufacturing is highly preferred. In addition, strong experimental experience is highly preferred since a large part of the project will be conducting experimental performance analysis. The candidate will interface regularly with  The Low Energy Beam Group of the Science and Technology Facilities Council and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr. Angelo Grubisic, Astronautics research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59  2313.

To apply please use the following link and select Faculty of Engineering and the Environment.

Further details:

  • Job Description and Person Specification