PhD Studentship in Aerospace Engineering

The University of Manchester - Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences - School of Mechanical Aerospace & Civil Engineering

Project Title: Replicating orbital gas flow effects on space materials: ground experiments and correlation with in orbit tests.

Lead Supervisor: Dr Peter Roberts

Co-Supervisor(s): Dr Vitor Oiko

Research Theme: Aerospace Engineering,  Instrument Development, Physics


Very low Earth orbits are ideal for remote sensing and high-bandwidth, low-communication time lag satellites. However, the residual atmosphere at these altitudes presents several challenges.  For example, the International Space Station is about 400 km (250 mi) above Earth's surface and needs frequent orbit raising manoeuvres due to atmospheric drag.

In this project you will work as part of a multidisciplinary team (Engineers, Physicists, Chemists, Material Scientists) developing new aerodynamic materials and orbital aerodynamic control methods that will enable Earth observation satellites to operate at much lower altitudes than the current state of the art. You will have access to a unique new facility currently being developed as part of the EU funded DISCOVERER project, the Rarefied Orbital Aerodynamics Research Facility (ROAR). The ROAR facility will produce a stream of pure atomic oxygen at orbital velocities and is designed to be a world-leading facility for orbital aerodynamic research. The performance of the materials identified by ROAR will be validated by an in-orbit test satellite, the Satellite for Orbital Aerodynamics Research (SOAR). In this project you will be able to operate the ROAR facility, be involved in its set up, optimisation and correlation/interpretation of data from both on ground and in orbit tests. You also look at how the facility can be further developed to better replicate the flow environment in VLEO.

There will be opportunities for international travel to partner institutions in Europe and beyond for project meetings and conferences. You will attend monthly project meetings in additional to regular supervisions. There are also paid opportunities for undergraduate demonstrating depending on the interest of the student.

Skills required

Entry requirements can be found by selecting the relevant PhD programme at this link:

Provide information on specific skills needed to conduct the research project.

Must have experience of hands-on practical projects. Knowledge of high vacuum system development and experience of using high vacuum facilities is desirable. Would suit a engineer or practical physics graduate.

Industrial Links

The DISCOVERER project involves a consortium of industry and university partners from across the space sector. For more details see

Closing date for applications*: 28 February 2018

Project specific enquiries* Please contact Dr Peter Roberts at

* denotes information to appear within Project Description on webpage.

General enquiries:

General enquiries relating to the postgraduate application process within Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil Engineering should be directed to:

Martin Lockey - Senior PG Recruitment & Admissions Administrator, Tel: +44(0)161 275 4345

Further information about how to apply can be found at:

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Northern England