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Future space missions and sensors for CBRN event detection monitoring

University of Bristol - Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bristol
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £16,500 p.a. plus yearly increments.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 15th November 2018
Closes: 15th February 2019

The project:

Future Chemical-Biological-Radiological-Nuclear (CBRN) threats could include a chemical explosion at a plant, a use of a nerve agent in an urban environment or a radioactive leak from a facility. Thales Alenia Space (TAS) has been working on currently available satellite data which could contribute to the detection and modelling of such a scenario. Several gaps in the data are apparent: wind field data, chemical detection and radiological detection. These reveal potential areas for future missions. The objectives of the PhD are:

  • To review currently available data and possible proxies for CBRN to ascertain gaps
  • To review existing Earth observation instruments which could be used for CBRN
  • To investigate the platforms and configuration necessary to accommodate the above Earth observation instruments
  • To investigate possible instruments that can be used on identified platforms, e.g. LiDAR on a Very Low Earth Orbit satellite or Low Earth Orbit microsatellite
  • To provide analysis of any adaptations necessary to instruments or the spacecraft.

Please note that while this EPSRC iCASE studentship is based at the University of Bristol, it requires that a minimum of three months, usually working one day per week, is spent on site at Thales Alenia Space, Bristol. Candidates will be required to undergo baseline security vetting.

URL for further information:

How to apply:

To apply for this studentship, submit a PhD application using our online application system

Please select “Aerospace Engineering” on the Programme Choice page and enter details of the studentship when prompted in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form with the name of the supervisor.

Candidate requirements: 

An enthusiastic student with either a first or expecting a first (BEng or MEng) in Aerospace, Space or Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Or a first-class BSc/MSc in Physics.

Candidates should have an interest in the following:

  • Spacecraft system design;
  • Optics;
  • Space instrument design especially hyperspectral and LiDAR
  • Knowledge of software languages (eg C++, JAVA)
  • Knowledge of mathematical modelling software (eg MATLAB/Simulink, MathCAD)

The candidate will have:

  • An interest in research
  • An ability to write up technical research
  • Analytical approach and an interest and ability to solve complex problems
  • Comfortable with working closely with colleagues in teams
  • The ability to present technical and complex problems orally
  • The ability to listen and learn from subject matter experts 


The studentship is funded for four years by EPSRC and co-funded by our industrial partner Thales Alenia Space.  The eligibility criteria are listed on the EPSRC website. Funds are also available for travel to conferences.


Informal enquiries, Prof Lucy Berthoud,

For general enquiries, please email

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