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PhD Studentship: Concept Mission Design for Hex-Sats to Detect Biological Agents from VLEO

University of Southampton

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Southampton
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: Funding for tuition fees and a living stipend are available on a competitive basis.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 14th December 2023
Closes: 31st August 2024
 

Supervisory Team:  Dr Alexander Wittig, Dr Minkwan Kim

Project description

In this PhD, we will develop a complete mission concept for satellites to detect the release of biological agents on the ground through constant monitoring from space. This technology can be used to monitor adherence to international treaties regulating the release of such agents.

In response to the overcrowding and sustainability concerns in Low Earth Orbit, the latest frontier in Earth observation is Very Low Earth Orbit (300 km or below). These orbits offer many advantages over traditional orbits, such as significantly lower latency, reduced signal propagation losses, extended coverage at higher resolution, and cost-effective manufacturing and launch processes. This is the regime we will target in this novel research.

The satellite system design will be built on a nascent micro/nanosatellite platform known as HexSats. This quasi-two-dimensional satellite bus architecture is tailored for applications demanding high power, large apertures, and/or high manoeuvrability within a low-mass containerized satellite. Their drag coefficient compared to conventional box-shaped satellites is less than half, making them an ideal platform for VELO satellites.

The propulsion system integrated into the platform will be based on the revolutionary all printed ALPS vacuum arc thruster technology developed here at the University of Southampton. It provides light-weight micro-thrusters with enough thrust to maintain attitude and orbit in VLEO for several years.

The mission design and analysis will include the design of a formation of suitable satellites to achieve the observation and revisiting time objectives of the overarching mission. An appropriate control law will be required to maintain this formation using low thrust propulsion. The preliminary design is then analyzed in detail by further developing our in-house CHAOS 6DOF numerical propagator designed specifically for low-thrust Earth observation missions to model both the attitude and orbital dynamics of the proposed mission and ensure it meets all requirements.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Alexander Wittig, Astronautics Research Group, Email: a.wittig@soton.ac.uk

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: 31 August 2024.  Applications will be considered in the order that they are received, the position will be considered filled when a suitable candidate has been identified.

Funding: Funding for tuition fees and a living stipend are available on a competitive basis. Funding will be awarded on a rolling basis, so apply early for the best opportunity to be considered.

How To Apply

Apply online: Search for a Postgraduate Programme of Study (soton.ac.uk). Select programme type (Research), 2024/25, Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, next page select “PhD Engineering & Environment (Full time)”. In Section 2 of the application form you should insert the name of the supervisor Alexander Wittig

Applications should include:

Research Proposal

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts/Certificates to date

For further information please contact: feps-pgr-apply@soton.ac.uk

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