Satellite microvibration source characterisation (funded)

The main aim of this project is to develop a methodology to fully characterise sources of microvibration on-board satellites. Microvibrations are low amplitude dynamic disturbances occurring at frequencies up to several hundred Hertz and produced by the functioning of on board equipment such as reaction wheel assemblies, cryo coolers etc.
These vibrations propagate through the satellite structure, and although they do not pose risks for the spacecrafts mechanical integrity, they can seriously degrade the performance of accurately targeted optical payloads, such as high resolution cameras or telescopes.

In order to predict the level of stability of the payload it is necessary to have a high quality mathematical model of the microvibration sources. Measurements of blocked reactions obtained with the equipment mounted on a dynamometric table are insufficient to correctly reproduce the effect of the microvibration source on the satellite, and measurements of the dynamic mass of the sources to include the effect of the coupling between source and satellite structure, are complicated and time consuming.

The development of an efficient semi-empirical methodology to characterise existing sources, and modelling technique to integrate them with a satellite structural model will be the core research activity. In addition to theoretical and computational work the project is expected to include some experimental activity to validate the methodology, and it will be carried out in cooperation with Industry.

An annual scholarship of NZD 27,500 is available for three years. Funding for three years’ tuition fees is also offered.

For more information or to apply, please contact: g.aglietti@auckland.ac.nz

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Spacecraft launch environment and vibration testing (funded)

The main aim of this project is to investigate and improve some aspects of the environmental vibration testing that is carried out during the development and qualification of spacecraft. Vibration testing is performed to validate a satellite or equipment’s mathematical model (Finite Element Model) and to prove experimentally that the hardware can withstand without damage the very harsh vibration environment produced during the spacecraft launch.

In reality, during launch the items are shaken in all directions simultaneously and they are mounted on a relatively flexible structure, whereas during the test the vibrations are typically applied one axis at a time, with the items mounted on a rigid interface. Due to the physical mismatch between launch situation and tests, the desire to ensure a conservative test which envelopes the worst case responses produced during launch, produces test conditions which are far more severe than the real launch. The result is that test survival can become a significant load case driving an over-design and therefore preventing an effective optimization of the item with respect to the real operating conditions.

The aim of the research is to investigate these issues and propose methodologies to improve the representativeness of the tests.

An annual scholarship of NZD 27,500 is available for three years. Funding for three years’ tuition fees is also offered.

For more information or to apply, please contact Prof. Guglielmo Aglietti: g.aglietti@auckland.ac.nz

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Spacecraft deployable structures (funded)

Deployable structures are typically used in space application, to enable the launch of equipment whose size in operation in orbit, exceeds the volume available in the launch vehicle. Solar arrays, and antennas are typical examples of structures that are launched in a stowed configuration and deployed once in orbit. However, a more compact launch configuration would be beneficial for a variety of other equipment, such as optical instruments (e.g. cameras / telescopes) which typically utilize large cylindrical elements such as barrels and baffles that could be stowed during launch and deployed to the required size once in orbit.

Telescopic configurations are a typical solution, but there are alternatives, and there is a variety of options available to drive the deployment of such structures. This project will explore novel configurations and techniques that allow compact stowing for launch, and reliable and precise deployment in orbit. The project will include elements of design, development of mathematical models to explore the design space and significant experimental activity.

An annual scholarship of NZD 27,500 is available for three years. Funding for three years’ tuition fees is also offered.

For more information or to apply, please contact Prof. Guglielmo Aglietti: g.aglietti@auckland.ac.nz

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Novel Synthetic Aperture Radar Development and Analysis (funded)

The Faculty of Engineering at The University of Auckland has a rapidly growing interest in radar remote-sensing for monitoring of the Earth’s processes, including the design and utilization of existing space-borne, airborne, and ground-based systems. PhD opportunities are offered for students to work in multidisciplinary international research projects supporting algorithm development, campaign participation and data analysis for proof-of-concept efforts and in support of possible new Earth-science space and/or suborbital missions.

This research will require the PhD candidate to understand electromagnetic scattering theory and practice, interact with science teams, participate in field campaigns, analyse and process collected data to address campaign objectives. This specific effort will be part of an international multidisciplinary collaboration for which the candidate will be engaged in synthetic aperture radar development, deployment, data analysis and terrestrial measurement retrievals.

An annual scholarship of NZD 27,500 is available for three years. Funding for three years’ tuition fees is also offered.

For further information, contact:

Dr Delwyn Moller (Engineering): delwyn.moller@auckland.ac.nz

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Development of Next-generation Global Navigation Satellite System Reflectometry (GNSS-R) Retrievals (funded)

The Faculty of Engineering at The University of Auckland has a rapidly growing interest in radar remote-sensing for monitoring of the Earth’s processes, including the design and utilization of existing space-borne, airborne, and ground-based systems. PhD opportunities are offered for students to work in multidisciplinary international research projects supporting algorithm development, campaign participation and data analysis for proof-of-concept efforts and in support of possible new Earth-science space and/or suborbital missions.

The research will require the PhD candidate to understand electromagnetic scattering theory and practice, interact with science teams, participate in field campaigns, analyse and process collected data to address campaign objectives. An opportunity is offered to participate in a unique collaboration with NASA to mature and characterise the next-generation GNSS-R technology. With a focus on maturing terrestrial science in support of future missions there is the potential of co-mentoring with our US colleagues.

An annual scholarship of NZD 27,500 is available for three years. Funding for three years’ tuition fees is also offered.

For further information, contact:

Dr Delwyn Moller (Engineering): delwyn.moller@auckland.ac.nz

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Development of Radar Systems for Nano-Satellites (funded)

Space-borne satellite radar is an important technology to measure properties of the Earth surface. However, existing radar satellites are relatively large, heavy and expensive. Current satellite radar missions employ either only a single satellite platform or a small constellation of two satellites. For these missions the revisit period, i.e. the time between satellite passes over one target region, is often ten days or more. However, it is desirable to observe targets much more frequently. Rapid information can be obtained by using large numbers of satellites that allow one particular region to be overpassed more frequently than with a single satellite. Inexpensive nano-satellites employing commercial-off-the-shelf components are the ideal platform for these constellations.

The small physical size of nano-satellites places significant constraints on the design of radar systems. The miniaturization of SAR systems to fit on a CubeSat requires new technological breakthroughs that go beyond state-of-the-art.

The aim of this PhD project is to develop a novel miniaturised radar front-end suitable for a nano-satellite, particularly focusing on approaches to reduce the number of RF beam-forming chains required and understanding the engineering trade-offs.

Applicants must have a background in electrical/electronics engineering and ideally experience with designing RF circuits.

A tax-free stipend of $NZD 28,200 per year is available for 3 years.

Contact for questions: Dr. Andrew Austin, a.austin@auckland.ac.nz

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High-Tc Superconductor research for Space Satellites

The Faculties of Science and Engineering are jointly developing a space systems programme at The University of Auckland. This cross-disciplinary effort has brought together engineers and scientists interested in growing New Zealand’s expertise in space mission design, satellite construction and space science.

This project will investigate the magnetic vectoring of propulsion plumes using high-temperature superconductor units in an orbital environment. The work will involve both simulation and experimental measurements. The ideal student will have a background in applied physics, electromagnetic theory, or space engineering. Previous experience in developing space hardware is not required but it is preferred.

The PhD candidate may be enrolled under the Faculty of Science or the Faculty of Engineering, as appropriate to the candidate’s interests and background.

Excellent applicants for a PhD should consider applying for a University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship

For further information, contact:

Dr Nicholas Rattenbury (Physics) (https://www.physics.auckland.ac.nz/people/nrat001)
Dr John Cater (Engineering) (https://unidirectory.auckland.ac.nz/profile/j-cater)

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Optical Communications for Small Satellites

The Faculties of Science and Engineering are jointly developing a space systems programme at The University of Auckland. This cross-disciplinary effort has brought together engineers and scientists interested in growing New Zealand’s expertise in space mission design, satellite construction, space science and supporting infrastructure.

This project will investigate free space optical communications for small satellites. A major task in the project will be the design, commissioning and operation of a robotic optical observatory and instrumentation package suitable for inclusion in the Australasian Optical Communication Ground Station Network.

The work will involve both instrumentation, experimental design, practical astronomy, embedded systems, electronics, optical theory and practice. The ideal student will have a background in applied physics, observational astronomy, optical instrumentation, optical theory and application.

The PhD candidate may be enrolled under the Faculty of Science or the Faculty of Engineering, as appropriate to the candidate’s interests and background.

For further information, contact:

Dr Nicholas Rattenbury (Physics) (https://www.physics.auckland.ac.nz/people/nrat001)
Dr John Cater (Engineering) (https://unidirectory.auckland.ac.nz/profile/j-cater)

Funding Notes

Excellent applicants are encouraged to apply for independent funding from the University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship programme.

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Research Fellow/Senior Research Fellow

We are seeking a researcher to work in the area of Satellites and Launch Vehicle structural dynamics. More information and link to apply here

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