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Space Situational Awareness

Faculty of Engineering

Prof Roberto Armellin , Dr Laura Pirovano Applications accepted all year round Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Auckland New Zealand Aerospace Engineering Space Science

About the Project

Space debris is defined as all human-made objects including fragments that are non functional. Today, the global dimension of the problem is internationally recognised, and active control of the space debris environment has been deemed necessary to sustain safe space activities in the future. Space situational awareness (SSA) aims to view, understand and predict the physical location of natural and human-made objects in orbit around the Earth.

Space situational awareness (SSA) aims to view, understand and predict the physical location of natural and human-made objects in orbit around the Earth. Within this framework, the University of Auckland is looking for a PhD candidate to investigate the current challenges of SSA such as collision avoidance design, optimal tasking of ground-based and space-based sensors and maneuver detection for catalogue maintenance.

The ideal candidate will have:

• a background in aerospace engineering, physics or other relevant field;

• good programming skills (e.g. C++, Python and/or Matlab);

• solid mathematical background;

• ideally knowldege in astrodynamics.

The PhD student will be a part of Astrodynamics group of Te Punaha Atea Auckland Space Institute, at The University of Auckland ( The Astrodynamics Group is a lively and active group researching into space mission design and space surveillance and tracking. Our activity in space surveillance and tracking is aimed at enabling the sustainable use of space. The research is focused on improving the capabilities in predicting the future position of space resident objects (RSO), the way in which we observe them and determine their orbits to build and maintain the RSO catalogue. We do research to improve the accuracy of conjunctions analysis tools, which are needed to avoid in-space collisions and to enable safer and more cost-effective spacecraft operations. We study methods to improve re-entry predictions to reduce on-ground casualty risks and low-cost options for spacecraft end-of-life disposal to limit the probability of in-space collisions, thus enabling a sustainable use of space.

The Space Institute/Te Pūnaha Atea is a multidisciplinary centre of expertise in space science and engineering, including a capability to execute space missions and develop applications.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please follow these guidelines:

  1. Check your eligibility to take a PhD at The University of Auckland at
  2. Please give an outline (500 words) of your intended topic and areas of interest for doctoral study. When you detail your research interest, please ensure you succinctly record:
  • The area of research which particularly interests you.
  • Why you have chosen this area.
  • What you hope to achieve during your studies at the University of Auckland
  • How your proposed research relates to current and recent research in this area at the University of Auckland.

Funding Notes

Excellent candidates for PhD research at The University of Auckland can compete for a University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship. We can assess your chances if you send us your statement, CV and academic record (including grades and subjects).

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