Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

PhD position: Optimal trajectories for reusable launchers re-entry within ASCenSIon project (ESR14)

This job offer has expired

    Politecnico di Milano (PoliMi)
    EngineeringAerospace engineering
    EngineeringMechanical engineering
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    19/05/2020 23:00 - Europe/Brussels
    Italy › Milan
    H2020 / Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions


About ASCenSIon

The purpose of the ASCenSIon project is to develop a programme that focuses on several specific areas of cutting-edge space access research, particularly on launcher systems that are (partially) reusable and capable of injecting multiple payloads into multiple orbits. More than providing design concepts, the network aims to identify and advance critical technologies to prove a feasibility of these concepts. Fields of research and training include propulsion technologies and their reusability; Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC); aero-thermo-dynamics of re-entry and safe disposal. A variety of technologies will be advanced, including hybrid rocket engines, electric pump feeding and advanced nozzle configurations. Both computational and experimental (cold-flow and hot fire) techniques will ensure an efficient process and reliable results. The reuse of propulsion systems demands an assessment of their durability. It will be conducted by numerical simulations, system analysis with EcosimPro/ESPSS and experimental test runs. The development and integration of wireless sensor networks will allow health monitoring of these critical subsystems. Moreover, novel GNC strategies and processes have to be developed for the whole mission trajectory. This includes solutions for optimised flexibility w.r.t. the orbital insertion conditions as well as dedicated descend trajectories and GNC missionisation for re-entry. The models will cover various recovery concepts and the support of multiple landing sites. This requires an extensive examination of the aero-thermo-dynamics during re-entry as well as of the interactions between stage recovery and propulsion system layout. Ecological and economical sustainability will be addressed as new payload concepts including large constellations increase the demand for safe disposal and space debris mitigation to ensure an open access to space in the future. Furthermore, the utilisation of so called green propellants will be investigated.

The ASCenSIon consortium includes Technische Universität Dresden, German Aerospace Center, SITAEL, Sapienza Università di Roma, ONERA, Université libre de Bruxelles, Hochschule Bremen, Università Di Pisa, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Politecnico di Milano, DEIMOS Space, ArianeGroup, ESA, AVIO, OHB, D-Orbit, SpaceForest and Telematic Solutions.


About the host organisation

Politecnico di Milano (PoliMi) is a university, founded in 1863, that teaches technologies in a variety of innovative, specialised subjects as engineers and architects. POLIMI concentrates on quality and innovation in teaching and research training with high international standards, with 2740 enrolled staff members in all. In 2019, the students were 42453, 5840 of which are foreign. According to QS World University Rankings 2019, POLIMI ranked 7th worldwide in the mechanical and aerospace engineering, and 1st in Italy. The entity involved in the current project is the Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Aerospaziali (PoliMi-DAER), established as an autonomous institute in the 1950’s. The main activity within the Department is education, and the Department hosts the Laurea (B.S.), in Aerospace Engineering, the Laurea Magistrale (M.S) in Space Engineering and Aeronauti-cal Engineering, and Dottorato di ricerca (Ph.D.) in Aerospace Engineering. Each year 350 students complete the B.S. courses, 200 the M.S. and 10 the Ph.D. The skills the Space group offers to the team are related to space systems design and testing, and to its long experience in astrodynamics. According to the two areas, POLIMIDAER has developed more than 50 space mission design stud-ies and has been involved in external funded collaborations being in charge of trajectory and mis-sion design for Earth and interplanetary missions, guidance navigation and control for satellites and launchers, space robotics. DAER is well equipped with numerical and experimental laboratories. (https://www.polimi.it/en/home/)


Your PhD project

The ESR will learn how to settle strategies for multi-body system guidance and control in highly perturbed environment. He\she will perform a comprehensive state of the art in the field of multi-body modelling and robust control techniques for dynamics with uncertainties. Then he\she will start formalizing the problem of the atmospheric precision landing controlled dynamics with no uncertainty. The candidate will then implement a dynamics simulator with increasing modeling complexity (starting with rigid vehicle, no uncertainty, moving up to flexible vehicle with environmental and system uncertainties): the simulator will be then exploited to test different guidance approaches and assess performance with respect to the system and environmental considered parameters.


Problem Definition

Re-entry, descent and precision soft landing in atmosphere is very challenging. Europe has no flown experience for such launcher elements. The atmosphere presence demands nonlinear and robust control strategies to cope with the non-linearities and numerous uncertainties to be identified and implemented in the simulation software. Retargeting performance is envisaged as well.


Research Objectives

  1. Identification of requisites for a launcher component to be softly and precisely re-entered, depending on its configuration, initial state conditions & safety boxes requirements
  2. Developing a 6DOF re-entry dynamics model with uncertainties in specific parameters (ballistic coefficient, atmosphere density, etc.)
  3. Implementation of robust & adaptive control for compliance with final imposed conditions
  4. Assessment of the level of reusability w.r.t. the dynamics control complexity according to the different multidisciplinary aspects


Expected Results

A tool to synthesize robust GNC for unmanned atmospheric re-entry vehicles under precision and soft landing constraints, depending on the specification of the vehicle itself and its dynamical conditions.



Two secondments are foreseen to:

  1. ONERA, for a duration of 3 months, for the design and tuning of aerodynamics model in the simulator architecture
  2. DEIMOS Space, for a duration of 6,5 months, to finalise and implement GNC on a real mission scenario

More Information



  • You will be working within our international group of > 30 researchers with experience in a broad range of sciences
  • You will get in contact with the other members of this international consortium and will benefit from the joint training platform to develop skills necessary for developing a thorough understanding of space transportation systems
  • You will be employed by the host organization for 36 months
  • A competitive salary plus allowances. Moreover, funding is available for technical and personal skills training and participation in international research events
  • You will benefit from the well-structured training programme offered by the host organization and the consortium
  • You will participate in international conferences and secondments to other organisations within the ASCenSIon network and in outreach activities targeted at a wide audience

Please find additional information in the Information package for Marie Curie fellows.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants can be of any nationality.


Candidates may apply prior to obtaining their master’s degree but cannot begin before having received it.


H2020 MSCA Mobility Rule: researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the host organization (Italy) for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status are not taken into account. Eligible researchers must not have spent more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the date of selection in the same appointing international organisation.


H2020 MSCA eligibility criteria: Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) must, at the date of recruitment by the host organization, be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and have not been awarded a doctoral degree. Full-Time Equivalent Research Experience is measured from the date when the researcher obtained the degree entitling him/her to embark on a doctorate (either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited, even if a doctorate was never started or envisaged).


Applicants who do not fulfill these requirements CANNOT be considered for the research position.

Selection process

For the selection procedure, the ASCenSIon consortium will appoint a Committee, consisting of at least three members: one main supervisor, two co-supervisors and the project coordinator from University of Dresden.The preliminary selection is made by review of the application documents specified below. The final selection will be made after interviews with the final candidates. The applicants will be informed about rejection or admission to an interview by end of May at the latest. The interviews will take place either in person at the host institution or via video-conference. The timeframe for the interviews is May - June.

Additional comments


Interested candidates are invited to submit one single PDF containing the following documents in this exact order:

  • Application form (Click on "Where to apply" at the top of the page to download it)
  • Cover letter
  • CV
  • Educational and professional certificates (university degree(s) with marks, internships, workshops, languages, etc.)


Moreover, you must submit:

  • Short video (max. 30 s.). The video must include: personal introduction, background, motivation to apply to the research position… show us why you are the ideal candidate!


All the application documents must be submitted via email to ascension@tu-dresden.de


The email subject must be “Application for ESR14 position”.


The email size incl. attachments must not exceed 30 MB in total.


You will receive an automatic reply if we have received your email. Please avoid any questions on the status of the selection process. We will inform you as soon as there is an update.


Candidates whose application is not compliant with the requirements above will not be considered.


Application deadline: 19 May 2020 at 11:59 PM CET

Expected starting date: 1 October 2020


Applications and enclosures received after the deadline will not be considered.


Candidates can apply to more than one position.

More information and other vacant positions can be found at:


We in the ASCenSIon consortium value diversity and we commit to equal treatment of all applicants irrespective of gender, sexuality, health status as well as social, cultural or religious background.

For additional information about the research project and this individual position, please contact: ascension@tu-dresden.de

Offer Requirements

    ENGLISH: Excellent


Essential skills:

  • MSc or equivalent in the field of aerospace engineering or mechanical engineering
  • Applicants must have a solid knowledge of flight dynamics, multi-body modelling, basics in control techniques; programming language
  • Ability to work highly efficient and self-reliantly in a diverse inter-disciplinary and multicultural environment
  • Ability to work in a team, as well as independently
  • Ability to solve complex problems with adherence of strict deadlines
  • Excellent communication skills (both written and verbal) in English to derive the full benefit from the network training
  • Proactive attitude
  • As secondments and events are foreseen, applicants must be ready to travel
  • Applicants must be eligible to enroll on a PhD programme at the host institution http://www.dottorato.polimi.it/en/

Desired skills:

  • Basic knowledge in system of system design is optional
  • Experience in laboratory work including the design, conduction and evaluation of experiments
  • Project management
  • Knowledge of the host institution language is a plus

Work location(s)
2 position(s) available at
Politecnico di Milano (PoliMi)
Helmholtzstraße 10

EURAXESS offer ID: 501262


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