Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

PhD position: Design solutions for green expendable upper stages within ASCenSIon Project (ESR11)

This job offer has expired

    Università di Pisa
    EngineeringAerospace engineering
    EngineeringChemical engineering
    EngineeringMaterials engineering
    EngineeringMechanical engineering
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    31/03/2021 23:00 - Europe/Brussels
    Italy › Pisa
    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, 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 organization: 

Università di Pisa (UniPi) is an ancient and prestigious academic and research institution with a long-standing tradition in industrial engineering and hard science, such as physics and chemistry. In 2013, the University of Pisa finished with USR (which is also part of the consortium) in the first place among the Italian universities, according to the Academic Ranking of the World Universities. The administrative staff comprises 1.900 employees. UniPi has 50.000 students and an additional 3.500 doctoral students. UniPi participates with a team of researchers coming from the Aerospace Engineering Division of the Department of Civil and Industrial Engineering (DICI, www.dici.unipi.it). At DICI, major areas of study and research in aerospace engineering include space systems, space mission analysis and design, flight mechanics, fluid dynamics and aerodynamics, aerothermodynamics, chemical and electric rocket propulsion, air-breathing propulsion, structures and materials. To this purpose, the Aerospace Engineering Division runs a broad set of dedicated facilities and specialized laboratories. Research activities are carried out in close collaboration with several intergovernmental organizations, prestigious universities, and aerospace and mechanical companies. (www.unipi.it)


Task description:

Your PhD project:

The researcher will be in charge of the assessment of design solutions for green expendable upper stages. In particular, the research will start with the identification of relevant mission profiles of future launchers and the corresponding requirements for their green expendable upper stages compliant with the space debris mitigation guidelines. Then, after doing the preliminary design of the upper stage with focus on attainable propulsive performance and affordable envelope and mass budgets, the ESR will carry out the detailed design of the propulsion system of the selected upper stage(s) with focus on most critical components.

The ESR will be enrolled in a PhD course at Università di Pisa and will be asked to: attend a  list of local and network-wide training activities during the project (e.g. lectures, workshops,   seminars, conferences, etc.); attend language courses in English and in Italian; actively   disseminate the research results (e.g. publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals and   scientific presentations at international conferences); perform two secondments in prestigious   institutions to widen the skills on green propulsion.

Problem Definition:

One ESR is fully dedicated to the green propulsion system design for upper stages due to the complexity of upper stage design aspects including the development of green propulsion systems as well as the adherence to safe disposal requirements and novel GNC solutions for injecting multiple payloads to different orbits.

Research Objectives:

  1. Identification of relevant mission profiles of future launchers
  2. Identification of requirements for green expendable upper stages of future launchers compliant with the space debris mitigation guidelines
  3. Assessment of liquid green propellant technologies (GPTs) for monopropellant systems for ACS and RCS and bipropellant systems for stages
  4. Preliminary design of the propulsion system of the upper stage powered by liquid green propellants
  5. Detailed design of the propulsion system of the upper stage powered by liquid green propellants with focus on most critical components

Expected Results:

  1. Definition of the requirements for upper stages of future launchers
  2. Recommendation of green propellant technologies for future substitution of current upper stage powered by toxic propellants
  3. Detailed design of the down-selected liquid green propellant technologies for the upper-stage.
  4. Ground testing of the most critical components of the selected upper stage propulsion system (e.g. monopropellant and bipropellant thrusters and/or their components, tanks, etc.)


Two secondments are likely foreseen to:

  1. DLR, for a duration of about 4 months, to work on the development of hypergolic bipropellant combination
  2. Hochschule Bremen, for a duration of about 4 months, to work on the optimisation of an ethanol injection system.

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 the maximum duration compatible with the ASCenSIon Project (most likely 31.5 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 form 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

The selected candidate will be appointed a temporary contract, salary will be in line with the funding schemes of MSCA action, and in accordance with Italian rules and regulations within this regard and Country specific requirements, as stated in the Grant Agreement and Guide for Applicants. Monthly salary (living allowance + mobility allowance) will be of approx. 4.000€ (gross amount), allocated following Italian specific contract conditions for MSCA candidates. Family allowance will be granted upon specific conditions.


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

Eligibility criteria

Application procedure:

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

  • Application form (see attachment)
  • 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 ESR11 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.


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


Selection process

For the selection procedure, the ASCenSIon consortium will appoint a Committee, consisting of at least three members (probably one from University of Dresden, which is coordinating consortium, two from the University of Pisa, and one from industry).

The selection is assessed by qualifications and an interview.

The total rating allowed is 100/100. Academic qualifications and publications will be assigned up to 60 points. The interview will be assigned up to 40 points, with a minimum passing rate of 32/40. The ranking list will be compiled considering both ratings.

The selection Committee will inform the candidates admitted to the oral interview about the interview schedule and venue.

Candidates unable to attend the interview at the University of Pisa, will be allowed to be interviewed via web or conference call upon Selection Committee approval. The Selection committee is appointed to establish the duly examination of the candidates and shall acquire each candidate’s copy of an identity card or passport.

In the event of a single candidate and only if already qualified (according to both admission and mobility requirements described above) by the application’s deadline, the Committee can assess all the academic qualifications and publications and can approve the candidate without the interview.

In this case, the Committee is appointed to communicate its decision to the Staff Management that will inform the candidate during the two days before the interview date via mail. A similar notice will be published in case the Committee in unable to conform to the date set for the interview.

More information are included in the attached document.

Additional comments

Additional information:

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:


More information about the project and its activities can be found at:


Offer Requirements

    Engineering: Master Degree or equivalent
    Physics: Master Degree or equivalent
    ENGLISH: Excellent


Essential skills:


  • MSc or equivalent in the field of aeroapce engineering, chemical engineering, materials engineering, mechanical engineering or physics
  • Applicants must have a solid knowledge of math, problem solving, mechanics, fluid dynamics, general chemistry and thermal science. Additionally, it is preferred to have knowledge of design and manufacturing, material science, rocket propulsion, combustion, experimental thermos-fluid science; spacecraft systems and space mission design
  • Ability to work highly efficient and self-reliantly in a diverse inter-disciplinary and multi-cultural 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 Università di Pisa (http://dottorato.unipi.it/index.php/en/ph-d-courses.html)

Desired skills:

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


Specific Requirements

Applicants can be of any nationality.


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.

Work location(s)
1 position(s) available at
Università di Pisa

EURAXESS offer ID: 610238


The responsibility for the jobs published on this website, including the job description, lies entirely with the publishing institutions. The application is handled uniquely by the employer, who is also fully responsible for the recruitment and selection processes.


Please contact support@euraxess.org if you wish to download all jobs in XML.