Exciting Ph.D. Scholarships
RMIT University

Australian Space Environment Management Corporative Research Centre

Posted on: Sun Mar 16 2014

(In the areas of astrodynamics/geodesy, space tracking, GPS/GNSS, space physics, orbit determination and prediction)

Project Description

Applications are invited for PhD student positions available at the SPACE Research Centre, RMIT University. This research is primarily supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) council project (ARC-LP130100500) "Innovative Solutions to Enhance Space Situational Awareness" and the newly established Australian Space Environment Management Corporative Research Centre (CRC-SEM). Key partners involved in the research include RMIT, EOS Space Systems Pty Ltd, VPAC Ltd, Australian National University, as well as international partners.

The near-Earth space environment has become progressively cluttered with objects resulting from over 50 years of space operations. Approximately 500,000 objects between 1 cm and 10 cm in diameter lie in this region and the number of objects smaller than 1 cm is estimated to be upwards of 100 million. These objects travel at speeds over 10,000 km/ hour and pose a significant threat to active satellites and the International Space Station (ISS). The vast majority of debris objects result from rocket bodies, separation of stages during payload launches, collisions, antisatellite tests, explosions, fuel ejections, and fragmentations. If remediation measures are not employed, the future growth in the number of objects will accelerate primarily due to collision events. This is often referred to as collisional cascading or the Kessler Syndrome where debris caused by collisions becomes the dominant source of new objects. This runaway growth threatens future

The aims of this research are to develop innovative algorithms and robust solutions to improve the accuracy and reliability of the orbit propagation/prediction (OP) and collision warning probability for space debris objects, and hence significantly enhance our space situational awareness (SSA) capabilities. SSA can be broadly defined as characterising the space environment and its effects on activities in space. SSA ensures the protection of assets in space for which many aspects of our daily lives depend on. The following research goals are stipulated:

  1. Develop new cutting-edge methods to propagate debris orbits using Two Line Element (TLE) datasets;
  2. Improve the determination of the covariance matrix of OP so that the collision warning probability computation is reliable;
  3. Investigate new methods to estimate the ballistic coefficients of debris objects from historical TLE datasets;
  4. Enhance the characterisation of solar heating in atmospheric mass density modelling;
  5. Investigate methods of incorporating short-term geomagnetic disturbance forecasts to reduce OP errors; and
  6. Develop intelligent methods to generate reliable orbit data when only limited space tracking data is available.

The key outcomes of the project will be new methods and platform systems for robust orbit prediction, improved collision warning, reliable ballistic coefficient estimation and the effects of solar activity variability,

Required Background of Applicants

  • [General]: Applicants for this position should have excellent analytical and computational skills and should be comfortable working in a team environment (in particular with EOS and VPAC). adsfkajda
  • [Academic]: A good degree in astrodynamics / applied mathematics / geodesy / GPS / atmospheric studies / space and applied physics / astronomy / computer engineering. Knowledge / experience of satellite orbit determination, conjunction analysis, atmospheric modelling and computer programming language(s) will be an advantage. The primary research tasks of the PhD candidate are debris orbit determination and prediction.
  • [Eligibility]: Only Australian citizens and permanent residents are eligible for this scholarship; however, international applicants may be considered if they have an outstanding CV in the area of the research. Applicants must meet the RMIT University eligibility for PhD http://www.rmit.edu.au/research/how-to-apply.

Duration of Project and Stipend

The project is funded for 3 years from Jan 2014 and the tax-free annual stipend is $25k-$30k, commensurate with background/experience. In addition, teaching/research assistant opportunities exist for extra income depending on experience and capability and funded travel opportunities.

Deadline: until the positions are filled.

* 1 scholarship available immediately, 5 more PhD scholarships are expected to be available towards the end of 2014/early 2015. Contact Details: Professor Kefei Zhang (Tel: +61 3 9925 3272, Email: kefei.zhang@rmit.edu.au), web: http://www.rmit.edu.au/SPACE (SPACE Research Centre)

**Mention you saw it on the AustMS website**