PhD – MHD Enhanced radio-blackout mitigation system for space transportation

Department Aeronautics and Aerospace
Deadline Feb. 28, 2021

Duration: Fall 2020 - 2023

Application Deadline: Open Until Filled

Job description

We are seeking a full-time doctoral student to join the von Karman Institute in the Aeronautics and Aerospace Department in the frame of the European project Magnetohydrodynamic Enhanced Entry System for Space Transportation (MEESST), starting from October 2020.

As part of an international team investigating advanced technologies for future space exploration missions, you will mainly support the experimental research group of our plasma laboratory. You will be responsible for the design, execution and management of specific experimental campaigns investigating the interaction of radio-frequency signals, and the ionized plasma layer created by the facility.

In particular, the MEESST project aims at filling the gap between science and technology towards the development of a first demonstrator implementing active magnetic shielding for mitigating heat flux and radio blackout during atmospheric entry. A new-generation magnet will be tested in the plasma facility at VKI along with numerical simulations relying upon improved MHD models, for the first time including all relevant EM-plasma interactions, thermochemical non-equilibrium and radiation effects for both Earth and Mars atmospheres. As a result, a radically-new science-enabled technology will be developed and deployed, together with enhanced experimental techniques and modelling tools.

At the core of this work will be the experimental assessment of the performance of the magnetic-based technology for the mitigation of radio blackouts during a planetary entry (Mars, Earth). Plasma characterization and determination of boundary conditions shall be provided for validating the numerical models. The development, implementation and calibration of the necessary diagnostics will be performed in the unique VKI Plasmatron facility. Preliminary tests will be run without a magnet by assessing the plasma layer effect on an RF signal propagation (typical communication link frequencies below 6 GHz, i.e., GPS, S-band). The candidate will work with internal and/or external technical services to drive the conception, mechanical design and production of test models and required hardware. She or he will direct the design and commissioning of instrumentation and control systems for the test facilities, with a leading role in the procurement of equipment. This will be followed by design and execution of the radio-blackout experiments with the High Temperature Superconducting (HTS) magnet prototype provided by the consortium.

The candidate is expected to organize the research data and report results and findings to colleagues and external research sponsors. She/he will contribute actively to the dissemination of her/his research findings through project meetings, international conference participation and peer-reviewed international journals.

The job requires multitasking skills and predisposition towards teamwork while liaising closely with faculty, student and staff members. The position holder must have time management skills, being able to set independently work priorities to maintain stringent project schedules in a goal-oriented environment. Responsibilities will also include project and cost tracking.


Absolutely needed:
• Holder of a degree in Physics, Telecommunications or related engineering field, preferably on a subject related to experimental testing of magnetohydrodynamics, plasma flows or radio-frequency related devices.
• Experience in experimental telecommunication projects. A proven background in the following subjects is demanded: radio-signal transmission and propagation, experimental data analysis and processing. Applicants with a record of accomplishments in telecommunications and with demonstrated lab experience will be given preference.
• Fluent knowledge of English (oral and written).

Good to have:
• Knowledge of data-processing programming languages (such as Python or Matlab),
• Capability to read and generate complex technical drawings and diagrams,
• LabVIEW expertise.

• Knowledge and/or experience in fluid mechanics, plasma flows and CFD software.

Candidates are expected to be self-motivated, hardworking and team players. We ensure a high-level of interaction in a world-known international research center specialized in fluid dynamics for aerospace, environmental and propulsion applications.

The appointment is fixed-term (3 years). VKI maintains a very friendly and international working environment, which will provide easy adaptation for the selected applicant.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to Dr. A. Viladegut (

This position is ONLY open to citizens of member countries of EU or NATO.