Postdoc Fellow – Area of modeling and simulation of space debris re-entry

Department Aeronautics and Aerospace
Deadline None

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Careers at the von Karman Institute: Construct the future together!

For 65 years as international center of excellence in fluid dynamics, the von Karman Institute brings together young engineers and scientists from all over the world to study, improve their skills and perform their research.

Construct the future together! Besides its mission of education, the von Karman Institute gathers the top-level scientists and engineers to work on very challenging projects as the next generation of engines, new propulsion concepts, the new green energy, the safety of industry, solutions for a cleaner space, the Mission to Mars and many other fields of research which can make the difference for the human kind. Those scientists have access to more than 50 wind tunnels and test rigs, some of them unique in the world to help them in their projects.

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“A scientist studies what is, whereas an engineer creates what never was“, Théodore von Kármán

Deadline: open until fulfilled

Duration: 1 to 2 years

Position Start Date: As soon as possible According to mutual agreement


Spacecraft fragmentation is a chain of events occurring during the early stage of re-entry, when the spacecraft is flying in the rarefied/transitional regime. This consists in the breakup and separation of the weakest structural components of the vehicle and is known to be critical for the prediction of the footprint area of those spacecraft components that do not demise completely throughout the re-entry. Understanding and modeling fragmentation is considered of paramount importance to allow future spacecraft to comply with Design for Demise (D4D) regulations.

At VKI, we are involved in numerous activities that aim to improve the accuracy of the predicted demise behavior of space debris upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. In particular, VKI has recently been awarded by the European Space Agency with a research contract to design, implement, and validate a toolset for the analysis of the space-debris re-entry by means of high-fidelity simulation tools. The objective is to create an advanced design methodology to complement engineering tools in the design process of future spacecraft to ensure compliance with D4D guidelines.

In this context, the Direct Simulations Monte Carlo (DSMC) method has been selected to simulate the aerothermal environment surrounding the space debris in the early phase of its re-entry. In particular, the SPARTA code has been identified as the reference tool and its integration as a library in the toolset to be developed is foreseen as an efficient implementation strategy. Therefore, we are looking for an outstanding candidate who can perform the following tasks:

– Contribute to the development of a coupling procedure between the selected DSMC tool (SPARTA) and the thermo-structural solver selected for the contractual activity.

– Develop post-processing tools for i) the extraction of quantities of interests such as aerodynamic coefficients, pressure and heat-flux distribution from the DSMC results; and ii) the mapping of the space-dependent quantities for exchange with the thermo-structural solver.

– Identify and properly justify the necessary level of complexity to be used in the DSMC simulations to achieve the target accuracy with the minimum possible computational cost.

– Actively participate to the project by taking direct responsibility in the execution of the technical tasks and in the preparation of the necessary technical documentation.

– Publish results in high-rank journals.

Required Qualifications

– A PhD in Aerospace Engineering, Physics, Applied Mathematics or a related field is required prior to appointment for this position.

– High-level knowledge of numerical gas dynamics and, in particular, of the DSMC method.

– Experience with a high performance computing DSMC code such as the SPARTA code.

– Excellent programming skills in relevant languages (C++, Fortran, Python, etc.)

– A desire to work as part of a larger team and the ability to achieve objectives in due time.

– Oral and written proficiency in English.

The mission of VKI is to provide post-graduate education in fluid dynamics by encouraging “training in research through research.” VKI promotes fundamental research in the field of fluid dynamics in an international environment. The Aeronautics and Aerospace Department is focused, in particular, on activities at the edge of aerothermodynamics and aerothermochemistry technology and basic research. The Institute objective is to create an outstanding environment for creative research.


- We maintain a very friendly and international working environment, which will provide easy adaptation for the selected applicant.

- Employed by the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics in one of the most attractive areas of central Europe in the neighborhood of Brussels.

- Work at the internationally renowned von Karman Institute in a key role in the space debris mitigation

- Work in close collaboration with Belgian universities as well as an industrial network.

- Become part of the VKI network with global access to industry experts and academics in the field of fluid dynamics, aerospace, propulsion, and energy conversion.

- Experience the unique international workshop character of the VKI working environment.

- Access to specialized seminars and lecture series and to world-unique facilities.


VKI does strictly adhere to the ethical standards of the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers ( . Female scientists are particularly encouraged to apply. A strict equal opportunity, gender-neutral and internationally comparable recruitment procedure is implemented.

Contact information

For further information, please contact Prof. Thierry Magin ( and Dr. Alessandro Turchi (

How to apply

You will be required to upload a cover letter describing your interest in the position and your relevant qualifications, CV, including a list of publications and the contact of two - three referees as part of your application. CV must clearly indicate the exact dates of (1) each position hold in the past, and (2) countries of residence in the last 5 years.

All the fields (including pdf files and references) should be filled in to allow you to confirm your application. Only full applications will be taken into account. Please do not use white spaces or special characters to name your files. If you have not received a confirmation email it means that you have not fulfilled all required fields.

Short-listed candidates are called for an interview with the search committee at the von Karman Institute. The selected candidate must comply with the internal procedures of the von Karman Institute and receive clearance from the Institute Board of Directors before she or he can begin to work. The von Karman Institute reserves the right not to appoint a candidate if no suitable candidate is found.

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