Satellite Payload Testing and Flight Operations

University of Manchester

Postdoctorate Position 1 year Manchester, UK

Uploaded 29 Aug 2019

Job Description


Salary: £32,236 to £39,609 per annum (according to relevant experience)

Hours: Full Time

Duration: Fixed Term For 12 Months From Start Date

Location: Sackville Street, Manchester


Enquiries about the vacancy, shortlisting and interviews:

Name: Dr. Peter Roberts

Email: [email protected]

Tel: 0161 306 4636



DISCOVERER is a Horizon 2020 funded programme in the Future and Emerging Technologies theme. It envisions a radical redesign of Earth observation platforms for sustained operation at significantly lower altitudes than the current state of the art, using a combination of new aerodynamic materials, aerodynamic control and atmosphere-breathing electric propulsion for drag-compensation, for a variety of observation methods with the aim of creating a new platform paradigm.

This vision requires foundational research in spacecraft aerodynamic characterization, in material aerodynamics and atomic oxygen resistance, in electric propulsion, and control methods.

The 4¼ year programme, led by the University of Manchester, involves the development, build and use of a new rarified-flow, atomic oxygen wind tunnel for materials testing, and will culminate in the launch of CubeSat to test aerodynamic materials and control strategies which will be operated from the University.

The University of Manchester is a public research university in the city of Manchester, England. It is the largest single site University in the UK with ~39,000 students and 10,400 staff. The University had an income of over £1 billion in 2017–18, of which £298.7 million was from research grants and contracts. It is ranked 29th in the world by QS World University Rankings 2016-17 and 34th in the world according to the 2018 Academic Ranking of World Universities (6th in the UK).  

The University possesses a fantastic breadth and depth of knowledge, allowing it to break down barriers to undertake multidisciplinary research, and we collaborate with partners worldwide to tackle some of society's most pressing problems. We have a strong heritage of space research encompassing the pioneering radio astronomy work at Jodrell Bank, astrophysics, planetary science and cosmochemistry, space instrumentation and space technology development.


Under the guidance of Dr Peter Roberts, the PI for the DISCOVERER programme, you’ll be working with a variety of consortium members in the development of the aerodynamics and materials test satellite, a CubeSat being developed in collaboration with GomSpace and UCL.

The University of Manchester is responsible for the experimental design, the aerodynamics and materials test payload, launch and operations, and finally the scientific exploitation of the flight data. One of several research positions at the University funded by DISCOVERER, this role will support the design, development, test, qualification and operation of the University’s payload, be responsible for the implementation and operation of the University’s new ground station, and support operations of the satellite.


  • The range of duties will include:
  • Supporting the design, development, mechanical and electrical test, qualification, and integration of the University’s steerable fins payload
  • Taking responsibility for the implementation and operation of the University’s new satellite ground station
  • Operating the CubeSat using our ground station in Manchester according to the operations plan
  • Carrying out and writing up original research for peer-reviewed journals
  • Communicating these results through presentations at meetings at national and international events and conferences
  • Supporting the DISCOVERER programme by writing reports and providing inputs to meet contractual deadlines
  • Assisting with supervision of PhD and Masters students working on related topics as appropriate
  • Continually updating knowledge and understanding in field or specialism
  • Communicating complex information, orally, in writing and electronically
  • Liaising with colleagues both internal to the University and in the DISCOVERER consortium more generally, and with students
  • Building internal contacts and participating in internal networks for the exchange of information and to form relationships for future collaboration 
  • Joining external networks to share information and identify potential sources of funds
  • Managing own research and administrative activities, with guidance if required
  • Using initiative and creativity to identify areas for research, developing new research methods and extending the research portfolio
  • Using research resources, laboratories and workshops as appropriate
  • Balancing the competing pressures of research and administrative demands and deadlines
  • Being aware of the risks in the work environment and their potential impact on their own work and that of others
  • Post holders are required to familiarise themselves with the University’s Equality and Diversity policies and to actively support these wherever possible

Person Specification

Essential Knowledge, Skills, Experience and Qualifications:

  • Have, or be about to obtain, a relevant PhD degree; or a relevant MSc/MEng degree with suitable additional experience.
  • Experience in space hardware development, ideally of deployable systems
  • Knowledge and practical experience of mechanical testing and integration
  • Electronics development and test skills
  • Practical experience of communications systems development and operation
  • Strong Journal publication record

In addition the candidate would be expected to have the following attributes:

  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills with an ability to present in both written and oral forms
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Flexible approach to dealing with research problems as they arise
  • Ability assess and organise resources to meet deadlines
  • Ability to contribute to broader management and administrative processes.
  • Willingness to travel in the UK and overseas

Desirable Knowledge, Skills, Experience and Qualifications:

  • Practical experience of satellite communications systems including ground station development, setup and operation.
  • Knowledge of CubeSat development and experience with CubeSat launch and early operations.
  • Previous experience of multinational projects and EC funded programmes
  • Experience of supporting the supervision of students