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Queen Mary University of LondonQueen Mary University of London
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School of Engineering and Materials Science Research Studentships

Spacecraft electric propulsion: plasma interactions

Supervisors: John STARK

Application Deadline: 31-01-2019

High performance electric propulsion systems on spacecraft emit high velocity charged species in order to develop thrust. Colloid electric propulsion is unique amongst such systems since the exhaust plume comprises species of both positively and negatively charged species, each with a potentially broad spectrum of specific charge (the ratio of the species’ charge to its mass). This broad spectrum of specific charge results in species within the exhaust beam moving at different velocities. As a result, not only do these particles interact with the ambient space plasma, there is also the potential for collisional interaction between particles within the exhaust plume. The results of these collisions is as yet unclear, however possible charge exchange reactions may lead to a variety of effects which may include spacecraft contamination and surface erosion due to backscattering. Detailed understanding and modelling is therefore required to inform the design of such systems.

This project is principally that of examining theoretically the relevant processes and then developing an appropriate numerical model, most likely based around Particle-in-Cell methods. However, the student may also contribute to ongoing experiments as part of the hardware development programme of a colloid thruster which is part of the HiperLoc-EP project  The model will be used both to clarify the role of specific processes as well as forming part of a design tool which will aid the design of a colloid propulsion system. The CASE award partner for this project is Airbus Defence & Space.

EPSRC Research Studentship Details

To be eligible for a full award (stipend and fees) applicants must have: 

  • Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay and
  • Been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to October 2019. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences) and
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education (This does not apply to UK nationals).
  • (See: for more details).
  • ?Full Time programme only.
  • Applicant required to start in September/ October 2019.
  • The studentship arrangement will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend for up to three years (Currently set as £16,777 in 2018/19).
  • The minimum requirement for this studentship opportunity is a good Honours degree (minimum 2(i) honours or equivalent) or MSc/MRes in a relevant discipline.
  • If English is not your first language then you will require a valid English certificate equivalent to IELTS 6.5+ overall with a minimum score of 6 in Writing and 5.5 in all sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking).

Supervisor Contact Details
For informal enquiries about this position, please contact Professor John Stark
Tel: 020 7882 8875

Application Method:
To apply for this studentship and for entry on to the Aerospace Engineering programme (Full Time) please follow the instructions detailed on the following webpage:

Research Degrees in Engineering:

Further Guidance:

Please be sure to include a reference to ‘2019 SEMS EPSRC CASE JPWS’ to associate your application with this studentship opportunity.