PhD Studentship: Development of an Advanced High Temperature Xenon Resistojet Thruster for Telecomm

United Kingdom
Feb 06, 2017
Feb 03, 2018
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time
PhD Studentship: Development of an Advanced High Temperature Xenon Resistojet Thruster for Telecommunication Spacecraft Propulsion

Engineering & the Environment

Location: Highfield Campus

Closing Date:  Saturday 03 February 2018

Reference: 836217F2

Project Reference: CDT-SIS-161

Resistojets are a form of spacecraft thruster, which significantly improves the performance of traditional cold gas propulsion systems by electrically heating the propellant. This has enabled numerous missions including the European GPS Galileo Testbed (GSTB) GIOVE validation satellites. The primary driver of this technology is now the ‘all-electric propulsion’ bus. All-electric geostationary telecom spacecraft plan to host only an electric ion propulsion system operating with a xenon propellant to perform orbit raising and station keeping in place of the traditional hydrazine propellant system, representing a significant change in the market. This presents competitive cost savings, from the absence of hazardous hydrazine, a fuel mass saving due to greater fuel efficiency and further cost savings in launch vehicle options for lighter spacecraft. However, a new type of thruster is required to fulfil the attitude control role of the absent chemical system. The logical solution is a set of thrusters that operate from a common inert xenon propellant with the electric propulsions system. Conventional resistojets operate <1000°C, however since xenon is a heavy propellant the performance demands for the xenon resistojet concept elevates this requirement close to 3,000°C, representing significant materials and design challenges.

This project plans to design and develop a very high performance resistojet (VHTR) suitable for this role in order to enable all-electric spacecraft for the European market. The project is multifaceted and highly interdisciplinary requiring:

• Advanced coupled multiphysics modelling including: laminar and turbulent flow dynamics and heat transfer/mixing, high Mach number flows, Joule heating, radiative, conductive and convective heat exchange, structural vibration and shock simulation.

• Manufacturing with advanced materials and processes including selective laser melting additive manufacturing of high temperature heat exchangers.

• Post Manufacturing Verification through CT analysis in order to develop accurate 3D mesh for open foam CFD simulation. In addition, post manufacturing surface scanning for roughness characterisation as an input for open foam CFD in CT scanned geometry.

• Validation thruster performance testing and vibration testing with measurement diagnostics within the University of Southampton Astronautics Laboratory Thermal Vacuum Chamber and Vibration Shaker.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr. Angelo Grubisic, Astronautics research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2313.

This project is being run in participation with the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Infrastructure Systems ( For details of our 4 Year PhD programme and further projects, please see

Further details:

  • Job Description and Person Specification