PhD position
in the field of
Improved orbits of space debris through multi-static laser ranging observations

The Optical Astronomy group of the Astronomical Institute of the University of Bern (AIUB) has a world-leading position in the domain of optical surveys and characterization of space debris. AIUB operates the Swiss Optical Ground Station and Geodynamics Observatory Zimmerwald equipped with the 1-m multi-purpose laser and astronometry telescope (ZIMLAT) and five additional telescopes with apertures ranging from 0.2 to 0.8 meters. AIUB participates in several civilian space debris tracking networks such as the International Scientific Optical Observation Network (ISON) and the DLR-AIUB network of small robotic telescopes SMARTnet. With its research focus on space debris, space surveillance, and space situational awareness (SSA), the group is deeply involved in various ESA-funded studies, performs space debris surveys with the ESA 1-m tele-scope at Tenerife on behalf of ESA, and operates the ESA Expert Centre for Space Safety.

The ever increasing number of space debris objects is posing a significant safety risk to operational spacecraft. Operators are confronted with a huge number of conjunctions with larger space debris objects for which they need to avoid collision by executing maneuvers. The identification of close conjunctions and the planning of possible avoidance maneuvers require precise orbits of the debris objects. Laser ranging is a promising technique to improve the accuracy of orbits of space debris objects in Low Earth Orbits (LEO) by about one order of magnitude compared to traditional radar techniques.

  • Advance the observations technique to a level where bi- and multistatic
    observations may be performed on a regular basis at the SwissOGS and other SLR stations.
  • Improve the orbits and orbit predictions of space debris based on multistatic
    observations in real-time and a posteriori.
  • Assess the potential of multistatic observations to improve and maintain high
    quality space debris orbits by means of a network simulation and an observation campaign.
University degree (master or equivalent) in astronomy, geodesy, physics, mathematics or a similar discipline. Fluent English; basics in German are an advantage.
We offer
Salary based on the regulations of the Swiss National Science Foundation.
Equal opportunity environment is important to us, and we welcome applicants from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in physics and astronomy. We will be particularly pleased to receive applications from women for the advertised position.
Head of the Optical Astronomy Group, Prof. Dr. Thomas Schildknecht
Tel. +41.31 684 85 94, email, Office 210a
Application until December 20th, 2022