Actuation methods for thin flexible composite deployable structures for space applications

An industrially-sponsored PhD studentship in spacecraft deployable mechanisms

Start date

1 October 2023


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding source

Industrial sponsor

Funding information

This funding offer covers tuition fees at the UK resident rate, and provides a stipend of £20,000 p.a.


Deployable structures such as extendible masts and antennas, unfolding panels, and even inflatables are an integral part of a spacecraft structures engineer’s toolkit for getting around the tight volume constraints posed by the typically very restricted space available inside a launch vehicle. In general, the fewer moving parts such a structure has, the more reliable it will be. Materials such as carbon fibre composites that are thin enough to be folded or rolled up for storage, but still stiff enough to act as structural members when deployed make a good basis for a deployable structure, but often need some kind of motor or other actuator to ensure that the deployment process is well controlled and runs smoothly.

This project will further the development of a linear motor concept, designed to deploy coiled carbon fibre ‘tape springs’, without generating any magnetic fields. The work will involve a study of the structural mechanics of the composite material during the deployment process (likely involving FEA), as well as modifications to the piezoelectric drive system.

This work is funded and co-supervised by our industrial partner AWE. The successful candidate will be located on campus at the University of Surrey for the majority of their degree. We are looking for a candidate with a keen interest in spacecraft structures and materials. Experience with digital electronics/motor drives would be an advantage.

Please contact Dr Andrew Viquerat ( with any questions.

Eligibility criteria

Open to UK nationals only.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Engineering Materials PhD programme page. In place of a research proposal you should upload a document stating the title of the project that you wish to apply for and the name of the relevant supervisor.

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Application deadline

Contact details

Andrew Viquerat
15 AB 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686267

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