Design of flexible carbon fibre deployable structures for space applications

The School of Mechanical Engineering Sciences is currently offering a fully funded PhD studentship for three years to develop a flexible deployable carbon composite mechanism to support an optical payload for space applications. This research is being undertaken in collaboration with the UK satellite manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) in Guildford, Surrey.

36 months
Application deadline
Funding information

The studentship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus a stipend of £17,000 p.a.


Instruments attached to satellites are often stowed compactly for launch, and subsequently deployed once the satellite is in space. Many different deployment mechanisms have been used in space, but thin flexible structures which can be rolled or folded for launch have the advantage of having few moving parts, and can be extremely lightweight. However, they often produce lower positional accuracy in their deployed state than more traditional deployment mechanisms. The aim of this project is to develop and test a prototype of a thin flexible deployable support structure, that has sufficient positional accuracy to deploy a sensitive optical payload from a small-medium sized satellite. We are focussed on the development of real space hardware to demonstrate concepts, as well as the exploration of new manufacturing, testing, and analysis methods.

We are seeking a full time PhD student to facilitate the concept development, manufacture, and prototyping of ultra-lightweight ‘gossamer’ deployable space structures based on carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer shells.

The successful candidate will have a keen interest in developing novel space structures, experience in finite element analysis of composite structures, a good understanding of structural mechanics and a strong mathematical background. It is expected that the student will contribute actively to academic life at the University of Surrey, and present the results of their research at relevant conferences and in appropriate academic journals.

Related links
Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL)

Eligibility criteria

Applicants should have (or expect to obtain by the start date) at least a 2:1 bachelors degree, and preferably a masters degree in an appropriate discipline (e.g. engineering, material sciences, physics or a related subject).

If English is not your first language, IELTS 6.5 or above (or equivalent) is required, with no sub-test score less than 6.

This is open to European/UK students only.

How to apply

Interested parties are encouraged to contact the project supervisor, Dr Andrew Viquerat for further information.

Applications should be submitted online through our PhD Engineering Materials course.

Please state the project title and supervisor clearly on all applications – preferably as part of the project title. When following the online application procedure, please also make sure to include a CV and covering letter. Applications sent via email cannot be considered at this time.

Contact details

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