Centre for Future Air-Space Transportation Technology


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The Centre for Future Air-Space Transportation Technology is pleased to announce the availability of five exciting new studentships.

These studentships are intended to support PhD studies on a variety of topics that are related to the Centre’s mission to perform the dedicated long-term planning and research that is required to createthe space access and air transport systems of the future.

The following projects are available to bright, motivated students who meet the demanding entry requirements (2:1 or higher standard MEng or equivalent degree in Engineering, Maths or Physics) and have a deep interest in future aerospace technology.

All the projects will require a flair and aptitude for numerical simulation, and the successful candidates will be expected to integrate within, and to make a strong contribution to, a motivated team of researchers that are performing unique, world-leading research at the interface between aeronautics and space travel.

Design, modelling and optimisation for future space access vehicles

Supervisor: Dr Christie Maddock (christie.maddock@strath.ac.uk)

Single stage to orbit (SSTO) vehicles offer many benefits over expendable rocket technology for accessing space, particularly if operated within an airline-like paradigm so that cost can be spread over multiple missions and reliability can be assured through adopting an aircraft-like design philosophy - particularly with regards redundancy and mission abort capability.

The challenge is to design an SSTO vehicle that achieves these ideals while still being able to carry a useful payload into orbit. This project will develop and extend our present computational capability to simulate and optimise the mission profile (including the various phases such as ascent, on-orbit operations, re-entry and descent) of SSTO space access vehicles. The resultant model will then be used, in conjunction with our industrial partners on this project, to help us understand the design trade-offs that are inherent within the SSTO vehicle concept.

Operations and air traffic management for future long range air transport vehicles

Supervisor: Dr Christie Maddock (christie.maddock@strath.ac.uk)

Several critical problems face today’s global air transportation system: simply put, too many aircraft are now flying for longer periods of time over greater distances than ever before. This is leading to irreversible damage to the environment, and traditional air traffic routes are becoming ever more congested leading to delays and unnecessary fuel use. At the same time, there is ever increasing demand from passengers for more destinations, a wider range of flight times and shorter flight durations. The challenge is to solve these problems beforethe air transport system is overwhelmed by the demands being placed upon it.

This project will construct a computational model of the air transport system that can account for the effects of specific aircraft operational characteristics on the overall behaviour of the air transport network. We will then use this model to investigate how the problems within the air traffic system might be addressed by introducing a fundamentally new type of flight vehicle that operates at much higher speed and altitude than is currently possible. As such, the work will impact on and inform current Civil Aviation Authority initiatives to set in place the regulatory framework for the next generation of civil air transportation.

Uncertainty based multidisciplinary design optimisation of space transportation systems

Dr Edmondo Minisci (edmondo.minisci@strath.ac.uk)

The development of a modern Space Transportation System (STS) is an expensive, long term project where many design decisions need to be taken at a very early stage – indeed, before many elements of the technology are fully characterised or even understood. The challenge is to understand how the effects of this early uncertainty can be captured in the design process so that the end-product can be guaranteed to meet its mission requirements.

This project will extend our modelling and simulation capabilities in the field of robust, reliability-based multi-disciplinary design of space transportation systems, and will focus particularly on understanding how uncertainty propagates through the design process. The methodology will then be used in conjunction with our industrial partner to help develop innovative and robust design methodologies for the next generation of space-access systems.

Advanced hybrid propulsion systems for hypersonic flight

Supervisor: Dr Ian Taylor (ian.taylor@strath.ac.uk)

The design of propulsion systems that are capable of operating efficiently at very high altitudes and hypersonic speeds is fundamental to the next generation of space access vehicles and high-speed airliners. The challenge is to design a propulsion system that will operate efficiently everywhere within the flight envelope of the aircraft or space vehicle. The best approach seems to be to design an engine that can fundamentally change its behaviour depending on the speed and altitude at which it is being flown.

This project will examine the feasibility of a class of so-called hybrid engines that are able to physically change their configuration, or morph, to adapt their performance to the flight regime of the vehicle. A detailed numerical investigation of various promising engine configurations will be undertaken, using high resolution CFD to understand the detailed flow structures within the engine and their influence on the propulsion process. The results of this study will then be integrated into cFASTT's high level trajectory analysis model to examine the feasibility of using this mode of propulsion in the next generation of hypersonic airlinersand space-access vehicles.

Computational characterisation of future ablative heat-shield performance

Supervisor: Prof Richard Brown (richard.brown@strath.ac.uk)

Future planetary exploration probes will enter the atmosphere at their point of arrival at such high speeds that no current material exists from which the spacecraft can be constructed and survive the resulting heat loads intact. For this reason, design practice will be to coat the craft with a layer of so-called ‘ablative’ material which is sacrificed in order to protect the interior of the vehicle from thermal damage. The challenge is to understand what the thermal, mechanical and aerodynamic properties of any candidate material will be without performing a very expensive and time-consuming series of laboratory tests.

This project will construct a new chemical-physical model of ablative materials which will be able to resolve the complexities of their internal structure down to micro-scale level. The aimis to gain a fundamental understanding of the key physical parameters that govern the behaviour of ablative materials under the extremes of heating and physical stress that are encountered during re-entry. The results of this process will be integrated into cFASTT's high-level trajectory analysis model where any improvement in our ability to characterise the performance of ablative heat shields stands to enable vastly improved vehicle performance and thus to ensure the success of the next generation of planetary exploration missions.


Applications will close at midnight on 30 June 2014.

Each 36-month studentship will cover full tuition fees in addition to a stipend to cover living expenses. All projects are to begin on or before 1 October 2014. Due to funding constraints, only UK or EU nationals are eligible for these awards.

Applications, stating clearly your project preference, should be made by email in the first instance to the named supervisor of each project, copied to the Centre Director, Prof Richard E Brown.

With your application please include a covering letter explaining your motivation for your choice of research project, your CV, and the names of two academic referees that are willing to be contacted on your behalf.