European Space Agency (ESA)

Internal Research Fellow (Digital Twin Spacecraft)

European Space Agency (ESA)

Job Description

Research Fellowship Opportunity in the Directorate of Operations.

ESA is an equal opportunity employer, committed to achieving diversity within the workforce and creating an inclusive working environment. For this purpose, we welcome applications from all qualified candidates irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, beliefs, age, disability or other characteristics. Applications from women are encouraged.

This post is classified F2.


ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany

Our team and mission

You will be based in the Earth Observation Mission Data Systems Section, Mission Operations Data Systems Division, Ground Systems Engineering & Innovation Department.

The Mission Operations Data Systems Division is responsible for specifying, developing, operating and maintaining software systems and providing support for their use during the preparation and the operational phases of space missions. Our Data Systems comprise:
  • Mission Control Systems (to monitor and operate the satellite),
  • Mission Planning Systems,
  • Operational Simulators and
  • Service Provision Data Centres
The division is also very active in Software Innovation by means of Research and Development studies on software technologies applied to space missions focused on the Data Systems listed above. This includes for example standardisation of interfaces with other space agencies (e.g. NASA), CubeSats, robotics, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Model Based System Engineering, Security, Artificial Intelligence as well as software technologies such as Service Oriented Architecture, Web technology, advanced human-machine interfaces and cloud computing.

Interested candidates are encouraged to visit the ESA website: Field(s) of activity/research for the traineeship The Agency is interested in expanding the usage of Digital Twin technology as a digital representation of a spacecraft and the engineering processes.

You will focus on enabling research allowing the beneficial utilisation of such a concept for Spacecraft Operations at ESA/ESOC. This can include, but is not limited to:
  • Advances in concepts for end-to-end digital continuity of information from Spacecraft Design, Manufacturing and operations activities, including usage of Model-Based Systems Engineering information, simulation models and simulator data, together with “in-field” (physical) data to represent the spacecraft;
  • Using the combination of models and data, creates output supporting design, production, verification and operations of the spacecraft as well as for improvement of spacecraft design;
  • Utilisation of advanced visualisation and analytics tools to increase the usefulness of a Digital Twin;
  • Improvements in modelling technology to improve the Digital Twins representativeness with respect to the physical twin;
  • Improvements in processing, storage and analytics capabilities for data gathered from both physical assets and digital twins.
Expected outcome covers:
  • Advances in Modelling of space missions augmenting physics/deterministic based models with self learning models more suitable for Digital Twins, possibility including utilisation of AI techniques;
  • Advances in Visualisation of a state of a complex system like a spacecraft enabled by a Digital Twin including advances in detection of anomalies, possibly using AI techniques;
  • Advances in the utilisation of Model Based System Engineering for spacecraft operations;
  • Identification of new concepts for melting/joining of the typical  Monitoring&Control tasks and simulation domains into one integrated concept inline with the Digital Twin vision;
  • Identification of new concepts for end-to-end digital continuity for exchange of knowledge between the Operational phase and other phases of a space mission (Design, manufacturing, assembly and integration).
  • Identification of new concepts for automation and optimization of the spacecraft operations process using advanced techniques like AI and Digital Twins.
As the topic of Spacecraft Digital Twin is very wide, the expected research may focus on a selected subset of the items listed above.

Technical competencies

Knowledge relevant to the field of research, in particular Digital Twins and/or Artificial Intelligence Research/publication record Ability to conduct research autonomously Breadth of exposure coming from past and/or current research/activities General interest in space and space research Ability to gather and share relevant information

Behavioural competencies

Result Orientation Operational Efficiency Fostering Cooperation Relationship Management Continuous Improvement Forward Thinking


You should have recently completed, or be close to completion of a PhD in a related technical or scientific discipline. Preference will be given to applications submitted by candidates within five years of receiving their PhD.

In particular for this position, the following is required: PhD in Computer Science relevant to Digital Twins and/or AI.

Additional requirements

The working languages of the Agency are English and French. A good knowledge of one of these is required. Knowledge of another Member State language would be an asset.

Other information

For behavioural competencies expected from ESA staff in general, please refer to the ESA Competency Framework.

The Agency may require applicants to undergo selection tests.

In addition to your CV and your motivation letter, please add your proposal of no more than 5 pages outlining your proposed research in the "additional documents" field of the "application information" section.

At the Agency we value diversity and we welcome people with disabilities.  Whenever possible, we seek to accommodate individuals with disabilities by providing the necessary support at the workplace.  The Human Resources Department can also provide assistance during the recruitment process. If you would like to discuss this further please contact us at

Please note that applications are only considered from nationals of one of the following States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Nationals from Latvia and Slovenia, as Associate Member States, or Canada as a Cooperating State, can apply as well as those from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovakia as European Cooperating States (ECS).

Priority will first be given to candidates from under-represented Member States.

In accordance with the European Space Agency’s security procedures and as part of the selection process, successful candidates will be required to undergo basic screening before appointment.

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