Intern in the Flight Dynamics Division

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  • Added Date: Wednesday, 01 November 2023
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Internship 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. We therefore welcome applications from all qualified candidates irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, beliefs, age, disability or other characteristics. Applications from women are encouraged.

Location Darmstadt

Our team and mission

This position is based at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) - Darmstadt, Germany

Under the direct authority of the Director of Operations, the Ground Systems Engineering and Innovation Department is responsible for all the ground systems engineering and support activities required to support mission operations and implement innovation.

Under the direct authority of the Ground Systems Engineering and Innovation Department, the Flight Dynamics Division provides a comprehensive end-to-end, multi-project service covering all the flight dynamics and mission analysis functions for the missions operated at ESOC, as well as other ESA and third-party projects. This includes the provision of the necessary tools and systems and the relevant mission support from the early study phase through the definition, development, operation and decommissioning phases. In addition, it undertakes innovative studies in the related fields in order to prepare for future mission requirements and is the coordinator for mission analysis activities in ESA.

For further information visit our web site:

Field(s) of activity for the internship

You can choose between the following topics:

1) Topic 1: Earth Swing-by Anomaly

During Rosettaโ€™s first Earth swing-by, the what is referred to as the โ€œEarth swing-by anomalyโ€ was observed. The anomaly is that โ€“ in contrast to the theory - the incoming asymptotic velocity did not match the outgoing asymptotic velocity by a small, but detectable difference. The anomaly has also been observed by NASA operated spacecraft in the past. It has only been observed at some Earth swing-bys, but not at all, and it has never been observed at swing-bys at other solar system bodies. There have been quite a few attempts within the science and engineering community to find an explanation for that anomaly but to date without success. One candidate explanation for the anomaly is a shortcoming of the underlying algorithms that are used in deep space navigation software. All Earth swing-bys of ESA spacecraft (namely Rosetta, BepiColombo and Solo) have been navigated using ESA deep space orbit determination system which was developed around the year 2000 in preparation for Mars Express and Rosetta.

For new missions today, a new deep-space navigation software is being used which is based on the GODOT astrodynamics common infrastructure. It is worth to check whether the observed Rosetta anomaly can be reproduced by using the new software. It is also worth to check whether the anomaly occurs at one of the later Earth swing-bys of Rosetta, BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter when using the new software, since none was observed using the old operational navigation software at the time. As an intern, your task will be to restore all relevant historic data of past Earth swing-bys of ESA missions (5 to date), configure the new navigation software such that it is able to process the data and to verify whether the observed results in flight could be reproduced. If yes, then various more tests could be performed using different models. If no, then the underlying algorithm is suspected and could be inspected closer. Either way does attempt to find a possible explanation for the anomaly.


2) Topic 2: Improved LISA Navigation

The ESA LISA mission will be the first space-based gravitational wave observatory. It is conceived as a large triangular constellation forming an interferometric detection system. In order to achieve its goal of measuring relative arm length deviations at the picometer level, the inter-spacecraft light-travel times have to be determined to nanosecond accuracy at the preprocessing stage. This requires a precise modelling, of the free-running spacecraft clocks, the inter-spacecraft pseudo-range measurements as well as the ground-based Range/Doppler measurements. Traditionally, the ground-based Range/Doppler measurements are processed by operations centre, while the other measurement types are exploited by the scientific community. The goal of this activity is to remove this artificial interface and develop a prototype of a single coherent filter that can digest all of the above input and estimate the spacecraft orbits, the on-board clocks as well as the light-travel times simultaneously. This activity will use ESAโ€™s GODOT toolkit.

๐Ÿ“š ๐——๐—ถ๐˜€๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—›๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—š๐—ฒ๐˜ ๐—ฎ ๐—๐—ผ๐—ฏ ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—จ๐—ก ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿฏ! ๐ŸŒ๐Ÿค ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ฑ ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐—ก๐—˜๐—ช ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐—ฟ๐˜‚๐—ถ๐˜๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—š๐˜‚๐—ถ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—จ๐—ก ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿฏ ๐˜„๐—ถ๐˜๐—ต ๐˜๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜ ๐˜€๐—ฎ๐—บ๐—ฝ๐—น๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐—จ๐—ก๐—›๐—–๐—ฅ, ๐—ช๐—™๐—ฃ, ๐—จ๐—ก๐—œ๐—–๐—˜๐—™, ๐—จ๐—ก๐——๐—ฆ๐—ฆ, ๐—จ๐—ก๐—™๐—ฃ๐—”, ๐—œ๐—ข๐—  ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ผ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€! ๐ŸŒ

โš ๏ธ ๐‚๐ก๐š๐ง๐ ๐ž ๐˜๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐‹๐ข๐Ÿ๐ž ๐๐จ๐ฐ: ๐๐จ๐ฐ๐ž๐ซ๐Ÿ๐ฎ๐ฅ ๐“๐ž๐œ๐ก๐ง๐ข๐ช๐ฎ๐ž๐ฌ ๐ก๐จ๐ฐ ๐ญ๐จ ๐ ๐ž๐ญ ๐š ๐ฃ๐จ๐› ๐ข๐ง ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐”๐ง๐ข๐ญ๐ž๐ ๐๐š๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐ฌ ๐๐Ž๐–!

3) Topic 3: Model Based Systems Engineering Interfaces and Simulation Setup

Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) is a new way of designing satellites. Flight Dynamics Software can provide valuable simulation and analysis capabilities to the system engineers and subsystem designers. Many constraints and requirements of the ground or space system can directly be checked and verified using a trajectory simulation and performing the required auxiliary calculations as e.g. ground station visibility times. However, no standardized interfaces currently exist between the MBSE software tools and the Astrodynamics Software Packages used in the Flight Dynamics Division. You shall investigate the best way of interfacing both systems, establish some example interfaces and implement simulation setups for use cases applicable to all spacecrafts as e.g. the next European Moon Lander Argonaut.

Behavioural competencies

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


You must have student status and be enrolled at university for the entire duration of the internship. You should preferably be in your final or second to last year of a university course at masterโ€™s level in a technical or scientific discipline.

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.

Additional Requirements:

1) Topic 1:

  • This topic requires basic knowledge in orbit determination and a solid background in classical mechanics and associated mathematics

    2) Topic 2:

    • This topic requires basic knowledge in estimation techniques

      3) Topic 3:

      • This topic requires basic knowledge in Linux and API design.

        Other information

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

        If you require support with your application due to a disability, please email

        Internships can take place remotely, on-site or partially on-site depending on the pandemic situation, and in line with the relevant Establishmentโ€™s policy (e.g. possible Green Pass requirement) applicable at the time of starting the internship.

        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, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, as Associate Member States, or Canada as a Cooperating State, can apply as well as those from Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus as European Cooperating States (ECS).

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