Internal Research Fellow (PostDoc) in In Situ Resource Utilisation Processes


Noordwijk, The Netherlands, ESA [10761]

Field(s) of expertise
Aerospace Engineering Education and STEM
Job type

About this job

ESA is looking for an Internal Research Fellow (PostDoc) in In Situ Resource Utilisation Processes.

Our team and mission

The Research Fellow will be based in the SciSpace Team in the Research and Payloads Group and will work on electrochemical reduction of regolith and simulants to improve understanding of processes that might be used to produce oxygen and metals on the Moon. The Fellow will work closely with and supporting the ExPeRT Group on mission studies and other teams across ESA.

In Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) will be a core element of sustainable exploration on the Moon and Mars. The realisation of this must be underpinned by processes that convert the materials and chemistry found at these locations into usable products. In support of a wider effort to build up capability and knowledge in the domain, ESA has established an in-house research activity into electrochemical processes to reduce rocky materials to oxygen and metallic products. This largely laboratory based research effort also provides inputs to support the definition and development of possible future systems and payloads for use in space.

This Research Fellowship will focus on investigations into molten salt electrolysis for the reduction of lunar regolith. The research will also support mission and payload definition activities and work performed in collaboration with the newly established European Innovation Centre for Space Resources. The work builds on previous work performed within ESA in the last two years and will use analogue materials and potentially real lunar samples. Past activities have provided the basis both for ISRU payload studies and for ESRIC investments and are the subject of collaborative research with academia.

Field(s) of activities/research

The Research Fellow will prepare and perform research into electrochemical reduction of extraterrestrial materials with a focus on the Fray-Farthing-Chen (FFC) process using reactor cells that have been built within ESA ESTEC. Experiments are envisaged that use alternative regolith and simulant source materials and observe the effects of different reaction variables on the efficiency of the process and the quality of the products produced.

The outcomes and expertise gathered through the research activities will be used to support the preparation of future mission and payload study activities and the Research Fellow may also contribute to this work.


• Building on previous investments in capability and infrastructure for in-house ISRU research within ESA;
• Building internal knowledge and capabilities to support ISRU payloads and mission studies;
• Creating a research link with the ISRU community and the European Innovation Centre for Space Resources (ESRIC);
• Supporting coordination between different ESA teams;
• Establishing tools and facilities that can be built on by future research fellows and which support the ESA programme;
• Addressing knowledge gaps for future exploration;
• Delivering scientific publications.


Technical competencies

• Knowledge relevant to the field of research;
• 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.


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.

Additional requirements

Experience in electrochemistry, metallurgy, materials science or a related discipline.
Strong practical and experimental experience.

For a complete job description and to apply, click on “apply”.

The closing date for applications is 1 November 2020.


If you require support with your application due to a disability, please email contact.human.resources@esa.int.
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).

We offer

The European Space Agency (ESA) is an equal opportunities employer that offers competitive salaries exempt from national income tax and excellent employment conditions, such as allowances for expatriates and relocation support.
For more information: http://www.esa.int/About_Us/Careers_at_ESA

About us

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. ESA is an international organisation with 22 Member States. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, it can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.
Learn more: http://www.esa.int/