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Scholarship details

2023 RTP round - Magnetically Quiet Small Spacecraft for Planetary Magnetometry

Status: Closed

Applications open: 8/07/2022
Applications close: 18/08/2022

View printable version [.pdf]

About this scholarship

The Space Science and Technology Centre at Curtin University is building highly capable small spacecraft within its Binar Space Program. Our first spacecraft Binar-1 which trialled our ultra-compact spacecraft platform was launched in October 2021, and we’re currently building the next three spacecraft, Binar-2, Binar-3 and Binar-4, for launch in 2023. As we prepare for our flagship mission, Binar Prospector, which will travel to a low altitude orbit around the Moon to collect high fidelity magnetometry data from the Lunar surface and search for micro cold traps using an infrared imaging we are interested in developing improved payloads for future planetary science missions.

Magnetometry is one of the fundamental geophysical datasets for determining the current state and evolution of planetary bodies, but spacecraft generate low frequency magnetic interference from the operation of spacecraft subsystems (such as solenoid valves in propulsion systems and reaction wheels powered by electric motors in attitude determination and control systems). To reduce the effect of this interference, magnetometry missions typically use a boom to separate the magnetometer instrument from the noisy spacecraft, but a deployable boom can consume a significant volume and require a large number of moving parts which increase the risk of failure. If it were possible to create a magnetically quiet spacecraft it would be possible to eliminate the boom and build very compact magnetometry spacecraft (possibly smaller than a 1U CubeSat). This may open up new opportunities to fly as secondary payloads on planetary missions travelling beyond the Earth Moon system in the future.

This project will develop prototype low magnetic signature spacecraft subsystems focussing on developing alternative methods for attitude control that don’t depend on reaction wheels powered by electric motors such as miniaturised reaction control thrusters and alternative methods of powering reaction wheels such as electrostatic or ultrasonic motors. Initial work will focus on quantifying the electro magnetic signature of traditional CubeSat subsystems and shielding and field cancellation techniques to mitigate their signature. This will be followed by developing and testing ground based prototype magnetically quiet subsystems which will inform the development of a ground prototype spacecraft and flight demonstration hardware to follow. The work will involve space subsystem design, computer simulation of low frequency magnetic fields, electronic and mechanical hardware development, ground testing in relevant environments (thermal vacuum chamber, vibration testing), flight qualification, on orbit operations and publication.

This project will present opportunities to build hardware that will fly in space and opportunities to engage with SSTC’s industry partners.

An Internship opportunity may also be available with this project.

  • Future Students
  • Faculty of Science & Engineering
    • Science courses
    • Engineering courses
    • Western Australian School of Mines (WASM)
  • Higher Degree by Research
  • Australian Citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident
  • New Zealand Citizen
  • Permanent Humanitarian Visa
  • Merit Based

The annual scholarship package (stipend and tuition fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a.


Successful HDR applicants for admission will receive a 100% fee offset for up to 4 years, stipend scholarships, valued at $28,854 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years, are determined via a competitive selection process. Applicants will be notified of the scholarship outcome in November 2022. 


For detailed information, visit: Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarships | Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

Scholarship Details


All applicable HDR courses

This project is ideal for an applicant interested in building more capable small spacecraft (CubeSats) subsystems and payloads with a keen interest in electromechanical design. The suitable applicant will be an excellent communicator who understands the bigger picture and is likely to have a background in electrical or electronic engineering, mechanical engineering, mechatronics engineering physics, geophysics or planetary science. The suitable applicant should have achieved first-class honours in a relevant undergraduate degree and be able to demonstrate experience conducting a successful project. 

Application process

If this project excites you, and your research skills and experience are a good fit for this specific project, you should contact the Project Lead (listed below in the enquires section) via the Expression of Interest (EOI) form.

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2023


To enquire about this project opportunity that includes a scholarship application, contact the Project lead, Dr Robert Howie via the EOI form above.

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