The interaction of radiation and ablation during Mars return

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Supervisor – Dr Christopher Jamesc.james4@uq.edu.au

One of the major challenges for future high speed missions returning to Earth from Mars or other planets is the shock layer environment which the vehicles will experience. The shock layer temperatures experienced during these entries are so high that radiative heat flux becomes the primary means of heating to the vehicle’s protective ablative heat shield. The way that the products which burn off the heat shield absorb and re-emit radiation from the flow is a large uncertainty for the designers of these missions which this work aims to address.

The aim of this project is to use established test model heating techniques at The University of Queensland, as well a unique hypersonic impulse wind tunnel to study both the radiation and the ablation experienced during these challenging Mars return conditions. This is research which is of interest to NASA for the design of their future Mars Sample Return mission.

The PhD student working on this project will perform experiments on fundamental vehicle geometries in both heated and unheated cases at conditions related to Mars return at up to 15 km/s. The PhD project is suited to a student with a strong background in aerospace engineering. A background in physics, a hands on “can-do” attitude, and some knowledge of programming (for the analysis of data) is preferable, but could also be learnt on the job. UQ’s Centre for Hypersonics’ Expansion Tube Laboratory is a lively team environment which the student would benefit from and hopefully also contribute to.

Preferred educational background

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant's previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

A working knowledge of aerospace engineering would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of engineering and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of physics, as well as programming (for the analysis of data) is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

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