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Young Graduate Trainee for Spacecraft Operations and Propellant Usage (Gaia)

  • Organization: ESA - European Space Agency
  • Location:
  • Grade: F1 - Young Graduate Trainee - Junior level
  • Occupational Groups:
    • Operations and Administrations
    • Outer space and satellite technology
  • Closing Date: 2019-12-15

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Young Graduate Traineeship 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. Applications from women are encouraged.

Young Graduate Trainee for Spacecraft Operations and Propellant Usage (Gaia)

This post is classified F1.


ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany 

Our team and mission

This trainieeship opportunity placement is in the Mission Operations Department’s Astronomy & Fundamental Physics Division, which is tasked with preparing the ground segment and operations teams for the launch and operations of ESA’s science missions in the areas of  astronomy and fundamental physics and later performing the flight operations themselves. Missions assigned to the Division include Gaia, XMM, Integral, Euclid and Plato. This opportunity is within the Flight Control Team of the Gaia mission.

The Gaia mission:

Gaia is a Cornerstone ESA Science mission tasked with detecting and accurately mapping the positions of a billion stars to unprescedented accuracy. It was launched in December 2013 and is planned to be operational for at least seven years in an L2 lissajous orbit, 1.5 million km from Earth. Data is downlinked through daily contact with the ground using an X-band GMSK link with a rate of up to 650Gbits/day. More information on the mission, space and ground segment design can obtained using the following links (


Candidates interested are encouraged to visit the ESA website:

Field(s) of activity

The Gaia mission operates in a dynamic and thermal performance envelope beyond that of classic space missions. It has very high stability requirements for temperature, vibration and attitude and as such has allowed the detection of disturbances that would escape notice on other missions (e.g. micro meteoroid impacts detected through attitude disturbances and thermal variations in the structure).

The spacecraft attitude is maintained by a cold gas micro-propulsion system that primarily counteracts the Sun radiation pressure. Micro-propulsion systems are also planned for use on future astronomy missions such as Euclid and Lisa.

The control software for the spacecraft attitude takes as its input rate measurements from the payload instrument and attitude inputs from the star tracker which are used to follow a pre-programmed scan law by applying thrust to the micro-propulsion system. Any discrepancy in the input to the software results in a rotational rate error being calculated by the control software and a counteracting thrust being applied. The main part of the proposed project is to study and acquire knowledge of Gaia’s attitude control system and to identify and quantify all the drivers of propellant usage. The output of this analysis may result in proposals for improvement of operational parameters to reduce propellant usage.

In addition to the above core project, the task will also involve general training on spacecraft operations, ground segment and flight segment onboard systems. You will familiarise yourself with the operational facilities used under the mission and may perform additional tasks related to spacecraft mission operations. 

Technical competencies
Knowledge of relevant technical domains
Relevant experience gained during internships/project work
Breadth of exposure coming from past and/or current research/activities
Knowledge of ESA and its programmes/projects
Behavioural competencies
Self Motivation
Continuous Learning
Cross-Cultural Sensitivity

You should have just completed, or be in your final year of a university course at Master's level (or equivalent) 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.

You should demonstrate good interpersonal skills and the capacity to work both independently and as part of a team.

During the interview your motivation and overall professional perspective/career goals will also be explored.

Other information

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

The closing date for applications is  15 December 2019.

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


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 Slovenia, as an Associate Member, or Canada as a Cooperating State, can apply as well as those from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, 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

We do our best to provide you the most accurate info, but closing dates may be wrong on our site. Please check on the recruiting organization's page for the exact info. Candidates are responsible for complying with deadlines and are encouraged to submit applications well ahead.
Before applying, please make sure that you have read the requirements for the position and that you qualify.
Applications from non-qualifying applicants will most likely be discarded by the recruiting manager.

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