Research course

Space Imaging Instrumentation

Open University · School of Physical Sciences

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent) in physics, electrical engineering or a related subject.

Expressions of interest should normally be accompanied by an up-to-date CV.

Months of entry


Course content

The scientists in the Centre for Electronic Imaging and the Space Instrumentation Group at The Open University have been involved in the development of instruments for space applications for many decades. The Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) has long been the detector of choice for space astronomy, such as for ESA’s XMM-Newton and Gaia missions and the upcoming ESA Euclid mission, but new detector technologies are beginning to come under serious consideration.

To be considered for space flight, new detector technologies must undergo serious and detailed testing to increase their Technology Readiness Level (TRL); once a detector is launched on a satellite, there is rarely the chance to make any changes! Over recent years, the CEI has been heavily involved in the detector and instrument development for ESA’s Gaia, Euclid, SMILE and JUICE missions, as well as NASA’s WFIRST mission.

Optical imaging instruments for space applications, such as for the Visible Imager (VIS) ESA’s Euclid mission, often have to deal with much lower signals than their X-ray counterparts, meaning that the minimisation of noise and mitigation of space radiation damage become much more important to the success of the mission. The CEI recently provided a visible light-imaging instrument for UKube-1, the UKSA’s first Cube Satellite, and this is now returning data from orbit.

In addition, simulations of the radiation environment, micrometeoroid impacts and instrument background, using bespoke simulations, Geant4 and SPENVIS, all add to the work of the CEI, building a picture of the impact of the space environment on the full instrument.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PhD
    part time
    72 months
    • Distance learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    36 months
    • Distance learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Administrative support
+44 (0)1908 858253