Master's degree theses


In order to apply for any of the following theses or internships, the candidate must have no more than 3 exams left.

Modeling of light-curve observables for the Hera mission


Light-curves observables (i.e. time-varying magnitude of radiation flux received by an observer) are typically used to determine periods of rotation and/or revolution of target celestial bodies, provided a rough knowledge of their shape and size is available. This thesis aims to perform a detailed literature review of the mathematical models required to compute the light-curves for a target body and to implement these tools via Python (or C++) codes. The candidate will then apply these tools for the estimation of some key physical parameters of the binary asteroid system Didymos (target of the Hera mission), comparing the obtained results with those in the literature.

Uploaded: 24 Feb 2023/RLM

Ephemerides estimation of Phobos and Deimos using the Hera opportunity flyby


In March 2025, the Hera s/c will perform a Mars flyby on its way to the binary asteroid system Didymos, which will provide an opportunity to refine the ephemerides estimation for the two Martian moons Phobos and Deimos.
The candidate will assess the expected performances of the orbit determination process by simulating Earth-based radiometric measurements (e.g., range and wide-band ΔDOR) and optical navigation images collected by Hera before, during, and after the flyby, using the current mission scenario. Furthermore, the candidate will perform a sensitivity analysis to assess how the measurement concept of operations affects the final trajectory reconstruction.

Uploaded: 16 Oct 2023/RLM

Optical techniques for deep space navigation at small bodies


Optical images collected by deep-space probes are often used to estimate the relative position of the spacecraft with respect to their small body targets.

This thesis aims to perform a detailed literature review of currently available image processing and navigation techniques for missions to small bodies, with a specific focus on the LiciaCube mission to the binary asteroid system Didymos.

The candidate will develop a complete pipeline for the most common image processing techniques, leading to the extraction of the target’s center of brightness and limb profile from a given input picture.

The generated observables will be included within JPL’s orbit determination software MONTE and analyzed as part of the LiciaCube flyby reconstruction.

Uploaded: 9 Feb 2024/RLM

Reconstruction of Rosetta’s relative orbit around Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko


The relative orbit of Rosetta around Comet 67P was reconstructed using the operational solution derived by ESOC’s Flight Dynamics team as part of the navigation process. The operational solution contains several discontinuities caused by the lack of modeling for the comet’s non-gravitational motion, which limits the applicability of such a solution for the ephemeris reconstruction of 67P.
This thesis aims to perform an accurate reconstruction of the relative orbit of Rosetta for specific mission phases, using a combination of Earth-based radiometric measurements (Doppler and range data) and optical images collected by the onboard cameras.
The candidate will develop high-fidelity dynamical and observational models using JPL’s orbit determination software MONTE and process these measurements within an orbit determination filter. The reconstructed orbit will be validated through comparison with the latest solutions found in literature.

Uploaded: 9 Feb 2024/RLM

Characterizing the Gravity Field of Didymos: Particle Tracking Observations and Trajectory Estimation


Hera is a European Space Agency space mission, aimed at conducting an in-depth investigation of the Didymos binary asteroid system following the impact of the DART spacecraft (NASA) on Dimorphos. One of Hera's primary objectives is to accurately estimate the mass and mass distribution of both asteroids. This entails determining the gravity field of Didymos and Dimorphos with precision, offering valuable insights into their overall mass and internal distribution.

To assess the expected accuracy in the gravity field of the asteroids, our approach involved tracking and modelling Hera, Juventas and Milani spacecrafts in orbit around the asteroids. This thesis introduces a complementary method to gauge the sensitivity to the asteroids' gravity field, following the approach adopted by OSIRIS-REx at Bennu. This method entails tracking, using spacecraft-based images, and modeling pebble-sized particles that might have been ejected from Dimorphos' surface after the DART impact, establishing sustained orbits, or following natural ejection. The candidate will utilize Python to model these particles and perform orbit determination using the MONTE (NASA-JPL) software.

Moreover, the candidate will conduct parametric analyses to evaluate the sensitivity of the results to key parameters. This involves exploring variations in particle size and number, as well as different observation schedules.

Uploaded: 7 Mar 2024/EG