Master theses projects

Below are topics available for Master’s thesis projects and shorter student projects at IRF. Completed projects can be found in the right menu.

Effects of spacecraft charging on ions measurements made by JDC on JUICE

The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission planned for launch in April 2023. JUICE will travel to Jupiter to study the planet and its space environment with a special focus on the habitability of Jupiter’s moons that might be able to host life in their subsurface oceans.

JUICE will carry 10 instruments whereof one is the Jovian plasma Dynamics and Composition (JDC) instrument.

JDC is developed and operated by the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna and will be used to measure ions and electrons in Jupiter’s space environment and in the upper atmospheres of Jupiter’s moons. But the first JDC measurements will be performed soon after launch in the space environment near Earth.

The charged particles in the space environment of the spacecraft will not only be measured by the spacecraft instruments, they also interact with the spacecraft itself and charge the spacecraft.

The potential of the spacecraft will impact the measurements by distortion the trajectories of the charged particle surrounding the spacecraft.

For this project we will use the Spacecraft Plasma Interaction Software (SPIS) to simulate how the charging of the JUICE spacecraft impacts the first JDC measurements performed in the solar wind near Earth.

The simulation results will be used to improve the data analysis and are therefore very important in order to guarantee that the JDC measurements are of the highest quality.

The project will be an important step in preparing JUICE to fulfil its scientific objectives, in particular to accurately characterise the plasma and field environments of Jupiter’s magnetosphere and to determine if Jupiter’s moons are habitable.

The student will get the opportunity to be part of an international research collaboration, including scientist from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, ESA and the University of Tokyo, and to contribute to ESA’s first large class mission to the outer Solar System.

The student will learn about spacecraft design, analyses of spacecraft measurements, and space plasma physics.


  • Build a detailed JDC instrument model in the software Gmsh, which will be integrated with our current Gmsh JUICE spacecraft model.
  • Use the SPIS software to run spacecraft charging simulations of JUICE in the solar wind near Earth.
  • Use the particle tracing capabilities of SPIS to simulate the distortions of the particle trajectories due to the charging of the spacecraft.
  • Support the JDC instrument team with the development of the JDC analysis codes, by presenting the SPIS simulation results in a useful and informative way.
  • Write a master thesis report that can be used as a step-by-step guide for setting up similar simulations but for other instruments and/or environments.

The ability to program, using Python and/or Matlab, and skills in report writing is needed for this project. The ability to work both independently and within a team is also needed.

Contact person: Gabriella Stenberg Wieser,

(Solar System Physics and Space Technology research programme)

Published in May 2022

Simulation of scattering characteristics of Polar Stratospheric Clouds

Simulating lidar signals is important for various kind of sensitivity studies In order to simulate realistic signals from PSCs scattering characteristics for various types of PSCs are required.

It is possible to calculate such characteristics based on measured size distributions and assumptions about particle shape.


  • Find information about measured size distributions and particle shapes from available literature.
  • Implement a loop over a given size distribution in an available programme to calculate Mueller matrix and phase function for a single particle using the T-matrix approach.
  • Calculate scattering characteristics for various size distributions and particle shape approximations.
  • Evaluate the sensitivity of scattering characteristics to various parameters of the size distribution.


  • Basic knowledge of a programming language; the code will be mostly in Fortran.
  • Some knowledge of physical processes in the atmosphere.

Contact person: Peter Voelger,

(Solar terrestrial and atmospheric research programme)

Published in March 2020