Research Fellowships in Space Science


application deadline for 2020 not yet open


Anticipated application deadline mid November 2020.




If you are interested in the application process in general, please read the summary below.


General information

The ESA Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Programme aims at providing scientists in the early stages of their career with the means to perform research in space science. The programme is open to suitably qualified applicants who have completed their PhD (or equivalent) or will have completed it by the start of the fellowship (autumn 2020).

Appointments for an ESA research fellowship are for two years, commonly with a third year extension. The fellowship in space science may be held at one of three locations:

About 8 positions shall be offered for this call, shared between ESAC (Spain), ESTEC (Netherlands), and the ESA office at STScI (Baltimore, USA)

Short ESA video clips about the ESA research fellowship programme:

Who can apply?

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).

Preference will be given to candidates from under-represented Member States ( and from nationals of European Coorporating States.

ESA is an equal opportunity employer, committed to achieving diversity within the workforce and creating an inclusive working environment.

Applications from women are especially encouraged.

Research Programmes

The Science Operations Department conducts research programmes covering many areas of space science. These research activities are coordinated by the ESA Science Faculty, made up of scientists in the three participating establishments. Research Fellows are encouraged to participate in these programmes, led by the scientific staff (with the appropriate engineering, technical and administrative support). Research Fellows can spend their time on their scientific research and have no functional duties. If they so choose they can spend up to 20% of their time on scientific activities in support of an ESA mission. Additionally, they are encouraged to take an active part in the scientific life of the establishments.

The research projects proposed by applicants for an ESA Fellowship should be related to ESA's scientific missions, to the space research programmes of the ESA member states or to the scientific activities of the ESA Science Faculty. A brief summary of the research activities carried out by Faculty members can be found on the following pages:

Interested candidates should consult these pages to identify which of the establishments offers the most relevant environment for their research and to contact any of the scientists working in areas of their interest.

How to apply

Deadline for the 2019 run has passed.

Procedure is to fill in the Online Application Form linked up from the Official ESA Vacancy Notice.

You will need to upload your CV, a motivation letter and a research proposal. Applications without research proposal will automatically be rejected.

In the online application form, contact information of three referees must be provided who are willing to write letters of reference and who we can contact at a later stage of the selection process. Please provide us also with a prioritised list of the establishments (ESAC, ESTEC, or STScI) where you are willing to work in the online application form.

Your research proposal must clearly state:

  • Section 1: Title of your Research Project

    If you prefer, you can identify a staff member you want to work with, using the staff member lists for ESTEC, ESAC and ESA@STScI.

  • Section 2: Purpose of Fellowship at ESA (in about 250 words, give a very brief summary of your research programme and explain why it is relevant to ESA's science activities.)
  • Section 3: Current and past research and future plans for the Fellowship (use up to about 1500 words and a couple of figures, plus any references, to provide a detailed description of your current and proposed research.)
  • Section 4: List of publications (list refereed and un-refereed papers separately, give authors, titles and bibliographic references but no abstract, unless the paper is unpublished)

For your research proposal, we recommend you use this Word template or this LaTeX template.

Take into account that applications will be reviewed by a panel of space scientists who may not all be expert in your area, hence intelligibility to a general physicist is highly encouraged. The evaluation criteria comprise the scientific value of the proposal, feasibility (e.g. schedule), the value for ESA (e.g., related to one or more ESA missions, links to activities in the faculty of the preferred establishment), and the past/potential productivity of the applicant (publications, expected impact of publishable results).

Applications satisfying the general conditions for eligibility will be evaluated, and highly ranked applicants will be invited for an interview.

Interested candidates are encouraged to visit the ESA website:

Changes compared to previous calls:

  • It is no longer necessary to contact and choose a mentor for the application (this will be done after arrival).
  • Only provide contact details for reference letters, which will be requested by us only if needed.
  • It is not necessary to identify an establishment in your application, however a prioritised list of establishments must be provided.

What happens after the application has been received?

Inquiries regarding the application process can be sent at any time to the fellowship coordinators.

Within 5-6 weeks, candidates considered for interview will be contacted to produce a video recording following pre-formulated questions. The concept is explained under Some tips how to produce this video can be found here.

About 2-3 weeks later, candidates selected for a personal interview - taking place January 14/15 2020 at ESTEC and January 20/21 2020 at ESAC - will be notified. In addition to the interview, candidates are asked to give a short talk (15 min + 5 min for questions) to present their current and proposed research programme at a jamboree open to the whole science faculty.

During their visit, normally lasting two days, candidates are encouraged to interact with other fellows and staff members, to familiarise themselves with the ESA science faculty.

Successful candidates will be notified within 2-3 weeks of the conclusion of the interviews and normally fellowships commence in the autumn (September/October).

Research budget, conferences

Research expenses for ESA Research Fellows are covered by the respective departmental budgets, e.g., publication charges, attendance to conferences, participation at observing campaigns or research visits.

Research Fellows also have access to the Science Visitor Programme and can invite external collaborators, funded by the ESA Faculty, to work with them.

Research Fellows have various opportunities to supervise undergraduate or Master's student trainees.

Fellows are encouraged to join existing research activities or start new ones in collaboration with staff members. Activities that will require a substantial amount of additional funding (e.g. flight hardware contributions, organisation of conferences, workshops, etc.) undergo assessment by the science faculty and will be decided case-by-case.

Financial conditions and benefits

  • Contracts are for two years, commonly renewed for a third year.
  • The monthly remuneration (tax free) falls within a predetermined range of €3000 to €3800 per month.
  • Fellows may be entitled to an expatriation allowance and/or to an installation allowance on arrival. Removal expenses are not reimbursed. Fellows may be reimbursed travel expenses in economy class (when travelling by air) or in first class (when travelling by train) to their duty station for themselves and, if applicable, for their spouse and children at the beginning and end of their assignment.
  • 2.5 days paid leave per month.
  • Health cover under ESA’s social security scheme, which covers medical expenses, invalidity and death benefits. A monthly deduction in remuneration covers these short-term and long-term risks.



For further inquiries, feel free to contact the fellowship coordinators.

All members of the ESA faculty are listed under:

To contact any person by email, please use the address given in their profile page or compose it of: