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Research Fellowships in Space Sciences & Exploration


Join us at the forefront of unveiling the mysteries of our Solar System and the Universe!


ESA's postdoctoral Research Fellowship programme offers young scientists and engineers the possibility to carry out research in a variety of disciplines related to space science, space applications or space technology. 

Research Fellowships in Space Science & Exploration specifically offer the opportunity to contribute to ESA's endeavour to explore our Solar System and the Universe in the fields of human and robotic exploration, heliophysics, planetary science, astrophysics and fundamental physics.



Programme description for 2020 Opening


Application deadline has passed.
​​​​​​​A new opportunity is planned to be opened in autumn 2021

​​​​​​​Rules may change


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ESA's postdoctoral Research Fellowship programme offers young scientists and engineers the possibility to carry out research in a variety of disciplines related to space science, space applications or space technology.

Research Fellowships in Space Science & Exploration specifically offer the opportunity to contribute to ESA's endeavour to explore our Solar System and the Universe in the fields of human and robotic exploration, heliophysics, planetary science, astrophysics and fundamental physics.

Research Fellows also help foster a lively scientific environment in the directorate, inspiring ESA scientists to get involved in new scientific activities. The Research Fellowship programme nurtures and strengthens the links between ESA and the scientific communities in the Member States.

Approximately 8 ESA Fellowships in space science and 6 in Human and Robotic Exploration will be offered this year, to join the pool of about 30 research fellows in Space Science and Exploration spanning the two Directorates (Science and Human and Robotic Exploration).

Duration: Appointments for an ESA Research Fellowship are initially for two years, with a third year extension frequently granted.

Location: Research Fellowship in Human and Robotic Exploration are located at ESTEC. Research Fellowships in Space Science can be taken at any of three locations:

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).

According to the ESA Convention the recruitment of staff must take into account an adequate distribution of posts among nationals of the ESA Member States. When short-listing for an interview, strong preference will be given to candidates from under-represented members states in the green or yellow rows in

Applicants should have recently completed, or be close to completing their PhD in a technical or scientific discipline. Preference will be given to applications submitted by candidates within five years of receiving their PhD.

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

Applications from female scientists are especially encouraged to apply.

The Space Science and Human and Robotic Exploration Programmes offer a wide diversity of exciting space research activities and opportunities.

This year, the Directorate for Human and Robotic Exploration is interested in research fellows working on various specific projects (descriptions are in preparation). In your application you will be able to indicate for which one(s) you wish to be considered. These fellowships are offered at ESTEC.

Within the Science Directorate, we are welcoming all proposals for innovative research associated with one or more of our missions. These fellowships can be taken at any of the three sites (ESAC, ESTEC or STScI).
If you are interested to learn more about the research conducted by the ESA scientists, please visit space science research activities.
For science groups by site, please see the pages for:

The deadline for 2020 applications is Thursday 29 October 2020.

The application must be submitted to Human resources following the instructions in the Official ESA Vacancy Notice that will be published on September 30th 2020. All ESA vacancy notices can be seen under:
Three documents will need to be uploaded:

  • A Cover/Motivation letter;
  • Your CV (including a list of publications and other accomplishments);
  • A research proposal (4 pages max. plus optionally 1 page for figures and tables, minimum font size 11pt). It is expected to include sections outlining (1) the research rationale, (2) impact and past achievements, (3) future research plans, (4) synergies with mission-related activities at ESA.

Further information useful to be prepared for the online application form are the contact information of three references and, for Space Science, a prioritised list of one or more establishments that you would like to join (ESAC, ESTEC, or STScI).

The review committee will consist of members with diverse areas of expertise. Therefore the application should be written for a general audience of space scientists. The application will be evaluated with respect to scientific excellence of the candidate (past achievements), proposed research at ESA (feasibility, future impact), and synergies with existing ESA research activities at the selected site. See also Further Questions, Tips and Hints

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

Long-listed candidates will be contacted by the end of November to produce a video (answering pre-formulated questions). The concept is explained at, and tips on how to produce this video are also provided.

Short-listed candidates will be invited to an online video interview taking place in January 2021.

Offers are expected to be made starting end of January 2021.

The research expenses for ESA Research Fellows are generously covered by their department's budgets. This includes publication charges, attendance of conferences, participation in observing campaigns and/or research visits, etc

Science Visitor Programme: Research Fellows also have access to the Science Visitor Programme, funded by the ESA Faculty, allowing invitation of external collaborators to the ESA sites.

Student/trainee supervision: Research Fellows have various opportunities to request funding for and/or supervise undergraduate or masters-level student trainees.

Additional research funding Fellows are encouraged to join existing research activities, as well as initiate new collaborations with all Faculty members. As faculty members, fellows are eligible to request funding through the faculty for activities requiring substantial additional funding (e.g. for hardware, organisation of conferences and workshops, etc.).

Mentor Programme As postdoctoral early-career researchers, we expect ESA Fellows to be more in need of guidance than supervision. New fellows are invited to select a main mentor who will guide and support with general issues not necessarily related to the direct research field. Mentors are especially meant to support fellows with their future orientation and job search. Some aspects about the role of mentors can be found in this article​​​​​​​​​​.

For terms and conditions we refer to the General Description
Health coverage under ESA’s social security scheme includes medical expenses, invalidity and death benefits. However, pension benefits need to be arranged separately.

Research Fellows working at STScI (Baltimore, USA) will be issued a G4 visa.


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

All members of the ESA faculty in SCI are listed:

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

Current fellows in SCI can be found under:​​​​​​​

They will be happy to share any experience with you.