Researcher/ Developer Development and Application of Open-source Tudat Software for Planetary Mission Tracking Data Analysis

Researcher/ Developer Development and Application of Open-source Tudat Software for Planetary Mission Tracking Data Analysis

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22 Feb 4 Apr Delft

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Are you passionate about writing research software? Do you love space science, planetary missions or orbital mechanics? Then join the development team of our open-source Tudat software and help us develop state-of-the-art functionality for analyzing tracking data from past and future space missions!

Job description

The dynamics of natural solar system bodies and planetary spacecraft provide a wealth of scientific information. These dynamics are typically measured using a combination of different radiometric and astrometric data types, collected both by spacecraft and from ground-based observations. By fitting these data to a dynamical model, these bodies’ physical properties (gravity fields, rotational dynamics, tidal properties, orbits, etc.) can be inferred, providing some of the most important constraints on the interior, origin, and evolution of solar system bodies. Due to the exceptional quality of the data, and the diversity and complexity of physical effects that must be included, this process requires sophisticated scientific computing tools. We are recruiting a researcher/developer to join the development team of our open-source Tudat research software, with the specific goal of extending the functionality for interplanetary orbit determination.

Tudat (TU Delft Astrodynamics Toolbox) is an open-source astrodynamics software suite developed primarily at TU Delft. Its core functionality is numerical propagation and estimation of the dynamics of both spacecraft and natural solar system bodies. The majority of the functionality is implemented in C++, with the primary interface in Python using the pybind11 library. It is an important tool for the research and education of the Astrodynamics and Space Missions (AS) group at TU Delft and has been used in numerous past and current Ph.D. projects. It has contributed to ~20 peer-reviewed journal articles, led by staff and students at TU Delft, as well as researchers at other institutes. The bulk of the scientific publications has been on topics related to simulated interplanetary orbit determination. In 2023, a project was started to extend Tudat’s functionality to the field of real-world tracking-data analysis.

One of the extraordinary aspects of Tudat in this field is that it is completely open-source. It is our ambition to develop Tudat to the point where it can perform state-of-the-art analyses of space mission tracking data, where all scientific publications will include a code repository with which all results can be reproduced by anyone. We are recruiting a researcher/developer to support the further development of existing Tudat functionality in this area, to realize a state-of-the-art open-source software suite for use in planetary science research. Specific tasks will/can include:

  • Extending the capabilities for the loading and processing of various sources of tracking data, and associated ancillary data, including from NASA’s Deep Space Network, ESA’s ESTRACK network, and the Minor Planet Center (MPC).
  • Implementing, testing, and documenting additional high-fidelity models for orbital dynamics and media corrections.
  • Benchmarking the results of the newly developed functionality against existing results, and analyses from other tools.
  • Applying the existing and newly developed functionality to selected targets, to assess the quality and performance of the implementation, identify aspects of future improvements, and support ongoing research both at TU Delft and in the broader community.


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


For this position, we are looking for someone to design and implement models in both C++ and Python, to improve the capabilities of our Tudat software, as well as apply these models for the estimation of dynamics of both spacecraft and natural solar system bodies. Specifically, we are looking for someone with the following profile:

  • M.Sc. or Ph.D. in the field of Aerospace Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, Earth or Planetary Science, Computer Science or a related field.
  • Proven affinity with using C++ and/or Python in the context of scientific research (which can include and/or internship and M.Sc. thesis project).
  • Prior knowledge and experience in orbital dynamics or research data analysis is preferred.
  • Prior experience with orbit propagation/determination software is preferred.
  • Proficiency in written and spoken English.

The position could be filled by someone with a software development background who has an affinity with space science, or someone from a natural science/engineering background who has an affinity with software development.

The specific tasks of the position can partially be tailored to the candidate’s background. For instance, a larger focus could be put on the application of the developed functionality to the determination of orbits and interior properties of specific targets/missions of interest, or a larger focus can be put on the (re)design of underlying software architecture. For any questions on the specifics of the position, or the profile of the candidate, please feel free to contact us. 

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 18 months.

  • This position is for a fixed period of 18 months. During this time, the team will be actively engaged in acquisition of additional funding, with which to create a continuation of this position, or create a new position focused entirely on the application of the developed functionality. 
  • A salary based on scale 10 of the CAO for Dutch Universities with a minimum of €3.226,00 and a maximum of €5.090,00 gross per month based on a fulltime contract (38 hours), plus 8% holiday allowance and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%.
  • An excellent pension scheme via the ABP.
  • The possibility to compile an individual employment package every year.
  • Discount with health insurers.
  • Flexible working week.
  • Every year, 232 leave hours (at 38 hours). You can also sell or buy additional leave hours via the individual choice budget.
  • Plenty of opportunities for education, training and courses.
  • Partially paid parental leave
  • Attention for working healthy and energetically with the vitality program.


Delft University of Technology

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!


Faculty Aerospace Engineering

The Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at Delft University of Technology is one of the world’s most highly ranked (and most comprehensive) research, education and innovation communities devoted entirely to aerospace engineering. More than 200 science staff, around 270 PhD candidates and close to 3000 BSc and MSc students apply aerospace engineering disciplines to address the global societal challenges that threaten us today, climate change without doubt being the most important. Our focal subjects: sustainable aerospace, big data and artificial intelligence, bio-inspired engineering and smart instruments and systems. Working at the faculty means working together. With partners in other faculties, knowledge institutes, governments and industry, both aerospace and non-aerospace. Working in field labs and innovation hubs on our university campus and beyond.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering.

The candidate will be employed at the Astrodynamics and Space Missions section of the Aerospace Engineering faculty of TU Delft, and will be part of the Tudat development team. In this role, they will be actively involved in supporting ongoing research projects, such as tracking data analysis for past Martian orbiters with a focus on gravity field change, and re-analysis of tracking data from the Cassini mission with a focus on satellite ephemerides (both projects funded by the Dutch Science Foundation). In addition, they will be involved in preparations for setting up data processing pipelines from the JUICE mission’s PRIDE experiment’s, for which both the co-PI and the systems engineering lead are at TU Delft. By being embedded in the team, the candidate could also contribute to scientific publications written by team members, if this fits the candidate’s interests and background.

The focus of the position is on the development, verification and validation of software functionality. However, there is the possibility to spend up to 30% of the time applying the developed software to a related research project led by the candidate. The specifics of such a project would depend on the interest and background of the candidate (for instance for ephemeris determination or gravity field determination for a given target of interest).  


  • Research, development, innovation
  • Engineering
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €3226—€5090 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD05056


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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