PhD Scholarship - Responsible AI in Space

Swinburne University of Technology

Reference #
Closing Date
Full-Time, Fixed-Term (3 Year Scholarship, based at Hawthorn Campus)

Be part of an exciting opportunity and support in promoting a space sector culture that is globally respected, ensures national safety and security

About the Scholarship
This doctoral position will directly support pillar three of the Australian Space Agency’s Australian Civil Space Strategy 2019-2028, in which Australia must seek to “Promote a space sector culture that is globally respected, ensures national safety and security under an appropriate regulatory framework, and meets international obligations and norms.” Artificial intelligence has been identified as a source of opportunity and risk to the success of the Australian space sector.

To promote the development of effective, efficient and safe AI, Swinburne is partnering with the SmartSat CRC, EY and external university partner Hertie School to develop and test an AI governance framework suitable for the Australian space industry. The intention of the research project is to deliver a validated framework which can be used for certification purposes.

The PhD supervisory panel will consist of representatives from Swinburne, the Hertie School, EY and SmartSat CRC. The candidate will be supported by the partner’s extensive global networks to interview key figures in the industry and other organisations in the space sector.

Autonomous satellites, and other AI-powered systems, in space are a growing area of national and commercial interest with rapid advances in capabilities and scale of deployment. Assurance that these systems are designed responsibly and are operating with integrity is currently lacking. The successful candidate will work with a broad range of stakeholders in the space sector to create and field-validate an AI governance framework for the Australian space sector. The purpose of the governance framework is to ensure the safe design and operation of autonomous systems in space.

In the 2010s, Global Space Governance (GSG) became an urgent issue with the growing commercialisation of outer space. Given the technical and operational complexities surrounding such enterprise, rather than adopting the traditional model of treaty making, new thinking was required to address the challenges and opportunities created by this commercialisation. In 2014, the Montreal Declaration on Global Space Governance created a Working Group to make recommendations on the peaceful and sustainable use of outer space.

In 2017, the recommendations were published by the Institute and Centre of Air and Space Law at McGill University. This international study identified safety and technical gaps in the existing governance regime. While the McGill study identifies gaps in existing space governance, it does not provide specific recommendations on how different types of technology should be regulated by the space sector. One of these technologies is Artificial Intelligence (AI). The use of AI in the space sector is both a challenge and an opportunity. Challenges include protecting the rights of all stakeholders in the harvesting of data sourced from outer space operations. Opportunities include the ability to provide control systems that enhance traffic safety in outer space. There is therefore a need to extend existing GSGs to AI applications and provide the framework as an example of best practice for Australia and to inform the wider global community.

About you
To be successful in the role, you will have:
• Applicants must have completed a LLB with an Honours degree class 1 or the equivalent thereof.
• International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or equivalent (e.g. Pearson Test of English (PTE) examination certificate with a minimum overall score of 7.0 with no individual band score below 6.5
• Demonstrated strong social and adaptive communication skills to interact with a range of people from community, industry and the university sector
• Excellent project management and attention to detail

A full list of selection criteria is available within the position description.

How to apply and further information
Please submit your application by clicking on the ‘Apply’ link, and submit a resume, cover letter and a response to the Key Selection Criteria, as listed in the position description.

For further enquires please contact Professor Alan Duffy, (Director, Space Technology and Industry Institute) via email

If you are experiencing technical difficulties with your application, please contact the Recruitment team on

Should you require further support for an interview due to special needs or consideration, please contact our Diversity Manager, Maree Norden, on For support or queries related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, please contact

Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. We are proud to be recognised by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency as an Employer of Choice for women for 10 years in a row and of key initiatives such as our Pride@Swinburne Strategic Action Plan and our Reconciliation Action Plan. Equity and diversity are integral to our 2025 vision to be a world class university creating social and economic impact through science, technology and innovation.

Applications close at 11:59 pm on Sunday 30th May 2021

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