Head of the Solar System Section

European Space Agency - ESA
Noordwijk, The Netherlands
Added: April 20, 2024

Head of the Solar System Section

Job Requisition ID: 18572

Closing Date: 29 April 2024 23:59 CET/CEST

Establishment: ESTEC, Noordwijk, Netherlands

Directorate: Directorate of Science

Publication: Internal & External

Type of Contract: Permanent

Date Posted: 8 April 2024

Vacancy in the Directorate of Science.

ESA is an equal opportunity employer, committed to achieving diversity within the workforce and creating an inclusive working environment. We therefore welcome applications from all qualified candidates irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, beliefs, age, disability or other characteristics. Applications from women are encouraged.

This post is classified A2-A4 on the Coordinated Organisations’ salary scale.


ESTEC, Noordwijk, Netherlands


The European Space Agency maintains a world-leading Science Programme with missions in heliophysics, planetary science, astrophysics and fundamental physics. Its mission is to 'empower Europe to lead space science'.

The Office of Science Engagement and Oversight (SCI-E) oversees the scientific content of the Science programme providing scientific expertise to Science missions, across all phases, from studies to operations and beyond. The Office also manages engagement, communication and education efforts for the Directorate of Science, with the aim of ensuring that external stakeholders are informed, engaged and inspired.

In this role, you will lead the Solar System Section in SCI-E, which hosts the Project Scientists working on heliophysics and planetary science missions, and Solar System Science Coordination efforts. The team consists of Project Scientists and a Solar System Coordinator. The Project Scientists act as the interface for all scientific matters between internal stakeholders and external scientific teams and partners. The Solar System coordinator is responsible for monitoring the scientific priorities of the relevant scientific communities, and ensuring a smooth interface with international partners.

A portion of your time, no more than 50%, may be assigned to a mission or study where you will work as a Project Scientist. You will report to the Head of the Science Engagement and Oversight Office.


In this role, your duties will include:

  • creating a motivating work environment for the scientists in your Section, building a strong teamwork ethic and taking responsibility for the team’s delivery;
  • supporting the Office Head in recruitment and staff planning, including distribution of the budgets, activities and responsibilities related to the work of your team;
  • ensuring the ongoing professional development of your team, including assessing the individual performance of team members against objectives and providing constructive feedback;
  • supporting the Solar System Science Coordinator – working closely with Science management, and the Solar System and Exploration Working Group to capture and monitor the scientific priorities of the communities involved;
  • supporting the Office Head in identifying ways to build and strengthen connections and engagement with scientific communities across ESA Member States;
  • preparing and disseminating scientific documentation relevant to your Section, including reporting to ESA management and the Advisory structure.

In addition, you will be assigned to Project Scientist duties for no more than 50% of your time, during which you will support missions or studies in your area of expertise (such as planetary science, heliophysics, plasma physics) and will be asked to advise ESA Science management in these areas.

As an experienced scientist, you will be expected to pursue personal scientific research activities and contribute to a simulating research environment in the Directorate.

You will also be responsible for identifying, assessing, managing and reporting the health and safety risks in your area of responsibility.

Technical competencies

Experience in managing teams, preferably in a scientific context

Conducting active research in a relevant field of space science

Knowledge of the latest developments in research and facilities in the relevant field

Knowledge and experience in scientific space missions and payloads

Experience in coordinating the scientific community and managing multiple interfaces at international level

Experience in promoting science to the wider scientific community and general public

Behavioural competencies

Result Orientation

Operational Efficiency

Fostering Cooperation

Relationship Management

Continuous Improvement

Forward Thinking



A PhD in a relevant domain is required for this post.

Additional Requirements

Further assets for this position include: experience in instrument operations, experience in managing the development of scientific space hardware, and collaboration on international projects.

Expertise in planetary science is preferred but all areas of Solar System science are welcome.

You should further have:

  • the potential to manage individuals or a team of scientific experts;
  • the ability to organise their activities and ensure a motivating work environment;
  • strong leadership capabilities, with proven relationship management and communication skills;
  • the ability to drive your team’s performance, developing your people by encouraging learning, delegating responsibility and giving regular and constructive feedback;
  • strong problem-solving skills to deal with day-to-day operational challenges, together with demonstrated planning and organisational skills;
  • strong results orientation with the ability to set priorities and present practical solutions both orally and in writing;
  • the ability to manage challenging situations proactively and constructively and to be customer focused.

People management experience would be an asset, as would international experience, i.e. outside your home country, as well as experience in diverse functional areas relevant to ESA activities.

Other Information

For behavioural competencies expected from ESA staff in general, please refer to the ESA Competency Framework.

For further information please visit: Professionals, What we offer and FAQ

The working languages of the Agency are English and French. A good knowledge of one of these is required. Knowledge of another Member State language would be an asset.

Applicants must be eligible to access technology and hardware which is subject to European and US export control regulations.

The Agency may require applicants to undergo selection tests.

At the Agency we value diversity and we welcome people with disabilities. Whenever possible, we seek to accommodate individuals with disabilities by providing the necessary support at the workplace. The Human Resources Department can also provide assistance during the recruitment process. If you would like to discuss this further please contact us email

Please note that 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, the United Kingdom and Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

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, priority will first be given to internal candidates and secondly to external candidates from under-represented Member States*.

In accordance with the European Space Agency’s security procedures and as part of the selection process, successful candidates will be required to undergo basic screening before appointment conducted by an external background screening service.

In principle, recruitment will be within the advertised grade band (A2-A4). However, if the selected candidate has less than four years of relevant professional experience following the completion of the master’s degree, the position may be filled at A1 level.

  • Member States, Associate Members or Cooperating States.