Lead System Engineer (m/f/d) | ATHENA-WFI satellite project

Max Planck Institute for extraterrestrial Physics, Garching

Type of Job


Astronomy & Astrophysics Complex Systems

Job Code: 32/2023

Job offer from November 02, 2023

The Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching (near Munich), Germany, is a world-leading institute for developing and operating state-of-the-art astronomical instruments. Over the past years, MPE has taken a leading role in the development of instrumentation for several international space- and ground-based projects, for example XMM-Newton, Herschel, SRG/eROSITA, EUCLID, the VLT telescopes (e.g. KMOS, GRAVITY) and Einstein Probe. The MPE High-Energy group, led by Prof. K. Nandra, carries out major space hardware programs including the development of X-ray detectors and X-ray optics in support of its astrophysics research program.

Within the framework of ESA’s future large-class space mission Athena, MPE leads the international consortium developing the Wide Field Imager (WFI), one of the two instruments aboard the X-ray satellite. Further details about the WFI, which is based on the Max Planck Society’s unique Silicon DEPFET technology, can be found here:

The MPE High Energy group is seeking an experienced system engineer for the WFI project, who should in addition have in their earlier career stages been an accomplished design engineer in any of the primary engineering disciplines (optical, mechanical, electronics, control and/or software engineering).

As the lead Systems Engineer for the Athena WFI, you will be part of the Project Management Team with responsibility for the requirements analysis, capturing and management, the overall system design, assembly, integration, verification, installation, commissioning and delivery of the astronomical and scientific products. Working as a senior member of the team, reporting to the Principal Investigator and the Project Manager, you will have ample opportunities to innovate and develop new technical solutions.

Lead System Engineer (m/f/d) for the ATHENA-WFI satellite project

Job Code: 32/2023

Your tasks

  • Requirements engineering, including the analysis and flow down of those requirements to sub-systems, capturing of requirements (using a requirements capturing tool such as DOORS) and ensuring that requirements and interface definitions are under configuration control.
  • Overall System Design.
  • The definition and control of interfaces between the sub-systems.
  • Application of end-to-end systems analysis and modelling and the subsequent allocation and management of technical budgets/tolerances.
  • The development of integration and test plans which will verify compliance with sub-system and, ultimately, top-level requirements.
  • Support of system integration, verification and test in collaboration with the WFI Consortium, ESA and leading European space companies.
  • Technical Management and Risk Assessment.
  • Prepare technical documentation for milestones and reviews.

Your qualifications

A completed university degree (e.g., Dipl.-Ing. or equivalent) or an equivalent qualification with in-depth knowledge of scientific instrumentation development. For example, a physics degree with applicable work experience in instrumentation development will also be considered.

Knowledge and Experience: Successful candidate is expected to bring proven systems engineering experience with designing astronomical or other complex systems.

Knowledge of

  • Engineering management with a broad, but not necessarily detailed, knowledge of the technologies involved in the engineering activities being managed.
  • Principles and methods of systems engineering and project management.
  • Principles and methods of requirements analysis.
  • Excellent conceptual and analytical skills to solve technical problems, involving problem definition, candidate solution identification, and solution selection.
  • Technical risk assessment.
  • Modelling languages, and relevant software tools.
  • Characterisation methods to evaluate candidate design alternatives.
  • System integration, tools, test equipment, principles and methods of validation.
  • Knowledge of ESA design and quality requirements (ECSS standards) is an advantage.


  • Planning, organising resources, motivating people, measuring performance and applying corrections where necessary.
  • To manage outwards, engendering confidence in the systems engineering from the stakeholders.
  • The ability to work independently on projects and in a team.
  • Fluency in written and spoken English.
  • Fluency in written and spoken German will be an advantage but is not essential.

Personal skills and attributes

  • Results orientated individual.
  • Issues and risk focus.
  • Focused on maximization of the value to the stakeholder(s) whom the design is to serve.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Willingness to raise issues when defects are discovered.
  • Ideally, you enjoy working your way through challenging topics and already have experience in development projects.

We offer

  • A versatile, challenging and autonomous job in a dynamic and culturally stimulating international research environment in the development of satellite instrumentation.
  • Interdisciplinary work in a team of experienced engineers and physicists.
  • Needs-oriented training opportunities.
  • Fair payment according to your qualifications and professional experience in accordance with the collective agreement for the public service (TVöD).
  • Company pension scheme (VBL).
  • Family service at the Garching research campus.
  • Private accident insurance financed by the employer.
  • Underground station U6 directly in front of the institute.
  • Canteen in the immediate vicinity.
  • Reduced rates for certain insurance policies.
  • Free parking on the institute grounds.

The full-time position is initially for two years with the possibility for further extension.

The Max Planck Society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

Furthermore, the Max Planck Society seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply.

Your application

Applicants should submit their documents including a cover letter, a curriculum vitae (in PDF format) online by Friday, the 14th January 2024

Late applications may be considered if the position has not been filled.

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