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Space | 15. July 2016 | posted by Christian Grimm

Half-time for MASCOT – half the journey is completed

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The MASCOT spare Flight Unit (FS) during further testing in Bremen

On December 3rd 2014, the French-German MASCOT asteroid lander was launched with its carrier probe Hayabusa2 from Tanegashima, an island about 40 kilometres south of the Japanese mainland. With MASCOT halfway to its destination, we look back on all that has happened since the launch.

At the beginning of 2015, MASCOT's spare flight unit, the so-called Flight Spare (FS), was refurbished and made ready. On Earth, this identical 'twin' of the asteroid lander serves as a reference system for the flight unit, the Flight Model (FM). The spare unit underwent the same qualification tests as the flight model and can also be used for advanced unit tests that were no longer possible for the FM due to scheduling constraints. These additional tests mainly focused on getting the best possible performance out of the system and on precisely calibrating the parameters required for the landing in October 2018. To achieve this, the scientific instruments on MASCOT performed a series of measurements. read more

Space | 04. July 2016

BIROS to Earth…

Das BIROS-Team im Deutschen-Raumfahrt-Kontrollzentrum (GSOC) in Oberpfaffenhofen
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The BIROS team in the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) in Oberpfaffenhofen

It only took around 15 minutes for BIROS, the small remote sensing satellite, to report back to us for the first time after the successful launch of the Indian PSLV-C34 (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket on 22 June 2016. Prior to this, the microsatellite had separated from the rocket at precisely 507 kilometres.

This initial contact during a flyover above the O’Higgins Station operated by the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) in Antarctica was a minor surprise, as it was not entirely certain whether this first connection would be successful. We had firmly expected an initial contact during the flyover above Inuvik Station in North Canada approximately one hour after take-off. But plenty of things had to come together to make this initial contact work: firstly, separation from the rocket had to be precise; secondly, the satellite passed over the ground station at a very flat angle, making the duration of possible contact quite short. So this fleeting sign of life was simply the icing on the cake for our team at the German Space Operations Center (GSOC). BIROS had arrived safe and sound! read more

Space | 22. June 2016 | posted by Julia Heil | 2 Comments

Bye Bye BIROS

Credit: ISRO
On 22 June 2016, the microsatellite BIROS took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India on board a PSLV launcher (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle).

It was finally time: after another postponement of the deadline, the fire detection satellite BIROS (Bi-spectral Infrared Optical System) took off on 22 June 2016.

All of the collectively crossed fingers helped: here is a look back at the days that preceded the launch.
Although a part of the DLR team had already set off on their homeward journey to Germany, systems engineer Christian Schultz, project coordinator Matthias Hetscher, design engineer Matthias Lieder and software engineer Stefan Trippler remained on site in India to accompany the microsatellite in its final preparations. Schultz set off for Germany shortly before the launch to take his place at the control centre in Oberpfaffenhofen. read more

Space | 09. June 2016 | posted by Julia Heil

BIROS – A small satellite on the move

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Upon its arrival, the BIROS microsatellite had to be removed from its transportation crate

Forty degrees Celsius and approximately 60 percent humidity – these are the weather conditions outside. That is why the BIROS team is happy to work in the cool cleanrooms of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in India for most of the day. They are working out here, as the launch date for the BIROS (Bispectral InfraRed Optical System) microsatellite is drawing near. It is due to be launched from the SDSC on the island of Sriharikota on the south coast of India on 22 June 2016. BIROS and its partner satellite TET-1 (Technologie-Erprobungsträger 1; Technology Experiment Carrier 1) will then orbit Earth at an altitude of 500 kilometres, from where they will each use two infrared cameras to keep an eye on forest fires and other high-temperature events. A great deal of work and coordination effort will have been carried out before BIROS can start its work in space – 10 DLR institutes have been working for three years on preparing the satellites for their mission.

From Adlershof to India

The group of scientists from the DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems reached the Indian city of Chennai on 10 May. At that point, BIROS was already at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, some 80 kilometres away, after having been picked up from Berlin-Adlershof on 4 May. The buzzing metropolis of Chennai awaited the scientists and engineers. In 2014, the city was the sixth largest in India with 4.9 million inhabitants – and it is still growing. read more

Space | 24. May 2016 | posted by Paul Zabel

Studying botany to grow vegetables at the South Pole

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
 

Although I won't be leaving to Antarctica until December 2017 on my one-year expedition as part of the EDEN ISS project, preparations for it are already under way. Ultimately, I will be responsible for the operation of the EDEN ISS greenhouse in Antarctica, and that includes all the tasks from sowing the plants to harvesting. My gardening skills will determine whether the greenhouse can contribute to the vegetable diet of the crew of the Neumayer III research station and whether all our experiments are successful. That is why I have spent the last week in the Netherlands. There, experts introduced me to the professional cultivation of vegetables in greenhouses. As a trained engineer who never really had green fingers, the trip was absolutely fascinating and very instructive. read more

Space | 12. November 2015

Anniversary of Philae comet landing – expecting the unexpected

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
 

By Karin Ranero Celius

One year ago today, the Philae lander touched down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This was no easy task, of course. With the Rosetta mission, it was demonstrated that it was not only possible to travel to a comet more than 500 million kilometres from Earth, but also to follow it in its orbit around the Sun and land on it. read more

Energy | 13. October 2015 | posted by Dorothee Bürkle

Sunshine over the Kalahari

Die Sonne über der Kalahari
Credit: Abengoa
Solar power station in South Africa. Khi Solar One in the Northern Cape region – designed for a capacity of 50 megawatts – will soon be connected to the grid. 

The Sun almost always shines in the Kalahari, which extends across the Northern Cape region in South Africa. The area enjoys 4000 sunlight hours and an average solar irradiance of up to 2800 kilowatt-hours per square metre per year; by comparison, Spain reaches no more than 2300. Therefore, it follows that the currently untapped potential for solar power is immense.

South Africa's main source of electricity is coal (90 percent). Could solar power stations bring about change? Experts in science, industry and politics will discuss this exact question at the SolarPACES Conference. They will also pool their opinions on innovation regarding solar thermal power plants, storage technologies and the use of solar energy to produce fuels. read more

Space | 18. September 2015 | 3 Comments

Philae calling ...

Credit: CNES/DUCROS David/ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM
 

By Cinzia Fantinati and Koen Geurts

On 9 July, the team at the DLR Lander Control Center made contact with Philae for the last time. Towards the end of October, Rosetta will come closer and attempts to communicate will resume. read more

Space | 12. August 2015 | posted by Fabian Walker

Video – Pieces of the Puzzle – Philae on Comet 67P

Kometenlandung (#CometLanding) von Philae am 12. November 2014
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Philae's landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (#CometLanding) on 12 November 2014 was a historic moment – the first time in the history of space exploration that a spacecraft landed on a comet. Millions of people across the world followed the Rosetta mission via the Internet. read more

Aeronautics | 02. June 2015

ARCTIC15 - Airborne SAR acquisitions up and running

SAR-Daten
Credit: DLR / Martin Keller (CC-BY 3.0)
A first SAR data quicklook of the Kangerlussuaq calibration test site. The colours represent the intensity in different polarisations (Red: VV, Green: HV, Blue: HH). The airport is clearly visible in black. From the centre of the image, the fjord extents in a south-west direction, where skidoo-tracks to the next village can be seen.

Three calibration flights, 10 flights to test sites, and over 100 radar data sets resulting in 4.8 Terabyte of SAR data. These are the numbers behind the work our F-SAR team conducted within the last two weeks – including even the alteration from the X-C-S-L to the P-band antenna configuration and fortunately only one bad weather day.

DLR's Do-228 airplane, with the F-SAR system on board arrived on Friday, 24 May, in Kangerlussuaq. On the following Monday, the team consisting of two pilots, one flight engineer and two radar operators took off for the first calibration flight. In the first two weeks, the antenna configuration for the X-, C-, S- and L-band frequencies was installed on the plane. This range of different frequencies will allow us to compare radar acquisitions with different penetration depths into the snow and ice. The team acquired SAR data over all the test sites where we had installed corner reflectors. Additionally, the area around the airport and town of Kangerlussuaq is overflown for calibration purposes and is well equipped with seven reflectors. It seems like the locals got used to these strange metallic artefacts in their town pretty fast.

Credit: DLR / Ralf Horn (CC-BY 3.0)
DLR's Do-228 with the F-SAR radar system on board after refuelling at the airport of Ilulissat, Greenland. The X-C-S-L antenna mount is visible on the rear of the plane.

Eventually, during the first days after the calibration flight, we had to face exactly those smaller and bigger problems – those that one must always expect during a campaign, as mentioned in the previous post. But the F-SAR team proved their problem-solving skills and campaign experience. From non-matching connections of the local oxygen supply to unstable electronic parts, they were able to fix everything without causing any delay to the campaign plan. I have to admit that I was already worried about losing one test site due to the technical difficulties, but the team was able to acquire almost all the data we had planned for. For now, we can say that the X-C-S-L phase was successful, giving us plenty of scientific data.

Credit: DLR / Georg Fischer (CC-BY 3.0)
The F-SAR team preparing to remove the X-C-S-L antenna from the side of the Do-228 airplane.

The change to the P-band antenna configuration was completed successfully. The P-band wavelength is the longest we will use during this campaign and penetrates several tens of metres into the ice. We are already curious about what kind of subsurface features we will see in the data.

Today, while I'm writing, the F-SAR team is flying over the K-transect to conduct the first P-band acquisitions. Currently, we are all very optimistic about the upcoming part of the campaign.