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Space | 26. August 2016 | posted by Manuela Braun

Study routines with ice axe and crampon training

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Storing samples in the ice: first the test subjects use ice axes to create a shelf.

It is 04:00, and outside Margherita Hut the world is pitch black. The clocks of the test subjects in the altitude sickness study sound their alarms. As the first group of mountaineers leave their lodgings for climbing tours in the Valais Alps, the study participants are already busy delivering the first set of data: headaches, quality of sleep, nausea, dizziness. All of these are noted in a daily journal, graded on a scale according to severity. Then they reach for the blood pressure monitor and attach the clip that measures oxygen saturation in the blood to a fingertip. “We’ve all gotten used to it by now,” says DLR investigator Ulrich Limper. The same applies to the subsequent hop onto the scales. Each morning, test subjects record their bodyweight.

The first samples are collected at 04:30. The participants are asked to give blood, saliva and urine. When the samples are analysed at the DLR laboratory in Cologne, it will be important to determine whether protein molecules from the lungs have entered the bloodstream, and whether other protein molecules are present in the urine. These factors would indicate that the hypothesis of the study is accurate: when the body is exposed to reduced atmospheric pressure and a lack of oxygen, inflammation will form in the body that causes the blood vessels to become permeable, hence allowing fluid and proteins to seep from the vessels and into the surrounding tissue. read more

Space | 24. August 2016 | posted by Manuela Braun

When bad news is good news

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Even during the climb, it was apparent who was better suited to the altitude and thinner air.

Some of the test subjects are suffering. The diary of one female student participant records all that one would not want to have – massive headache, severe fatigue, nausea and vomiting, oedema – water retention – in the hands, insomnia. The first symptoms appeared during the climb, as the 10 test subjects first climbed from Alagna in Italy up to the Orestes Hut, and on to the Gnifetti Hut at an altitude of 3647 metres. On Tuesday it was finally time to climb to the final destination – the Regina Margherita Hut situated at an altitude of over 4500 metres.

For the participants with no – or only minor symptoms – of altitude sickness, it was a hike over the Lys Glacier with beautiful views; for the very sick, step by step, with crampons on their shoes and a five-kilogram pack on their backs, it was an arduous walk and anything but pleasurable. But, in this case, bad news is good news – DLR lead investigator Ulrich Limper needs to test subjects whose bodies are reacting to the lower air pressure and lack of oxygen. read more

Space | 26. July 2016 | posted by Fabian Walker

Say goodbye to Philae

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Some members of the Philae lander team at the DLR Lander Control Center in Cologne.

+++ Update: Thank you for all the great pictures and wishes you sent to Philae. You can find all photos in our flickr-Gallery. We also produced a video from these pictures:  +++

12 November 2014 would have been an otherwise unremarkable day on Earth were it not for the historic event that took place – for the first time ever, humankind landed on the surface of a comet. Well actually, it was the robot lander Philae who touched down on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at 17:09 CET. On 27 July 2016, the Electrical Support System (ESS) on Rosetta, which is used to communicate with Philae, will be switched off to save energy before September 30, the day the Rosetta mission will come to an end.

The robot lander Philae made it into history books: he didn’t just land on a comet, he also told the world about it as he did it – another first! He reported the landing, step by step, in real time, making everyone a part of his mission. His landing tweet "Touchdown! My new address: 67P" was retweeted more than 36,000 times, and he has 448,000 followers on Twitter (@Philae2014). We know that the little robot has a place in the hearts of many – to this day, his twitter account is filled with messages of hope and concern for his well-being.

We invite you all to help us and our partners say goodbye to Philae. But how? read more

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