Space Blog | 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 3 December 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 Blog | 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 Blog | 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 Blog | 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 Blog | 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 Blog | 25. February 2015 | posted by Elke Heinemann

Could water molecules from Mars come to Earth?

Marsatmosphäre
Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
The HRSC camera on board the Mars Express acquired this image of the Martian horizon primarily because it provides a clear view of the atmospheric structure enveloping the planet. A clear separation between the lower, denser atmosphere and the stratosphere is visible.

The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express orbiter has been delivering high-resolution images from the surface of Mars since January 2004 – in colour and 3-D. A monthly selection of these images is published on the dedicated page that covers the Mars Express mission. Quite often, we receive questions about these images and the geological peculiarities they reveal. Other questions are simply about Mars in general. In this blog post, Ulrich Köhler from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research provides an answer to a particularly interesting question. read more

Space Blog | 05. November 2014 | posted by Christian Grimm | 1 Comment

One last look - farewell, MASCOT

Credit: DLR
Applying the final layers of protection prior to the launch

The last adjustments have been made and the final functionality tests have been completed. Following the successful installation of MASCOT into the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft in Sagamihara, the final preparations have taken place at the Tanegashima launch complex in Japan. The attachment of the solar sails – carefully folded up above MASCOT for the launch – offers the last opportunity to see MASCOT.

Now, the development team must take a step back – it is a strange feeling. For two and a half years, we have been nurturing MASCOT, seeing it grow, teaching it plenty. But now it is time to let go, in the truest sense of the word, and send it on its difficult mission. Unfortunately, we cannot accompany it.

So how do you deal with the departure of an object that is not alive in a biological sense, yet contains the personalities of so many people who have guided it so dearly throughout its development? read more

Space Blog | 26. August 2014 | posted by Reinhold Ewald

German astronauts lose a friend and colleague

Die Crew der D1-Mission
Credit: NASA
The crew of the D1 Mission (back row, from left to right): Pilot Steven R. Nagel, Mission Specialist Guion S. Bluford, Jr., Payload Specialists Ernst Messerschmid and Wubbo J. Ockels; (front row, from left to right): Payload Specialist Reinhard Furrer, Mission Specialists Bonnie J. Dunbar and James F. Buchli and Commander Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr.

"Steve Nagel was also of particular importance for Germany, since he held a leadership position on both the D1 Mission and the D2 Mission (D1: Pilot, D2: Commander) and made a major contribution to the success of the two Spacelab missions. We are indebted to him and will honour his memory," explains Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Chairman of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Executive Board. read more

Space Blog | 17. June 2014

Half-time on Mars

Half-time on Mars

Time flies and I’m not the only one in the habitat making this observation. We did not notice these first seven weeks passing by. Boredom is not something we have experienced until now. We are all very busy with our personal projects and, when not, there is always something to take care of in the habitat.

Source: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Freeze-dried vegetables, meat and cheese.

In the first month, we experienced difficulties with communications, a shortage of water, the failure of our treadmill and our bike, failures of spacesuits, and a lack of power from the solar array, leading us to start the ICE generator and spend an evening with flashlights. Yes, living on Mars - even if this 'Mars' is located in Hawaii - is far from being a holiday. We are isolated, depending only on our remote mission support team and ourselves when something goes wrong. There is no ‘customer service’ on Mars. If something breaks and we can’t repair it, we have two options: invent something with the available materials and equipment or wait for a resupply to get the missing part. read more

Space Blog | 14. April 2014

First week ‘on Mars’

We have already spent one week ‘on Mars’ and yet it feels like we arrived yesterday. Our ‘landing’, during the night of Friday 28 March, was quite tumultuous, with an arrival at sunset in pouring rain, strong winds and a temperature of about 10 degrees Celsius… like an actual Martian sandstorm. We unloaded all our luggage and proceeded to the last interviews with journalists from the University of Hawaii – in the rain. “Good luck and see you in four months!” said Kim Binsted as she exited the habitat. And our mission had begun! read more