This week, scientists at the European Planetary Science Conference (EPSC) in Nantes, France are busy with the mysterious crater structures and fascinating views of the multifaceted dwarf planet Ceres. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is involved in the NASA Dawn mission and, among other things, is responsible for the mapping and naming of regions and striking surface features, in collaboration with the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
Shaped like a rubber duck – this was the talk upon the discovery of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko's surprising shape in July 2014. Scientists were amazed at the celestial body's extraordinary shape, which was revealed by the European Rosetta spacecraft.
In the latest edition of the DLR Magazine 146/147, you can read two fascinating live reports illustrated by impressive images and encounters with interesting people. The cover story, 'Summit flight in the Midnight Sun' tells the tale of a flight campaign conducted by DLR's Falcon research aircraft across Iceland and Greenland, where a new laser instrument, a wind lidar, was tested. Wind data collected from high atmospheric layers will make weather forecasts more accurate in the future. Our second live report features MAPHEUS-5, a sounding rocket with materials physics experiments on board - investigations were conducted during six minutes of microgravity. And there is more!
Gas and dust streams from the ‘neck’ of Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Since its arrival at the comet, Rosetta has observed jets of gas and dust. Numerous gas eruptions have been observed originating from the ‘neck’ of the comet. Using the measurements performed by the VIRTIS spectrometer, it has been possible to recognise a day/night cycle of cometary activity and identify the mechanism responsible.
Over 60,000 guests visited the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Cologne-Porz site on 20 September 2015 for German Aerospace Day. DLR and the European Space Agency (ESA), together with their partners, exhibited current research projects and missions in the fields of aeronautics, space, energy, transport and security.
The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is opening its doors to their laboratories and institutes on German Aerospace Day, offering visitors an insight into the ongoing research. Teaming up with the event partners – the European Space Agency (ESA), Cologne Bonn Airport and the German Air Force – DLR will showcase a major aircraft exhibition alongside the astronaut training facilities in the EAC (European Astronaut Center).
From 9 September 2015, test flights are taking place on three consecutive days in a simulated disaster scenario as part of the EU's 'Driving Innovations in Crisis Management for European Resilience' (DRIVER) project. Harrowing scenes are being simulated in Braunschweig on those days. A major flood has covered a wide area around the Tankumsee, a lake near Gifhorn; surrounding roads are also affected and people are stranded in the water.
The primary task of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft is to acquire high-resolution image data for the mapping of Mars. For this purpose, the optical system is normally directed perpendicular to the surface of the planet.
The north face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps is legendary; mountaineers consider the steep walls of the 1800-metre drop to be a difficult and challenging climb. But 326 million kilometres from Earth, the sheer cliffs of the Eiger find their match on the dwarf planet Ceres, where at some points, the wall of the Occator crater towers precipitously at a height of almost 2000 metres.
Nine seconds is not a lot – those who are nine seconds late for an appointment are, so to speak, on time. But when it comes to the rotation of a planet around its own axis, nine seconds is not insignificant. On Mercury, this means that a spot at the equator would, in four years, not be where one would expect it to be; it would have shifted by 700 metres.
Taxi companies, car-sharing providers, company cars – vehicle fleets play an important role when it comes to bringing electromobility to the roads and making it visible. But replacing traditionally fuelled vehicles with electric vehicles must also make sense financially. Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have developed an online tool that fleet operators can use to calculate the conditions under which the use of electric vehicles will be worthwhile.
Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), together with partners from science and industry, have developed a new method for producing hydrogen from diesel and biodiesel as part of the EU NEMESIS 2+ project. In future, this could be used in areas where decentralised hydrogen production is needed – for example, for filling up fuel cell vehicles, or for processes used within the glass and steel industry. During the project, a prototype was also built and successfully tested – it is the same size as a shipping container and, as such, can be integrated into existing infrastructure with relative ease.
For the next few weeks, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) :envihab research facility will be home to 12 men in good health, aged between 20 and 45 years. The men are test subjects for a long-term bedrest study – they will be confined to bedrest for two months with two weeks of experimental investigations and tests. Their beds will be tilted at an angle of six degrees below the horizontal, so that their bodily fluids shift towards the upper body; the bones and muscles in their lower part of their bodies will lose strength as a result of the lack of movement. “In this way we simulate the effects of microgravity on the human body,” says Edwin Mulder, leader of the study and a scientist at the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine, about the study, which is being carried out by DLR on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA). “Our volunteers are, so to speak, terrestrial astronauts.” Half of the test subjects will undergo reactive jump training several times a week, which involves lying on a specially positioned training device. “We want to see whether this very intensive training can be an effective countermeasure to the deterioration of the bones and muscles.”
On 20 September 2015, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and its partners, the European Space Agency (ESA), Cologne/Bonn Airport and the German Air Force, will be hosting German Aerospace Day (Tag der Luft- und Raumfahrt) in Cologne. On the day, DLR researchers will open the doors to their institutes and laboratories and allow the public to take a look at their work. There will also be a major aircraft exhibition, where visitors will be able to see DLR's unique research aircraft, German Air Force aircraft and an Emirates Airbus A380.
The lower the Dawn space probe flies over the dwarf planet Ceres with its on-board camera, the more puzzling – and exciting – the celestial body appears. “Some of the things we are seeing have never been seen anywhere else in the Solar System,” says Ralf Jaumann from the German Aerospace Center (DLR). “Except for on Earth.” Dawn is now looking down onto the surface of Ceres from an altitude of just 1470 kilometres. The first images acquired from its High Altitude Mapping Orbit (HAMO) show a ‘pyramid’ with unusual landslides, unstable crater walls and chains of mountains. “We can only speculate about these things at the moment.” Where the bright stripes along the pyramid-shaped mountain come from and whether the surface of the dwarf planet is comprised of different materials are questions that the planetary researchers are still trying to answer.
The International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS 2015 is being held in Zhukovsky, near Moscow, from 25 to 30 August 2015. This is the sixth time that the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is exhibiting at the biennial Russian aerospace exhibition. With an exhibition space of 100 square metres, DLR will be presenting its concepts and technologies for the space and aeronautics of tomorrow. DLR satellite technology is the main focus of the exhibit.
Although only about 400 kilometres separate the Kontur-2 joystick and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) ROKVISS robot, the remote control operations that took place on 18 August 2015 were truly special: Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, flying aboard the International Space Station (ISS) over Earth at 28,000 kilometres per hour, controlled the robot on the ground while in microgravity. The connection between space and Earth is not one-directional – the ROKVISS (Robotic Components Verification on the ISS) sends data back to the joystick when contact forces occur on the ground. At 16:37 CEST (ISS orbit 3775), the metal fingers of the robot moved for the first time – controlled remotely from space. “At that moment, Kononenko not only saw what was happening using a camera, but, through the joystick, felt exactly what was happening with the robot in our laboratory,” says Jordi Artigas from the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics. In autumn 2015 the first ‘tele-handshake’ will be performed between the ISS and Earth with this technology, when the DLR Robot ‘Space Justin’ remotely shakes hands with someone on Earth from space – with force feedback.
Pascale Ehrenfreund took office as Chair of the Executive Board at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on 17 August 2015. This places her at the head of one of Europe’s largest research institutes and its 8000 employees.
Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are researching a morphing wing trailing edge that can be smoothly transformed into any shape and will make conventional flaps redundant. The flaps on the wings of today’s commercial airliners are actuated via a complicated mechanism. Their arrangement and the resulting gap when they are extended compromises the aerodynamics, increases fuel consumption and contributes to inflight noise. The new technology, on the other hand, is flexible, its movement being based on that of carnivorous plants. This enables the gap between the wing and the flap to be eliminated.
For weeks, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko has been active, hurling dust and gas into space – but it will not reach the closest point to the Sun in its orbit, the perihelion, until 13 August 2015 at exactly 4:03 CEST. It will take another six-and-a-half years to get this close to the Sun once again.