Entering a planetary atmosphere is one of the most critical mission phases for a spacecraft. The enormous amount of heat generated not only places heavy thermal loads on the material of the re-entry vehicle, it also gives rise to an electrically charged plasma that flows around it. This blocks radio signals, with the result that the spacecraft is unable to communicate with its ground stations for several minutes. In a joint project, researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are working with colleagues at Stanford University in California to find a solution to this problem.
The first component of Europe's 'Data Highway in Space' has been launched. The initial node of the European Data Relay System (EDRS), carried on board the Eutelsat commercial telecommunications satellite Eutelsat 9B, took off en-route to geostationary orbit – 36,000 kilometres above Earth – on 29 January 2016 at 23:20 CET from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The dwarf planet Ceres would be quite an uncomfortable place if one were to actually stand on its surface – with a rather 'chilly' temperature of minus 60 degrees Celsius by day, which gets colder during the night. Hard, frozen ground and craters spanning kilometres – in all shapes and sizes.
Directly to the west of the gigantic graben system of Valles Marineris on Mars, lies a no less impressive region called Noctis Labyrinthus – the Labyrinth of the Night. It consists of a labyrinth of intersecting valleys and canyons up to six kilometres deep. Extending over 1200 kilometres east to west, it is almost the same length as the River Rhine.
On 23 January 2016, five German science experiments travelled on board a German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), TEXUS sounding rocket, to take a 'short trip' in microgravity.
With its research and management divisions, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) contributes to the solution of global challenges. The work includes not only the reduction of emissions caused by air transport, but also highly automated travel for the mobility of the future, cost-effective energy storage solutions and environmental monitoring for the protection of the atmosphere.
A comet is largely composed of water ice and water vapour predominates in its 'atmosphere' – the coma that forms as it nears the Sun. However, very few examples of water ice have previously been observed on the surface of a comet.
Currently just 385 kilometres away from the surface, the Dawn spacecraft is orbiting Ceres and acquiring images that show the dwarf planet at an unprecedented resolution of just 35 metres per pixel. These images allow scientists to look at a surface strewn with craters, fractures, domes and bright areas.
The last clear sign of life was received from Philae, the Rosetta mission's comet lander, on 9 July 2015; since then, it has remained silent. Now, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is moving away from the Sun and the temperature on the comet's surface and the amount of sunlight are both decreasing.
One of the most striking features of a global view of Mars is the dichotomy between the topographically diverse highlands in the southern hemisphere and the flat, expansive lowland plains of its northern counterpart. Many landscape features shaped by erosion can be observed in the transitional zone between the highlands and lowlands, which explains the particular geological interest in this region.
Although it is a simple gesture of greeting, it nevertheless remains an extraordinary moment; a handshake between an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) and researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).
Arable land disappeared from city centres, where most people live, many years ago. Nowadays, food is transported over long distances before reaching the consumer. Researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have now joined with international partners to create 'Vertical Farm 2.0', which will enable the multi-level cultivation of plants in large cities.
On Tuesday 8 December at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference COP 21 in Paris, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the French space agency (CNES) met to reaffirm their commitment to jointly develop the MEthane Remote sensing LIdar missioN (MERLIN) satellite that is set to measure concentrations of methane in Earth's atmosphere with unprecedented accuracy.
The science and technology demonstrator LISA Pathfinder lifted off from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on board a Vega rocket at 05:04 CET on 3 December 2015. Preparations for this European Space Agency (ESA) mission, which places unprecedented requirements on both payload and spacecraft, have lasted more than 10 years.
Mobile telephones, high-speed Internet, up-to-date meteorological data and navigation programs available anytime, anywhere – all thanks to satellites. Bandwidth and frequencies that are revised every three to four years at the World Radiocommunication Conference play an important role in this.
The dwarf planet Ceres measured a mere nine pixels across on an image acquired by NASA's Dawn orbiter on 1 December 2014. Since then, the planetary researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have received thousands of images showing the dwarf planet and its unusually varied surface.
The latest images acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on board the European Space Agency (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft, show a runout of the Aurorae Chaos region – an eastern continuation of the massive Valles Marineris graben system on Mars.
Philae was more than 500 million kilometres from Earth when it touched down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko one year ago, on 12 November 2014. "We looked after and planned this mission for almost 20 years and launched the Rosetta orbiter and Philae lander on their journey through space – so landing day really was quite special," says Philae Project Manager Stephan Ulamec from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) to sum up the mood on the day.
Indonesia is on fire – the island state is currently facing a bitter struggle against forest and peat fires on Sumatra and Borneo, most likely caused by illegal 'slash and burn' farming to clear the land for palm oil or timber plantations. The extremely dry conditions resulting from the El Niño weather phenomenon exacerbate this problem.
When astronaut William Shepherd left Earth on 31 October 2000 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, he made his way to a very special residence. At an altitude of approximately 400 kilometres, it offered an unobstructed view of Earth and no risk of meeting unfriendly neighbours.