Spaceflight is undergoing significant change. To be successful in the long term, spaceflight must be actively developed, new markets have to be exploited, and the opportunities offered by innovative technologies need to be seized. Which space propulsion systems are visionary, which are realistic, and which are sustainable?
When it comes to the best views of Earth, weather satellites usually have front-row seats. But now, and until 30 December 2016, everyone can enjoy this very special view of the Blue Planet at the Gasometer Oberhausen. The highlight of the 'Wonders of Nature' exhibit is a terrestrial globe 20 metres in diameter hovering from the 100-metre high tower of this imposing industrial monument.
In December 2015, the Mars mission InSight was put on hold, but it has now been provisionally scheduled to launch to the Red Planet at the next opportunity – in May 2018. Technical difficulties with one of the two main experiments – the seismometer – had led to the US space agency, NASA, cancelling the launch that had been planned for March 2016. Now, a decision has been made – the mission has been given a reprieve, and a new launch date in two years' time.
The earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, the tsunami in Japan in 2011 that was triggered by an undersea earthquake, and the severe floods that, time and again, affect countries such as India and Bangladesh give rise to the question of how Earth observation satellites could help detect and study natural disasters in a more effective way.
On 25 February 2016, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) signed an ‘Inter Agency Arrangement for Strategic Partnership’ at the German Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. With this arrangement, both partners intend to jointly undertake the new role of space agencies and significantly contribute to the advancement of the world's space development.
When looking at the large-scale topography along the equator of Mars, what truly stands out are the many, extremely wide drainage channels leading north without many lateral inflows. The smaller valley systems are not so noticeable in these images. They often have multiple branches and meander across the terrain. Such valley systems can be found on Earth. Arda Valles in the Martian highlands is a good example of such a drainage system.
Sailing in the regions that polar researcher Arved Fuchs is currently navigating in his ship 'Dagmar Aaen' is a not an easy task. The 'Ocean Change' expedition is travelling around the Antarctic Peninsula, stopping off at a number of research stations to investigate how climate change is impacting the local environment.
To communicate with one another, ships use radio, light signals or flags –but these channels are not suitable for transmitting large volumes of data. Only expensive satellite communications systems can enable data transfer at higher rates.
The last prolonged silence had already indicated that contact with the Philae lander will be increasingly unlikely, and the conditions on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko have become more hostile. "Unfortunately, the probability of Philae re-establishing contact with our team at the DLR Lander Control Center (LCC) is almost zero, and we will no longer be sending any commands; it would be very surprising if we received a signal now," said Stephan Ulamec Philae Project Manager of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).
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).