German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is back on Earth after spending five and a half months in space. The 38-year-old geophysicist and flight engineer landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan roughly 100 kilometres from the city of Arkalyk at 04:58 CET (09:58 local time) on 10 November 2014 after a three and a half hour return journey on board a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
The radar satellite TerraSAR-X has been orbiting the Earth since June 2007; in June 2010 its twin, TanDEM-X, followed it into space. For almost four years, the two satellites have been operated in a close flight formation by DLR.
Thunderclouds over rainforests are an important element in the climate system. The DLR research aircraft HALO spent the period from the beginning of September to the beginning of October 2014 in Manaus, a city in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, measuring the emergence, development and properties of tropical clouds.
Since the Icelandic volcano system of Bardarbunga began erupting, concerns about a volcanic ash cloud spreading across Europe and bringing air traffic to a standstill, as occurred in April 2010, have arisen once again. To enable the aviation industry to respond to volcanic ash more flexibly in the future, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) has been developing an improved satellite-supported volcanic ash detection system as part of Project VolcATS (Volcanic Ash Impact on the Air Transport System). DLR researchers are using improved views of the situation to investigate how air traffic management can adapt flexibly to large-scale airspace restrictions caused by volcanic ash
The 2014 harvest season is coming to an end, and throughout Germany the signs are of good yields for wheat, corn and similar crops. But the differences are large depending on the location. Hence, for optimum cultivation, it is important to be constantly aware of the condition of the soil and the crops. Radar images are particularly suitable for providing large-scale observations – using an aircraft or a satellite.
To support the safety of air transport and improve the air traffic system's response times in the critical event of a volcanic eruption, the identification of ash-free airspace is essential. At DLR, a satellite-supported procedure has been developed that rapidly determines the distribution of ash in the air and generates detailed images of areas with both heavy and light ash loads.
The lava outflow on the Holuhraun field northeast of Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano continues unabated. The lava field has grown to cover an area greater than 25 square kilometres.
The Bardarbunga volcano on Iceland began erupting on 31 August 2014 – an effusive eruption with no ejection of volcanic ash. However, measurements made by DLR have since indicated that there is ongoing emission of sulphur dioxide (SO2). High sulphur dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are a clear indication of volcanic activity, as there are no other natural emission sources, only anthropogenic ones.
Bardarbunga, (Bárðarbunga) in Iceland, one of the largest volcanoes in Europe and located beneath the biggest glacier in Europe, became active again in mid-August. For several years now, DLR researchers have been keeping a close eye on Bardarbunga and the system of volcanoes associated with it – an enormous network of subterranean magma channels, vents and craters.
The radar system on board the European Space Agency (ESA) Sentinel-1A satellite has been imaging Earth's surface in 250-kilometre swathes since April 2014. Now, scientists at DLR, working under a contract from ESA, have created the first interferogram from this data – showing the topography of Earth as a coloured pattern.