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.
On 12 November 2014, as the Philae lander slowly descended onto Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the first instruments on board began to take measurements. Philae touched down three times during the first ever landing on a comet, scraped against a crater rim, and finally arrived at the unforeseen landing site, called Abydos, at 18:31 CEST.
Acting on behalf of the NASA Dawn mission team, researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) chose 17 of approximately 150 fertility deities to name the most prominent craters on Ceres, which they presented to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). These names were chosen because the dwarf planet bears the name of the Roman goddess of agriculture.
The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) teamed up with the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy (Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie GmbH; WI) in the STROMbegleitung (electricity evaluation) study to analyse technologies, outlook and life-cycle assessments for electrically-powered transport.
The new crew on their way to the International Space Station (ISS) – cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and astronauts Kimiya Yui and Kjell Lindgren – will be carrying a compact piece of luggage on board the Soyuz spacecraft. The KONTUR-2 joystick developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is setting off to its new destination. Upon arrival, Kononenko will be responsible for working with the device and in August will operate the ROKVISS (Robotic Components Verification on the ISS) robot installed at the DLR Robotics and Mechatronics Center using the remote control. What makes this special? The cosmonaut will not only see a camera image of the robot sent up from the ground, he will also, at a distance of over 400 kilometres, feel precisely what the robot back on Earth touches. This is enabled by a mechanism in KONTUR-2 that detects exactly how strongly it touches another object, as well as other metrics. The telepresence experiment is designed to give its operator the impression of being on-site at the laboratory – and not in orbit around Earth.
On 9 July 2015 at 19:45 CEST, Philae reported back to the team at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Lander Control Center (LCC) – only to then go back to 'silent mode'. Since then, the team has been working hard to get back in contact with the lander and operate it to conduct scientific measurements.
Transferring power from Africa to Europe via a high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line could be a sustainable business model with added value for both regions. This is the conclusion reached by researchers in the EU-sponsored BETTER project (Bringing Europe and Third Countries Closer Together Through Renewable Energies), conducted by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) in cooperation with CIEMAT (Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas) and other partners.
A tangle of treetops and branches, through which just the occasional clear area provides glimpses of the trunks and roots growing below. Whether it is woodland with German spruces or a tropical rainforest, very few sensors are able to see through this green carpet and clearly visualise the underlying structures. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is developing radar technology that, for the first time, will enable a three-dimensional visual representation of forest areas from the roots to the crowns.
The Philae lander communicated with the Rosetta orbiter again between 19:45 and 20:07 CEST on 9 July 2015 and transmitted measurement data from the COmet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radiowave Transmission (CONSERT) instrument. Although the connection failed repeatedly after that, it remained completely stable for those 12 minutes.
After a nine-and-a half year journey, the NASA New Horizons spacecraft will fly past the dwarf planet Pluto – approximately 4.8 billion kilometres from Earth – at 13:50 CEST on 14 July 2015. This is the first time that the former 'ninth planet' in the Solar System will receive a visitor.
Collaboration between them is already a reality, but with the signing of a framework cooperation agreement on 9 July 2015, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) have now strengthened their cooperation. Current research projects will be extended in the next five years – for example, in the area of alternative aircraft fuels – and new cooperation projects will be embarked upon to facilitate, among other things, uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) and aircraft cabin research.
At 13:28 CEST on 2 July 2015, the alarm in the Wünsdorf forest fire centre went off. Smoke had been seen rising from the forest district in Baruth. The German Meteorological Service had previously raised the risk of forest fire to the highest alert level. In the past, employees of the Brandenburg state forestry office sat in the cramped towers – 100 steps above the ground – using binoculars as they scanned the horizon for signs of forest fires during the hot summer months.
Whoever wants a glimpse of the future of our climate has to cast his eyes upward. Almost into outer space, up some 100 kilometres, at night. Then the consequences of global warming become rapidly evident. For years the German Aerospace Center (DLR) has been monitoring the temperature of the atmosphere at this altitude and analysing the changes—in order to improve climate models and to detect natural disasters early, like flooding, earthquakes and tsunami. The "base camp" for measurements is Germany‘s highest research station, the Schneefernerhaus Environmental Research Station (UFS) on Zugspitze mountain.
The German Aerospace Center's (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) mobile rocket base MORABA launched the MAPHEUS-5 high-altitude research rocket at 06:55 CEST on 30 June 2015, carrying four DLR experiments on board. The 12-metre-high, two-stage rocket took off from the Swedish Esrange Space Center and ascended to an altitude of 253 kilometres – taking only 74 seconds to reach a state of microgravity lasting over six minutes, which was used to conduct experiments from the fields of material physics and biology.
For 28 hours, six subjects will remain lying down and tilted at 12 degrees so their heads are lower than their legs. At times, they live and sleep in a carbon dioxide enriched atmosphere. With the 'SpaceCOT' study, researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the US National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) are investigating how the human brain and eyes are affected by the shift of body fluids towards the head as well as the increased carbon dioxide content in the air.