The ESA Rosetta spacecraft has travelled over 6.4 billion kilometres, swung by planets, examined two asteroids during flybys, and spent more than two and a half years in hibernation during its 10-year journey. On 6 August 2014 at 11:30 CEST, with the Philae lander on board, it arrived at its target comet and entered into orbit. Now, the mapping of the comet, which appears to consist of two interconnected parts, will begin. The first ever landing on a comet is expected to take place on 11 November 2014. The Philae lander is controlled and operated from the Lander Control Centre of the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
Record cold temperatures on Earth are far from the low point on a comet formed from ice and dust. Researchers using the Visible and InfraRed Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) on board ESA’s comet rendezvous spacecraft, Rosetta, have determined that the average temperature on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is a mere minus 70 degrees Celsius. This is where, in November 2014, the lander Philae – constructed and operated by a consortium led by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) will touch down. “At this temperature, the surface of the comet is not completely covered with a layer of ice, but with dark, dusty material,” says DLR planetary researcher Gabriele Arnold, who heads the German scientific contributions to this experiment. The temperature was measured during Rosetta’s approach to the comet, where it is due to arrive on 6 August 2014.
On 1 August 2014, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and Telespazio, a Finmeccanica/Thales company, reconfirmed their cooperation for the operation of the European satellite navigation programme Galileo.
Less than 2000 kilometres separate the ESA orbiter Rosetta and the Philae lander from their destination, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Images acquired with the OSIRIS camera system already indicate what lies ahead for the orbiter and lander upon arrival: "The surface seems pretty rough. We will have to wait to determine whether the visible depressions are impact craters or structures produced by cometary activity," says Ekkehard Kührt from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). The comet researcher is involved in the acquisition of data by the OSIRIS camera and is also responsible for data analysis. Another image taken by the camera shows that a cloud of dust, the coma, enshrouds the comet. “As we draw closer to Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the other instruments used in the mission will provide us with interesting insights into the interaction between the dust and the surrounding gas.”
So far, four European space freighters have carried supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). At 01:47 CEST on 30 July 2014, Georges Lemaître – the fifth and last European Space Agency (ESA) Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) – lifted off from the spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana carrying experiments such as an electromagnetic levitator (EML), a furnace, that the German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will install and commission. Also on board are items needed for everyday life in space such as coffee and snacks, and additional supplies to replenish the stocks of fuel, water and air. The freighter is scheduled to dock with the Space Station on 12 August 2014.
Tough, resilient and able to survive in the most inhospitable regions on Earth –now, they are being asked to show their strength in a space environment as well; blue-green algae (cyanobacteria of the genus Nostoc) and biofilms (deinococcus geothermalis) will depart for the International Space Station (ISS) at 23:44 CEST on 23 July 2014 on board a Progress spacecraft.
Comets have irregular and rather potato-like shapes – this is a well-known fact. But the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, on which the Philae lander is scheduled to descend in November 2014, has an unexpected shape.
At 12:39 CEST on 16 July 2014, the Cygnus Orbital-2 transport vehicle will approach the International Space Station (ISS), closing to a separation of just 12 metres. At this moment, astronaut Alexander Gerst and his colleague Steve Swanson will be called on to capture the transporter and dock it with the Space Station.
Cassini, the Saturn orbiter, has witnessed countless fascinating phenomena, transmitting exceptional images and measurements back to Earth – including the intricate structure of Saturn's rings, the fountains of ice shot into space from the surface of Enceladus and rivers and oceans of methane on Titan.
Right on schedule, at 06:19 CEST on 30 June 2014, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) AISat satellite journeyed into space aboard the PSLV-C23 launcher that departed from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, in India.
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a modified Boeing 747SP, is a joint project of the US Space Agency, NASA, and DLR. It is normally stationed at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, but at 08:44 CEST on Saturday, 28 June 2014, it landed at Hamburg Airport.
At first, the AISat satellite will be spinning rapidly after it has been carried into orbit by a launch vehicle that will depart from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, 80 kilometres north of Chennai, India, at 06:19 CEST on 30 June 2014.
The sometimes bold, other times delicate lines in the images that scientists from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have created using data acquired by the German radar satellites TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X resemble Chinese ink drawings.
Alexander Gerst has been living and working in microgravity since 29 May 2014, and the focus of his initial research on the International Space Station (ISS) is currently himself.
German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and his colleagues, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and American astronaut Reid Wiseman, have arrived at the International Space Station (ISS).
How can turbine blades be made lighter and at the same time stronger? Can an electrical conductor create a magnetic field capable of protecting a spacecraft from the solar wind? What can we learn from the physiological changes that occur in astronauts' bodies when they are in space that could be useful for people on Earth? German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will be taking a close look into these and other fascinating questions in the name of science on board the International Space Station (ISS) during the ‘Blue Dot’ mission.
At the 2014 Berlin Air Show (Internationale Luft- und Raumfahrtausstellung; ILA), the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is showcasing its research results for the aerospace of tomorrow with more than 60 exhibits on the DLR stand (Hall 4), in the Space Pavilion and in the Career Center. DLR's research aircraft and helicopters will be on show in the outdoor display area.
On 20 May 2014 at the ILA Berlin Air Show, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the US corporation Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc. (TBE) signed an agreement to install and operate the imaging spectrometer DESIS (DLR Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer) on board the International Space Station (ISS).
This ambitious project started on 21 June 2010, when the radar satellite TanDEM-X set off into space to join its twin satellite, TerraSAR-X. Since then, these two German satellites have been orbiting Earth in an intricate formation and mapping its surface.
The European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft and its lander Philae are currently around two million kilometres from their target comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Even at this distance, images acquired by the OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System) camera system already show the comet awakening on its way towards the Sun, enveloped in a cloud of small dust particles. Using these observations, the OSIRIS science team, which includes planetary researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), have been able to determine the comet’s rotation period with additional precision – 12.4 hours. In August, Rosetta will arrive at the comet, and will deploy the Philae lander onto the comet’s surface in November – the first ever landing on a comet.