DLR Logo
  Home|Textversion|Imprint   Deutsch
  You are here: Home:Berlin:History

History of the Adlershof



A few years after the first successful flights of the meanwhile legendary “Aviatics” at the airfield of Johannisthal in the South East of Berlin, it had become necessary to support the still young art of aviation with scientific research work. Even though, Ludwig Prandtl had founded the Society for the Study of Motor Vessels, one of the predecessor organisations of the DLR, in 1907, this did not provide the necessary scientific support for “aviation”. That is why Count Zeppelin demanded the foundation of a large-scale research Institute of the promotion of aviation at a Board Meeting of the German Museum on 28 September 1909 in Munich for the first time. (Picture: GBSL)

Video: The beginnings of aviation in Berlin








On 2 March 1910, the German Reichstag Parliament decided on setting up the Imperial Institute of Aviation and Flight Technology. Initially, it was planned for Friedrichshafen, but then the decision was taken in favour of the second European airfield for engine-powered flight, which had opened at Berlin-Johannisthal in September 1909. (Picture: GBSL)







The International Aviation Week was held in Berlin from 10 to 16 May 1910. However, it was only on 23 May 1911 that pilot Alfred Frey impressed the Berliners with a round trip flight of Berlin. Following his first flight at 7.37 a.m., he took off again in his double-decker without announcing his destination. His course first led him to the hospital of Britz, then to the Field of Tempelhof, along Potsdamer Strasse to Potsdamer Platz, across Tiergarten to reach the Siegessäule, Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden, the Palace, Oberbaumbrücke back to where he had started out. The news of his flight spread like a wildfire. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets. The police was powerless. Traffic came to a standstill in the city centre. The first sighting of an aeroplane above the metropolitan sea of houses hinted at the possibilities of this new branch of technology for the first time. (Picture: GBSL)







In April 1912, the founding certificate was signed of the “German Institute of Aviation“ (DVL). The first three scientific departments of the DVL for engines, aeroplanes and for the physics of flight were set up in spring 1913. However, the young DVL had to cease its activities with the start of the First World War in 1914 and only recommenced them in 1922. One of the first tasks was to test sample specimens of aircraft. These included the worldwide first all-metal transport aircraft, the four-seat F- 13 Junkers. Over the following years, the DVL was developed further. A small and a large wind tunnel were set up, and in 1933, the vertical wind tunnel for spinning tests followed. (Picture: GBSL)







As of 1933, the main DVL building was constructed on the southern part of the airfield. It housed management, administration and technical offices, as well as further laboratories and testing facilities.

In the second half of the 1930s, the DVL was further developed to comprise:

  • Aircraft construction
  • Engine construction
  • Applied flying
  • Administration

At the same time, the number of employees rose. In 1940, there were already 2,000 members of staff. Further large testing facilities were added up to the start of the Second World War. These included the high-speed wind tunnel, the vertical wind tunnel for spinning tests as well as the low-speed wind tunnel. From 1944 to March 1945, parts of the Adlershof DVL plant and the pertaining staff were transferred to apparently less dangerous areas of Germany. Thus, parts of the DVL institutes were moved to Braunschweig, Munich, Garmisch, Strass, Saulgau or Travemünde respectively. The last wind tunnel tests with a swept –wing ARADO aircraft was conducted on 24 March 1945. (Picture: GBSL)








Konrad Zuse and the DVL.It was for a long time already that the DVL had displayed an interest in the computer-aided research to be applied in aviation technology. The then unknown Konrad Zuse, meanwhile regarded as the pioneer of the computer industry, built his first electro-mechanical computing machine Z1 already in 1938. Two years later, the work on his second computing machine Z2 had been completed, with which he aroused the interest of Professor Teichmann, who worked with the DVL in Berlin. Alfred Teichmann hoped to use such a machine to improve research on problems of wing fluttering, whose analysis afforded a lot of computing power for that age.

Konrad Zuse was commissioned by the DVL to design a programmable computing machine and was able to present the fully automatic, programme-controlled and freely programmable computing machine Z3 with a handful of scientists in 1941. In the further course of his work with the DVL, Konrad Zuse developed the improved Z4 as of 1942. His work in Berlin, however, was broken off because of the increasingly difficult war situation and he took flight from Berlin with his more or less completed Z4. In 1950, the Z4 could be set up with some improvements at the ETH Zurich.(Picture: Konrad Zuse Archiv)








With the end of the Second World War, on 19 April 1945, the DVL had to terminate its work at Berlin-Adlershof. Large parts of the existing technical plant were dismantled and taken to the Soviet Union within the framework of war reparations. (Picture: GBSL)







In Spring 1950, the first Academy Institute moved to Adlershof, the Heinrich Hertz Institute of Oscillation Research (HHI). Further institutes and scientific institutions followed suit, re-locating there or setting up new. (Bild: GBSL):

  • Institute of Inorganic Chemistry with the Department of Mineral Salt Research
  • Laboratory for Plastics
  • Institute of Optics and Precision Engineering (as of 1957 Institute of Optics and Spectroscopy)
  • Institute of Crystal Physics
  • Institute of Organic Chemistry
  • Crystal Structure Working Group







The 36-m radio telescope, completed in 1958, became a landmark for the Adlershof research centre. At that point in time, it was the second largest such instrument in Europe and served the study of our galaxy for sources of radiation, at 54cm wave length, which only required a tilting option of the telescope dish at the median level (so-called passage instrument). (Picture: GBSL)







  The cooperation between the Academy of Sciences of the GDR and the Soviet Union was of special importance within the framework of the Inter Cosmos Programme, signed in 1967, an agreement at the governmental level. Comprising the structural units of the Heinrich Hertz Institute, an independent research body for cosmic electronics was first formed in 1972, and one year later, the Institute of Electronics was formed. This new institute took over the lead in cosmos research. GDR researchers participated in the successful launches of the artificial earth satellites Inter Cosmos 1 to 4, two large-scale rockets with vertical orbits and four meteorological rockets from 1969 to 1975.
It was in this context that that the scientific apparatus industry in the GDR developed on board instruments that did not only live up to the specific demands of the space programme but also met the general criteria of progressive apparatus construction. These on-board instruments comprised the infrared Fourier Spectrometer (IFS), for the remote exploration of the atmosphere, and the MKF-6 multi-spectral camera for the remote exploration of the earth.







The MKF-6 multi-spectral camera, which was used on the “Soyus22” spaceship in 1967, produced pictures at a flight altitude of 260 km on which objects of a ten by ten metre size were clearly visible on the earth’s surface. This made it possible not only to use it in water management and agriculture as well as geology and mining but also in producing geometrically exact, small-scale maps for the state surveying system and this in a much more rational manner than before.
The infrared Fourier Spectrometer, used on the “Meteor 25” weather satellite for the measurement of the temperature distribution above the Atlantic, was also of a high practical significance for weather forecasts for the Central European region. (Picture: DLR)







The roots of the Institute of Cosmos Research (IKF), established in 1981, reach back to the 1960s, starting with the Heinrich-Hertz-Institute, whose foundation was closely linked with the participation in the Inter Cosmos Programme, then the research body for Cosmic Electronics and the Institute of Electronics. The scientific profile of the IKF was determined by basic and applied research as well as technical developments for the benefit of space flight. The research focus was on the areas of remote exploration of the earth and extra terrestrial studies as well as material research under the conditions of outer space.

In addition to the existing scientific facilities, the technical conditions were created at the IKF for the simulation of outer space conditions. Thus, the tools and equipment intended for use in outer space could not only be developed and manufactured at Adlershof but also be tested and qualified for use in outer space there. (Picture: GBSL)

Missions and projects at the IKF

  • Venera
  • Phobos
  • Altitude research/atmosphere research







The DLR returns to its roots. Six months after the political changes in the GDR, on 20 April 1990, the DLR signed an agreement with the IKF with the aim of coordinating the research work of both institutions. As regards the IKF, this related mainly to Extraterrestrial Physics and the Spectrometric Remote Exploration but also to the development of optoelectronic sensor systems and the development as well as the testing of payloads for Soviet research spacecraft. In addition, the agreement included the development and operation of the Satellite Ground Station in Neustrelitz. The scientific and technical know-how as well as the expertise of the former IKF could thus be maintained and integrated into the new structures of the all-German research landscape. (Picture: DLR)

Video: The DLR site of Berlin-Adlershof








On 1 January 1992, the two new DLR institutes for Planetary Sensor Systems and Planetary Research were set up at the location of Berlin-Adlershof. Following structural changes, there are the institutes of Planetary Research and Transport Research as well as the Optical Information Systems of the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics and the Department for the Remote.

Exploration of Water Bodies at the Institute of the Methods of Remote Exploration, all located at the Berlin-Adlershof location. The site also comprises the satellite stations in Berlin-Charlottenburg with the Department of Turbulence Research of the Cologne Institute of Flow Mechanics and in Neustrelitz, where research is conducted into the areas of communication and navigation as well as earth observation. (Picture: DLR)

Video: Neustrelitz satellite station

Video: Berlin-Charlottenburg satellite station








Today, the DLR Berlin-Adlershof location participates in all major missions whose path leads through our solar system; Cassini-Huygens to Saturn and Galileo to Jupiter with its moons as well as the comet missions Rosetta and Corot, the search for extra solar planets. Contributing the HRSC camera to the MarsExpress, the DLR in Berlin-Adslershof has a significant share in the scientific programme of the mission to the red planet. The “Flying Fire Alarm” and technology carrier BIRD, sent into orbit in Oktober 2001, is the first infrared satellite for fire detection in outer space. However, the scientists from Adlershof are not only involved in the planning and preparation of space missions but also in conducting tests and evaluating the scientific results. (Picture: DLR)





Created: 02/07/2006 12:00:00
Site Information