A solar prominence measured by SOHO/EIT
Within the space science programme, the DLR Space Agency promotes scientific experiments and projects designed to perform research in space. This field of research covers objects within our solar system as well as far distant galaxies and the universe as a whole.
Space research enables us to investigate the objects of our solar system as well as the medium that surrounds them. Scientists now use space-based telescopes to study the universe also in those bands of the electromagnetic spectrum that are not accessible from the ground. These include X-ray and gamma-ray radiation as well as essential parts of the infrared and sub-millimetre wavelength range. This makes space flight a crucial tool in space research.
DLR divides Space Science thematically into three main topics:
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Scientists use telescopes and highly sensitive detectors to understand the origin, the development, and the macrostructure of the universe and its constituents from the earliest beginnings to the present. Measurements of cosmic rays yield information about high-energy acceleration processes. At present, scientists are particularly interested in the relevance of black holes, in the investigation of dark matter and dark energy, and in the search for extrasolar planets.
The Sun and Our Planetary System
The sun, the star that is nearest to us, allows researchers to study fundamental physical processes with high spatial resolution. Their observations help us to understand the processes that are going on in the interior of the sun and in the space between the planets that is filled by the plasma and the magnetic field of the solar wind. From satellite data, models can be derived that describe how the solar wind affects the Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere.
Equipped with scientific instruments, space probes visit planets, moons, comets, and asteroids within our solar system, delivering images and data. The goal of planetary research is to understand the origin, development, and structure of these bodies. The Earth with its delicate ecosystem has a special status in this context, therefore comparisons between the terrestrial planets and our own planet are particularly interesting.
Space offers conditions that are unattainable in laboratories on Earth, such as weightlessness and absence of vibrations. In metrology, quantum optics, and atomic physics, these conditions permit measurements at considerably higher precision, opening a door to answers on fundamental questions in quantum theory and the general theory of relativity (gravitational theory) as well as to the potential unification of both theories.
Most projects are implemented either under the framework of ESA missions for which German researchers provide individual instruments or in international cooperations with, for example, the French space agency CNES or NASA. Funding of individual projects then involves either placing contracts with the industry or providing grants to science institutes.