Other | 06. January 2011 | posted by Jan Wörner

Wikileaks and the repercussions for DLR

The release of secret US documents has caused excitement in recent weeks, both in the news media and among the general public. The latest 'revelations' by Wikileaks concern DLR activities in the space field. Two things must happen now: the 'information' must be considered critically and the repercussions have to be thought about in detail.

Early in January, several articles in the news reported about alleged German-American spy satellites and also gave the impression of a very strained relationship between France and Germany in the field of space activities.

DLR is not planning a spy satellite

The project concept for a national optical satellite, HiROS, is based on the idea of adding optical capability to complement the successful twin radar satellites, TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X. DLR has been discussing a project proposal for a high-resolution optical satellite for about two years. The possible applications of the satellite include the provision of high-resolution optical data for public use, such as in crisis management during natural disasters, and for scientific use. HiROS is neither a spy satellite, nor is it a secret project. Technical data about HiROS has been available on the web since 2009.

DLR is convinced of the value of international cooperation

France is an important and dependable partner for Germany; this applies particularly to DLR's aeronautics and spaceflight activities. In aeronautics research, we have a long-term partnership with our sister organisation ONERA, particularly in the areas of helicopters and wind tunnel use. In space, DLR's partner is the French space agency CNES, with much in common between us. In addition to regular contacts through ESA, it is the bilateral relationship between the two institutions and my now long-standing personal friendship with Yannick d'Escatha, the President of CNES, which are the basis for close cooperation. This cooperation has recently led, among other things, to the joint satellite project Merlin, for the study of methane in the atmosphere. Of course, occasionally, on specific topics, we have different positions, different industrial policies and competition between the two nations. The latter point should not lead to the erroneous conclusion that Germany regards France as an adversary. The very fact that we are accustomed to debating various topics and ultimately arriving at a consensus is a testament to the quality and strength of our partnership.


For me personally, the whole affair shows that cooperation with other countries must be implemented dedicatedly and transparently. This includes activities in ESA and in the EU. I hope that the growing institutional and personal relations now have the necessary strength to enable us to proceed with the next step confidently.

At the same time, for me, this is a reminder to follow up on some calls I have been making repeatedly during the past four years, with regard to the implementation of unity in decision-making, accountability, legitimacy, supervision and participation, also beyond the borders of DLR.


About the author

The ‘Jan Wörner’ blog was written by Johann-Dietrich ‘Jan’ Wörner during his time as the Chairman of the Executive Board of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). Jan Wörner wrote all the posts himself and then sent them to DLR Corporate Communications for editing, picture research and online publication. to authorpage