Space | 03. November 2023 | posted by Fiona Brömer

On Earth instead of in space – satellite software tested using a particle accelerator

Blick auf das Paul Scherrer Institut
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
View of the Paul Scherrer Institute

I never thought I would get this close to a particle accelerator – and yet here I am at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, standing next to such an impressive facility. As a developer of onboard software for spacecraft, I'm normally happy when the correct lights flash. There are lights here too, but it is still very different. We're working in a nearly deserted huge research facility in the middle of the night. But that doesn't mean it is quiet – due to the many technical systems that run around the clock, there is always a backdrop of flashing status lights, noisy ventilation systems and the occasional beeping device. During the day, the proton beam generated by the accelerator facility is reserved for cancer patients undergoing proton therapy. And for four nights, it is now generating space conditions for the DLR Scalable On-board computing for Space Avionics (ScOSA) project. read more

Space | 02. November 2023

What is new about the German radar satellites?

Die Mission TanDEM-X
Credit: DLR
The twin satellites TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X fly in close formation – only a few hundred metres apart – and collect data for digital elevation models

Earth is a complex and dynamic system and radar remote sensing is designed to deliver quantitative 3D and 4D information about the planet's surface. The latest research results and information products obtained from high-resolution data acquired by the German satellites were presented during the TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X Science Team Workshop, which was held at the German Aerospace Center from 18 to 20 October 2023. read more

Space | 30. October 2023 | posted by Ulrich Köhler

New, first destination for the Lucy spacecraft – a visit to Dinkinesh, 'you are marvellous'

Vorbeiflug der Raumsonde Lucy am Asteroiden Dinkinesh
On 1 November 2023, NASA's Lucy spacecraft will fly past the asteroid (152830) Dinkinesh, which is only approximately 760 metres across, at a distance of 425 kilometres. During the flyby, the targeting system for the scientific experiments will be tested, but the spacecraft will also acquire images and perform measurements (artist's impression).

Almost exactly two years ago, NASA launched the Lucy mission with a new and unusual task in the exploration of the Solar System. From 2027 to 2033, the spacecraft will investigate a number of asteroids referred to as 'Trojans', which lie 60 degrees of arc ahead of and behind the planet Jupiter on its orbit around the Sun. This time, Lucy is not, as is so often the case, an abbreviation for a string of technical terms, but the naming of the mission after a fossil link between upright walking apes and the first humans. Figuratively speaking, this mission, as so often with the study of asteroids, is about better understanding the earliest days of the Solar System. How did molecular chains, then dust and gas, and, soon after, the first planetesimals finally form the planets of the Solar System more than four and a half billion years ago? For now, however, Lucy is being steered past a 'conventional' asteroid in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. read more

Space | 24. October 2023

On Innovative Reference Targets and Analysis-Ready Radar Data

Dual-Band (L/X) Kalibrierungstransponder zur Unterstützung zukünftiger Satelliten-SAR-Missionen

World-leading experts for the calibration of spaceborne SAR systems met in Oberpfaffenhofen

Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
(Top centered figure): Recently deployed innovative dual-band (L/X) calibration transponder to support future satellite SAR missions (detail)

How to define and ensure the data quality of state-of-the-art spaceborne radar satellites? How can synergies between various current and future radar missions be leveraged? How to ensure comparability between radar data acquired by missions operated by different national and international space agencies? And how can complex data sets acquired by different radar satellites be processed in such a way that they can be used by non-radar experts?

To discuss these and many other questions from the field of calibration of satellite radar missions, an international community of radar experts met at the Microwaves and Radar Institute of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen for the annual meeting of the CEOS WGCV SAR Subgroup on Calibration and Validation of High Resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Sensors. read more

Space | 24. August 2023 | posted by Ruth Titz-Weider

Life on Venus? A DLR FAQ about the trace gas phosphine

Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/L. Calçada & NASA/JPL/Caltech (CC BY 2.0)
Artist’s impression of Venus, where astronomers may have first detected phosphine in 2020. Data acquired by the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea (Hawaii) and the Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array (Chile) were analysed for this. Phosphine could be present in the upper layer of the cloud cover. However, the observation is controversial among experts.

In 2020, the planetary research community and the interested public turned their attention to Venus. A research team from the University of Cardiff had detected the gas phosphine in the high clouds of Earth’s inner neighbouring planet for the first time. Phosphine (PH3) is produced on Earth, either naturally by organic weathering processes or artificially – for example for use as fertiliser. So, were traces of life on Earth’s neighbour indirectly discovered in 2020 by detecting phosphine? That would have been a sensation. Or was it much ado about nothing? read more

Aeronautics | 04. July 2023 | posted by Johann Dauer

High-tech drones and cardboard boxes for the future of humanitarian aid

Wings for Aid und DLR in letzten Flugvorbereitungen
Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved
Wings for Aid and DLR make final flight preparations

Hello, dear technology enthusiasts! I must tell you about a recent experience that had us on the edge of our seats. The days were full of tension, little sleep, adrenaline and plenty of pride. The protagonists of this story? Our Dutch friends from Wings for Aid and Sven Lorenz and Martin Laubner from the DLR Institute of Flight Systems. Together, we conquered the skies in a way that would have sounded like science fiction just a few years ago. read more

Space | 12. April 2023 | posted by Kay Lingenauber

JUICE launch to Jupiter: GALA diary from Kourou

Animation des Vorbeiflugs der Raumsonde JUICE am Jupiter und seinen Monden
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab (probe); NASA/JPL/DLR (Jupiter, moons)
Animation of the JUICE spacecraft flyby of Jupiter and its moons

Part 2 – JUICE flies! We have a mission!

After a minor setback on Thursday due to a launch scrub, the Ariane 5 rocket carrying JUICE performed a flawless launch on Friday at 14:14 CEST (09:14 local time). The spacecraft is now in contact with Earth and its solar panels are deployed.

The postponement meant a second day waking up at 05:30 'Kourou time'. At 06:00, we set out for a cosy bakery in the city centre, where we prepared ourselves for the day. Check-in for the bus transfer to the Ibis, Carapa and Toucan viewing platforms had become almost routine. The weather was much better on Friday; now and then, the Sun even managed to peek through the clouds, and the breeze was gentle. The weather status remained 'green', granting the mission the all-important green light. read more

Space | 30. March 2023 | posted by Dirk Heinen

TRIPLE-IceCraft Expedition to Antarctica – Drilling through the ice shelf - part 5

Credit: DLR/RWTH Aachen/Dirk Heinen
TRIPLE-IceCraft drilling through the ice

All of us on the team have been working towards this moment for the last few years: we will finally be able to operate our TRIPLE-IceCraft probe on the ice shelf and drill a deep hole there! The probe will now have to prove itself, and we are all very excited. After the successful four-metre-deep test drilling at Neumayer Station III a few days ago, we are optimistic and highly motivated. The transport of the melting probe to the drilling site with an 80-metre-thick ice shelf can start: at around 7:00 (local time), a colleague from the technical team prepares the snow crawler. The container containing the TRIPLE-IceCraft is released from the snow drift and driven forward. Meanwhile, we pack up the last things. In addition to our working container, we also have a living container and a transport sledge to be transported to the drilling site. read more

Space | 27. March 2023 | posted by Simone Del Togno

GALA on JUICE Part 3 – The challenge of radiation exposure on the 'Mount Everest of the Solar System'

Künstlerische Darstellung des Magnetfelds des Jupiters
Credit: JPL/NASA
Artist's impression of Jupiter's magnetic field

The Ganymede Laser Altimeter (GALA) will face one of the most hostile environments in the Solar System while in the Jupiter system. The space around the planet is saturated with an enormously high level of radiation, so strong that it can degrade the performance of orbiting scientific instruments or even destroy them. GALA is one of ten instruments on board the JUICE mission, which will set off for the fifth planet of the Solar System in April 2023. It was meticulously developed and extensively tested to survive and function correctly in this extreme environment. read more

Space | 20. March 2023 | posted by Kay Lingenauber

GALA on JUICE Part 2 – From the first idea to the finished instrument – a development story

Jupiter’s Galilean moons –  the target of the JUICE mission; Credit: NASA/JPL/DLR
Jupiter’s Galilean moons –  the target of the JUICE mission

In the first part of this blog series on the Ganymede Laser Altimeter (GALA), we introduced the instrument and its scientific goals. In this article, we will describe the long development history that a complex instrument such as GALA must go through until it can be launched into space.

In 2007, more than 15 years ago, ESA selected a proposal for a Jupiter mission for an ‘Assessment Phase Study’. The idea was to fly to the unexplored icy moons of Jupiter and study their atmosphere, magnetic fields and radiation belts. The mission was named Laplace. read more