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Space | 27. 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

Space | 14. March 2023 | posted by Dirk Heinen

TRIPLE-IceCraft expedition to Antarctica – final system tests and completion of preparations for drilling – part 4

Credit: Simon Zierke
Successful test drilling – view into a four-metre-deep melt hole

Soon it will be time for the big test of our TRIPLE-IceCraft probe, which is to melt its way through the almost 100-metre-thick ice shelf north of Neumayer Station III. But before that, we still have to perform final system checks and make a first test borehole. read more

Space | 13. March 2023 | posted by Hauke Hußmann

GALA on JUICE Part 1 - All set for launch to Jupiter

ESA-Raumsonde JUICE im Jupitersystem als künstlerische Darstellung
Credit: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Jupiter: NASA/ESA/J. Nichols (University of Leicester); Ganymede: NASA/JPL; Io: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona; Callisto and Europa: NASA/JPL/DLR
ESA's JUICE spacecraft in the Jupiter system (artist's impression)

IIn April 2023, ESA's JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) spacecraft will launch to the Jupiter system. The DLR Institute of Planetary Research is playing a key role in the mission with the Ganymede Laser Altimeter (GALA) and the JANUS camera. The launch preparations are now fully under way. With the successful completion of GALA's tests on the spacecraft, the team can look back on an intensive project phase and is now eagerly awaiting the launch.

What is our goal?

Jupiter's Galilean moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, orbit Jupiter in slightly elliptical orbits lasting between 42 hours (Io) and just under 17 days (Callisto). They are comparatively close to the giant planet, which means that enormous tidal forces are exerted on the moons by Jupiter during their orbits. These forces are particularly strong on the inner moons Io and Europa, but they are also clearly detectable further out on Ganymede and Callisto. These forces lead to a periodic deformation of the surface, which can be detected with suitable instruments. This is exactly what GALA will do for Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System. read more

Space | 28. February 2023 | posted by Dirk Heinen

TRIPLE IceCraft Expedition to Antarctica – first functional tests of the melting probe – Part 3

Credit: DLR/RWTH Aachen/Dirk Heinen
View of our container from Neumayer Station, the antenna dome (radome) and the Polar 5 aircraft

The seventh day of our Antarctic expedition to test the TRIPLE-IceCraft melting probe begins for me and all the new arrivals in our segregated living area: our joint COVID-19 test is scheduled with the station doctor and manager. Thankfully, all new arrivals have tested negative! The isolation and mask-wearing are over! In the evening, the whole group gathers to get acquainted with the existing crew of Neumayer III. read more

Space | 08. February 2023 | posted by Dirk Heinen

TRIPLE IceCraft Expedition to Antarctica - preparations can begin - part 2

Credit: DLR/RWTH Aachen/Dirk Heinen
Our arrival at Neumayer Station III

Day 3 – 26 January 2023

At the time of our arrival at Neumayer Station III. Technically it is morning, but the long journey has messed up my internal clock. It will take a few days for my sense of time to return to normal. In the meantime, we are settling in and recovering a bit from the journey. To prevent any COVID-19 infections in the station, all 10 new arrivals are isolating: we are wearing masks inside the station, using different lounges, bedrooms and bathrooms, and eating at different times in the mess hall. First, I received a short presentation from the station manager and later a guided tour of the different areas and floors. Afterwards, Jan Audehm, Simon Zierke and I moved into our cabin, a mobile living container that stands on a sled right next to the station. read more

Space | 03. February 2023 | posted by Dirk Heinen

TRIPLE-IceCraft expedition to Antarctica – the long way south – part 1

Credit: DLR/RWTH Aachen/Dirk Heinen
View of the ice shelf edge

Some regions on Earth are as mysterious as distant celestial bodies – but equally explored. These include subglacial lakes in Antarctica. These lakes lie under a permanent layer of ice, often several kilometres thick, and sometimes form an ecosystem that has been closed off for about a million years. It is safe to assume that they contain microbial life that has adapted to these extreme environmental conditions. But to study microbial life, samples must be taken without contamination, so that no microorganisms are introduced from the surface. This is a particularly technical and methodological challenge. In 2018, the German Space Agency at DLR launched the Technologies for Rapid Ice Penetration and subglacial Lake Exploration (TRIPLE) project to develop an autonomous, robotic system for contamination-free exploration of these lakes and, prospectively, for exploration of the oceans beneath the ice crust of the icy moons Europa and Enceladus. Twenty-eight development teams from Germany are currently involved in the project. The TRIPLE system consists of an ice-melting probe, an autonomous underwater vehicle and an astrobiological laboratory where samples can be examined in situ. The TRIPLE-IceCraft meltdown probe is now being tested in Antarctica by a team from RWTH Aachen University and GSI GmbH from Aachen, who were responsible for designing it. At the Neumayer Station III operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), TRIPLE-IceCraft is to penetrate the Ekström Ice Shelf and plunge into the ocean below. TRIPLE-IceCraft was developed as a fully traceable melting probe for drilling down to several hundred metres. read more

Space | 21. October 2022 | posted by Thomas Voigtmann

Successful launch of MAPHEUS 12

MAPHEUS-12 erfolgreich gestartet
Credit: Swedish Space Corporation (SSC)
MAPHEUS-12 beim Start

"I give you a GO, a NO-GO, and I read you loud and clear." The countdown for the MAPHEUS 12 sounding rocket at Esrange in northern Sweden begins like this. All stations must check in and ensure that clear communication is possible. Then the process can begin. For MAPHEUS 12, this was planned to last five hours, during which the last modules are installed in the payload and the engines are ‘primed’, among other things.

In the end, the five-hour countdown became six. Further commotion was caused by a defective temperature sensor that was detected when one of the experiments on board was switched on for the first time. read more

Space | 20. October 2022 | posted by Thomas Voigtmann

MAPHEUS 12 sounding rocket – much to do before the countdown in northern Sweden

Höhenforschungsrakete MAPHEUS-12
Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
MAPHEUS 12 sounding rocket – preparing experiments for six minutes of microgravity

We're currently preparing the MAPHEUS 12 sounding rocket for its flight into microgravity. We have been at Esrange, a sounding rocket range operated by the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) – approximately 45 minutes from Kiruna in northern Sweden – since last week. We are a team of 30 from the DLR Institute of Materials Physics in Space, together with the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine and DLR’s Mobile Rocket Base (MORABA) and we’re working around the clock, eagerly awaiting the launch. read more

Space | 17. May 2022 | posted by Christian Krause

Martian dust reduces power for InSight – but measurements are ongoing

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
A dusty affair: this image was acquired on 28 April 2022 by the camera on the InSight lander's robotic arm. The layer of dust on the lander, including the solar panels, is clearly visible.

NASA's InSight lander has been operating on Mars for a good year and a half during its extended mission. However, the lander has been struggling for a considerable time with a reduction in available power, which is due to the increasing quantities of Martian dust covering its solar panels. This dust can only be removed by sufficiently strong Martian winds. However, despite detecting many passing whirlwinds, none have cleaned off the solar panels.

The available energy has had to be planned for and used very carefully during recent months. The overall focus has been particularly on the scientific measurements of the mission. The teams involved, led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Lockheed Martin, which operates the lander, have managed to keep this unique mission in operation until now. When InSight landed, its solar panels were producing approximately 5000 watt-hours per Martian day, or sol. Now, at 500 watt-hours per sol, they produce only about a tenth of this. And the Martian dust on the panels continues to increase while the Sun's elevation at the landing site decreases as winter sets in. read more

Space | 11. May 2022 | posted by Thomas Berger

MARE to the Moon – our M-42 radiation meter with a smart solution for saving power

DLR-Strahlungsmessgerät M-42
Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
A flight model of the DLR M-42 radiation meter with the two batteries plugged in and the battery holder

The MARE experiment includes a set of 16 radiation measurement devices called M-42, which the Biophysics Working Group of the Radiation Biology Department at the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine developed, tested and now finally built for the NASA Artemis I mission. M-42 is an active radiation meter. This means that it needs to obtain power from somewhere for the radiation detector (a small silicon diode) and the associated measurement electronics, and for storing the resulting measurement data. This power can be supplied either directly via a USB cable or batteries that simply plug into the M-42 via two connectors.

In principle, this sounds very simple. However, anyone who has ever hoped that their mobile phone would last until the next charging opportunity knows how dependent we are on batteries and their capacity. This poses a big challenge for this mission in particular. Our M-42 measuring instruments and the mannequins Helga and Zohar are part of NASA's Artemis I mission, but we do not get data or power interfaces to the Orion spacecraft. read more