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Space | 15. March 2024 | posted by GSOC team

German Space Operations Center commands small satellite with next-generation software via Cubesat Space Protocol

Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved
Engineers from the German Space Operations Center command DLR's PIXL-I CubeSat using the new European EGS-CC operating system 

Imagine sitting in a café on a sunny day, coffee in hand, impatiently waiting for a reply to a message you’ve just sent with your new smartphone. Minutes pass slowly, and the moments of anticipation just seem to stretch out. This everyday experience of waiting for a reply mirrors the tense wait at the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) in Oberpfaffenhofen for a first message from DLR’s PIXL-I Cubesat. This communication took place via the ‘Cubesat Space Protocol’ – a special transmission protocol for small satellites – and the new European operating system for spaceflight, the EGS-CC ‘European Ground Systems – Common Core’, which is currently being developed. read more

Space | 28. February 2024 | posted by Matthias Grott

German instrument to study Moon's eternal shadows with private mission

Aufnahme der Landestelle des Landers der IM-1-Mission
Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
The landing site of the IM-1 lunar lander, between craters Malapert A and Malapert C. The image was acquired by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) on board the NASA mission of the same name and covers an area of just under one square kilometre.

On 22 February 2024, the US 'New Space' company Intuitive Machines became the first private company to land on the Moon with its IM-1 Odysseus mission. The landing site is located around 800 kilometres north of the lunar South Pole, east of the Malapert A crater. According to Intuitive Machines, the landing took place just 1500 metres from the intended landing site, meaning that Odysseus is located in the south of the South Pole-Aitken impact basin which measures over 2000 kilometres in diameter. The exact landing coordinates are 80.13 degrees South and 1.44 degrees East. The lander is on a surface at an incline of 12 degrees and topographical height of 2579 metres above the reference 'selenoid' – a modelled 'lunar surface' with identical gravitational pull. read more

Space | 22. February 2024 | posted by Matthias Noeker

Serendipitous science from asteroid Apophis' Earth near miss

Credit: Pravec et al. (2014)
CAD visualisation of the shape of the near-Earth asteroid (99942) Apophis derived from photometric observations

Some people are uneasy about Friday the 13th – after all, it is popularly considered to be a very unlucky day. However, one catastrophe can be safely ruled out for Friday 13 April 2029: the collision of an approximately 350-metre-diameter asteroid, 99942 Apophis, with the Earth. Apophis (a so-called Near-Earth Asteroid) will come extremely close, passing by theEEarth at an altitude of just 31,750 kilometres – that's within the geostationary orbit in which most telecommunication satellites are located! read more

Space | 23. January 2024 | posted by Dirk Heinen

Second TRIPLE-IceCraft expedition to the Antarctic: Between battling a snowstorm and loading a dishwasher – Part 2

Die Umgebung der Neumayer-Station III nach einem antarktischen Schneesturm
Credit: DLR/RWTH Aachen/Dirk Heinen
The surroundings of Neumayer Station III after an Antarctic snowstorm

Today's weather is unpleasant, with light snow drifts and wind speeds of up to 20 knots (37 kilometres per hour). And tomorrow is expected to be even worse. Before then, we plan to bring the TRIPLE-IceCraft melting probe to Neumayer Station III. To do this, we will remove the probe from the container and place it on a snow crawler that will transport it to the station. read more

Space | 11. December 2023 | posted by Dirk Heinen

Second TRIPLE-IceCraft expedition to Antarctica: Return to the eternal ice – Part 1

Blick auf das ewige Eis
Credit: DLR/RWTH Aachen/Dirk Heinen
First glimpse of the eternal ice

It's Sunday morning, 12 November 2023: The bags are packed, a quick covid test is done and the 2023-24 expedition to the 'eternal ice' is ready to begin. Our team had already travelled to Antarctica in the spring to test the TRIPLE-IceCraft meltdown probe near the Alfred Wegener Institute's (AWI) research station (AWI) Neumayer Station III. It is part of the TRIPLE project (Technologies for Rapid Ice Penetration and subglacial Lake Exploration) launched by the German Space Agency at DLR to develop an autonomous, robotic system for the contamination-free exploration of subglacial lakes and ultimately for the exploration of the oceans beneath the ice crust of Jupiter's moons Europa and Enceladus. The main goal of this new expedition is to further test the probe and melt even deeper, even reaching the ocean beneath the ice shelves. read more

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