Kay Lingenauber studied aerospace engineering and has worked in the field of hardware development at the DLR Institute of Planetary Research since 2005. He was involved in the design and integration of the BepiColombo Laser Altimeter (BELA). As a systems engineer, he designed the Ganymede Laser Altimeter (GALA), which he now oversees as project manager.
As a child, he borrowed and ‘devoured’ all the astronomy and space books available in the local library. It was only natural for him to go on to study aerospace engineering, first at the University of Stuttgart, then at the Technical University of Berlin. He completed his diploma thesis in the Planetary Sensor Systems department of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, where he came into contact with planetary laser altimetry for the first time. It has remained the focus of his work to this day.
For BELA, he developed, among other things, the transceiver baffle, a high-precision reflective baffle that protects the laser from the strong thermal radiation coming from Mercury and the Sun. For the test campaign of the BELA transmitter, he designed the thermal vacuum chamber, clean rooms and optical measurement setups, which also meet the special requirements of all instruments developed at the institute.
Lingenauber’s work on the GALA began in 2008 with a blank sheet of paper, ‘lessons learned’ from BELA and a lot of new ideas. GALA is inevitably compared to BELA, but where BELA is used to study hot Mercury, GALA will fly to Jupiter's cold icy moons as part of the JUICE mission – a completely different world!
Lingenauber was first a GALA system engineer, then from 2016, GALA project manager for an international team including partners from Japan, Switzerland and Spain. His daily work is demanding, but nevertheless very fulfilling, as with this project the team is conducting fundamental research in our ‘astronomical front garden’. The data gathered using GALA will help address pressing scientific questions – but also leave plenty of new and open questions for future generations.