30. June 2021

Aerospace in Ger­many – Time­line of im­por­tant events

The first German research satellite AZUR/GRS A
The first Ger­man re­search satel­lite AZUR/GRS A
Image 1/5, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The first German research satellite AZUR/GRS A

The first Ger­man re­search satel­lite AZUR/GRS A in an EMI cham­ber (elec­tro­mag­net­ic in­ter­fer­ence cham­ber), 1969.
Helios solar probe
He­lios so­lar probe
Image 2/5, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Helios solar probe

He­lios so­lar probe: struc­tural mod­el pri­or to the vi­bra­tion test, 1973.
Astronaut Klaus-Dietrich Flade during MIR'92 mission
As­tro­naut Klaus-Di­et­rich Flade dur­ing MIR'92 mis­sion
Image 3/5, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

Astronaut Klaus-Dietrich Flade during MIR'92 mission

As­tro­naut Klaus-Di­et­rich Flade dur­ing an ex­per­i­ment to de­ter­mine the thick­ness of the skin lay­er (ex­per­i­ment HSD) on board the Rus­sian space sta­tion MIR dur­ing the MIR'92 mis­sion (Soyuz TM-14), 1992.
D2 Control centre at the Oberpfaffenhofen site
D2 Con­trol cen­tre at the Oberp­faf­fen­hofen site
Image 4/5, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

D2 Control centre at the Oberpfaffenhofen site

Con­trol cen­tre at the Oberp­faf­fen­hofen site of the Ger­man Re­search In­sti­tute for Avi­a­tion and Space Flight (DLR) as part of the D2 mis­sion/STS-55, 1993.
Astronauts in the MIR'97 (Soyuz TM-25) mission
As­tro­nauts in the MIR'97 (Soyuz TM-25) mis­sion
Image 5/5, Credit: DLR/NASA

Astronauts in the MIR'97 (Soyuz TM-25) mission

As­tro­nauts in the MIR'97 (Soyuz TM-25) mis­sion on board the Rus­sian space sta­tion MIR, 1997.

The invention of the rocket

1232 – The Chinese use bamboo canes filled with black powder to project arrows in the Battle of Kai-fung-fu against the Mongols. The Mongols soon adopt this technology, which then spreads to Europe via the Arabs.

Rockets are mentioned in European writings during the High Middle Ages and are used in battles and as fireworks.
Conrad Haas and Johann Schmidlap develop the concept of a two-stage rocket in the 16th century to propel the projectiles to a greater height.

Rocket artillery regiments are deployed in India, Egypt, Europe and the United States at the end of the 18th and into the 19th century.

* These data are intended merely to provide an overview of the development and can by no means be considered complete.



Rocket research during the Weimar Republic

10 January 1920The Treaty of Versailles enters into force. Artillery rockets, which are largely irrelevant within military technology at the time, are not mentioned at all in the post-War restrictions imposed on Germany. This enables the rise of legal rocket research in the Weimar Republic.
  • Hermann Oberth presents his book Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (The Rocket into Interplanetary Space), which explains the principle of using rockets to travel into space. His work does not draw on research conducted by Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky in Russia and Robert Goddard in the USA.
  • A euphoric fascination with rocket technology emerges in the avant-garde culture of the Weimar Republic during the 1920s. Advocates like Maximilian Valier, Fritz von Opel and Rudolf Nebel attract attention with their spectacular public demonstrations.
1927Johannes Winkler establishes the Verein für Raumschiffahrt e.V. (VfR, Society for Space Travel).
1929The world première of Fritz Lang's utopian film Woman in the Moon drives the public’s obsession with rocket technology to fever pitch. The film features the first countdown to raise dramatic tension prior to take-off. This practice is adopted in all subsequent rocket launches. Hermann Oberth builds a working rocket as an advertising medium, but it takes some time before its first somewhat unsuccessful launch is attempted.
1930Nebel takes out a lease on a shooting range in Reinickendorf, the Berliner Raketenflugplatz (Rocket Launch Site Berlin). It is here that he experiments with the rocket fuel developed by Hermann Oberth, filling ‘minimum rockets’ (Mirak) measuring up to three metres and weighing just a few kilograms that are plagued by aerodynamic problems and rarely fly smoothly.
14 March 1931Winkler succeeds in launching the first European liquid-propellant rocket (Astris), which reaches an altitude of approximately 60 metres.
June 1932The Army Weapons Office starts its own rocket research programme at the Kummersdorf military training ground around 30 kilometres southwest of Berlin, for which it recruits the then 20-year-old Wernher von Braun.
1933Eugen Sänger calculates the basics of modern space technology in his book Raketenflugtechnik (Rocket Flight Engineering) and proposes a reusable rocket plane as an alternative to single-use systems as a means of reaching orbit around Earth. Meanwhile, the first patents for a rocket engine with regenerative forced-flow cooling emerge from a series of experiments at the University of Vienna.


Venturing into space in National Socialist Germany

6 April 1934Publication of any papers on rocket engineering is prohibited by order of the Ministry of Propaganda. Rocket science is declared a secret affair of state.
1934Wernher von Braun succeeds in establishing a permanent, financially secure rocket research programme with the development of Aggregate 1 (A1) and Aggregate 2 (A2).
1936 to 1937The German Army and Air Force build a state-of-the-art research and development centre in Peenemünde, on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom. Its objective is to develop an A4 rocket, equipped with a 25-tonne engine.
  • Eugen Sänger plans and establishes the Flugzeugprüfstelle Trauen (Aircraft Testing Centre Trauen). Home to what is, at the time, the world's largest rocket test rig, it conducts basic research into rocket engines, ramjets and hypersonic aerodynamics.
  • Von Braun is appointed technical director of the Heeresversuchsanstalt Peenemünde (Peenemünde Army Experimental Station).
1941The first A4 is erected on the test rig.
3 October 1942Maiden launch of an A4, which is used to venture into space (approximately 100 kilometres high) for the first time in human history.
18 August 1943Peenemünde is attacked by British bombers, after which the main production of A4 rockets is moved underground. 42,000 prisoners are deployed to the production facilities, 30,000 of whom perish in the inhumane camp conditions.
Between 8 September 1944 and 27 March 1945Around 3,200 of the A4 rockets, now renamed V2 (Vergeltungswaffe 2 – Vengeance Weapon 2) by Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, are launched from bases along the Channel coastline at targets in Belgium (Antwerp, Liege, Brussels), south England (London) and northern France, claiming 5000 lives.


End of the War, demilitarisation and ban on rocket research

1945The relocation of the remaining V2 and their production facilities to the United States and the Soviet Union begins immediately after the end of the War, along with the systematic recruitment of rocket engineers by the Allied Powers. Some of the rocket engineers, among them Wernher von Braun, are brought to America as part of Operation Overcast. Numerous other members of von Braun's team follow within Operation Paperclip. Germany is banned from pursuing any research in the area of rocket engineering at the conference of Allied Powers in Potsdam.
22 October 1946More than 2500 German technicians and specialists are deported to the Soviet Union as part of Operation Osoaviakhim, where some are assigned to the rocket programme. The German scientists and technicians from von Braun’s team who are transported to the United States also work on the continued development of the V2 rocket on behalf of the Americans.
From 1947Students and scientists at Stuttgart University discuss progress in American rocket development. They set up the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Weltraumfahrt (Astronautical Working Group) at the end of the year.
5 August 1948The Gesellschaft für Weltraumforschung (GfW, Space Research Association) emerges from the Astronautical Working Group a catch-all for rocket experts remaining in Germany.
1949The GfW submits a resolution to the foreign astronautical societies initiating the establishment of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF).
1951Eugen Sänger founds the International Astronautical Federation together with the French journalist Alexandre Ananoff and becomes its first president.
21 September 1952Engineers in Bremen establish the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Raketentechnik (AFRA, Rocket Technology Working group), then DAFRA (German Rocket Technology Working Group), later renamed Deutsche Raketen-Gesellschaft e.V. (German Rocketry Society). It becomes a member of the IAF in 1956.
1954Eugen Sänger founds the Institut für Physik der Strahlantriebe (Research Institute for Jet Propulsion Physics) in Stuttgart as the first European space research centre.


Institutionalisation of German space research

5 May 1955The Bonn-Paris Conventions lift the Allied occupation of western Germany. The German research community is now officially permitted to engage in national and international space projects, and politicians are free to promote these activities in state-funded programmes.
  • The Forschungsinstitut für Physik der Strahlantriebe (FPS, Research Institute of Jet Propulsion Physics) is founded at the Technical University of Stuttgart at the beginning of the winter term as the first official rocket research institution.
  • Established 1953, the Deutsche Gesellschaft for Luftfahrt (DFL, German Aeronautics Institute) also aims to expand its involvement in rocket science.
5 October 1957The Soviet Union launches the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik 1.
1960German President Heinrich Lübke commissions Eugen Sänger with a 'Memorandum on Spaceflight in the Federal Republic'. Sänger establishes Europe's first Chair of Space Technology in Berlin the same year.
From 1960European scientists gather at regular conferences to discuss a coordinated strategy within space research.
1961The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) submits a memorandum to the Federal Government that provides a first fundamental analysis of national and international space efforts.
  • The German Aeronautics Institute (DFL) is renamed the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt (German Research Institute for Aeronautics and Spaceflight), but retains the acronym DFL.
  • The Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt (DVL, German Aeronautics Research Institute) is also renamed as the Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt (German Aeronautics and Spaceflight Research Institute), but continues to use the acronym DVL as well.
29 January 1962German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer commissions the Federal Ministry for Atomic Affairs to take charge of space research, space exploration and space technology.
March–April 1962The European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO) is founded to develop the European launcher Europa, but the project fails.
14 June 1962The European Space Research Organisation (ESRO) is established. ESRO has successfully launched seven scientific satellites and around 180 sounding rockets.
23 August 1962Foundation of the Gesellschaft für Weltraumforschung (GfW, Space Research Association as the Federal Government’s space management branch.
  • Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching conduct first investigations with sounding rockets in the Sahara.
  • The Research Institute of Jet Propulsion Physics is merged with DVL.
1964Eugen Sänger submits a project proposal for a two-stage reusable space transporter; its development is then pursued by the Space Technology Working Group within the German Research Foundation until 1974.
May 1964The Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg and the American space agency NASA sign an agreement to develop absorbing surfaces for micrometeorites.
1965The Deutsche Kommission für Weltraumforschung (German Commission for Space Research ) submits a memorandum to the Federal Government recommending a strong commitment to space.
1 July 1965Establishment of the Space Aerodynamics Department at the Aerodynamics Research institute (AVA) in Göttingen.
Turn of the year 1965/1966German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard and US President Lyndon B. Johnson agree on close cooperation between their two countries in the area of space research. This results in the development, construction and launch of the two Aeros research satellites to explore near space.
1967Construction of the central station of the German DVL ground station system in Weilheim.
26 July 1967The Federal Government passes the first German space programme.
11/12 July 1967The Federal Government decides to create the Deutsche Forschungs- und Versuchsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DFVLR, German Test and Research Institute for Aeronautics and Spaceflight) as a unified organisation. The 1969 merger of AVA, DVL and DFL is intended to improve coordination between the 35 institutes and facilities.
1 March 1968Commissioning of the central station within the German ground station system, today DLR’s Antenna Ground Station Weilheim.
5 December 1968Launch of the first ESRO satellite with German participation, the Heos-1, to study the interplanetary magnetic field, the solar wind and solar particles.
8 November 1969Launch of Azur, Germany’s first research satellite. Satellite operations are taken over by DFVLR’s German Space Operations Center, a purpose-built facility in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich. The satellite investigates cosmic rays and their interaction with the magnetosphere, the aurora and temporal changes in the solar wind during solar flares.


Start of astronautical space flight and independence for European rocket technology

10 March 1970Launch of the German-French aeronomy satellite Dial to study the geocorona (outermost layer of Earth's atmosphere).
1972DFVLR absorbs GfW as a subsidiary.
1974GfW is merged with DFVLR.
16 December 1972/16 July 1974Launch of the Aeros-A and Aeros-B satellites to explore near space.
10 December 1974/15 January 1976Launch of the two German-American spacecraft Helios-A and Helios-B to study solar-terrestrial relationships. Helios reaches its perihelion at around the closest point that the heat shields can technically withstand, which is equivalent to one third of the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The programme is a major scientific triumph.
1974 and 1975Launch of the two German-French communication satellites Symphonie. A European launch system is not available, so the satellites are orbited by an American rocket on condition that they are not used for commercial purposes. Supported by Germany, France then intensifies its efforts to develop a western European launch vehicle.
1975The tasks of ESRO, ELDO and the Conférence Européenne des Télécommunications par Satelites (CETS) are merged within the newly established European Space Agency (ESA). Since then, ESA has been entrusted with the coordination and implementation of all joint projects within western Europe's space programmes.
20 August/9 September 1975West Germany contributes to its first planetary mission with launch of the American Mars probes Viking 1 and 2.
September 1976Resolution to pursue Germany’s Texus programme for microgravity research on sounding rockets, which has run very successfully to the present day.
5 September/20 August 1977Launch of Voyager 1 and 2. West Germany participates in two experiments on these American deep space probes travelling to the fringes of the Solar System.
23 November 1977The first European weather satellite Meteosat-1 lifts off from Cape Canaveral. Satellites belonging to the Meteosat series continue to be launched into space through to the present day.
20 May/8 August 1978The pioneering Venus 1 and 2 planetary spacecraft lift off, carrying experiments contributed by German institutes.
24 December 1979The maiden flight of the European launcher Ariane 1 from French Guyana proceeds smoothly. Through 1986, there are eleven Ariane 1 take offs carrying a payload of up to 1.85 tonnes each, nine of which are successful.

Ariane 1 launches the first western European satellites, the Meteosat 2 weather satellite and the Marecs A maritime satellite.

The focus on astronautical spaceflight in German space research has its origins in the era of the social-liberal coalition. By making a significant contribution to the US Space Shuttle, the Federal Government hoped to expand German expertise in the construction of modern launch vehicles, build experience in the management of international space programmes and assume a leading position in the development of innovative microgravity research. With the construction of the Spacelab laboratory, the Federal Government manages to acquire a pre-eminent position in an essential area of the European space sector. The two laboratory modules FM1 and FOP are used for 16 missions between 1983 and 1988. The labs notch up 181 space-days during this period, enabling 110 astronauts to work on 720 experiments.



Space research in the German Democratic Republic (GDR)

Dismantling of equipment and the prohibition of space research are defining features of the post-War period in the 'other Germany', too. The Politburo does not have a concept or vision for its space policies, and a lobby to advocate for these interests is lacking as well. As a model socialist state, the GDR is closely aligned with Moscow, so that considerable parts of the GDR's space resources are requisitioned to add to the Soviet potential.
1957Establishment of the Heinrich-Hertz-Institut für Schwingungsforschung (Heinrich Hertz Institute for Oscillation Research).
5 October 1957The GDR uses its own optical and radio measuring equipment to observe the flight of Sputnik 1.
1957 to 1961Organised by the Academy of Sciences (AdW), cooperation between the GDR and the Soviet Union is limited to individual projects to observe and document Soviet missions, as well as to produce scientific evaluations of their outcomes.
22 June 1960Foundation of the Astronautische Gesellschaft der DDR (Astronautical Society of the GDR) against the will of the party and state apparatus. Admission to the International Astronautical Federation on 17 August 1960, with West Germany voting against its inclusion.
From 1961The GDR cooperates sporadically with the Soviet Union and other socialist states in the area of atmospheric research and meteorology.
1967The Heinrich Hertz Institute for Research on Oscillations is renamed the Heinrich-Hertz-Institut für Solar-Terrestrische Physik (Heinrich Hertz Institute for Solar-Terrestrial Physics).
13 April 1967Establishment of the COMECON (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) research association Interkosmos. The Soviet Union makes launch vehicles, satellites and ground stations available for joint experiments free of charge and receives all the data collected by the partner states' experiments in return. Working groups are set up for the research areas of cosmic physics, cosmic meteorology, cosmic intelligence, cosmic biology and medicine and, from 1975 onward, remote sensing of the Earth by aerocosmic means. The GDR does not have an independent space programme.
20 December 1968Launch of the Kosmos 261 (Friendship Sputnik) satellite; the GDR is directly involved in a scientific space mission for the first time, contributing ground services. The satellite explores near space and the northern lights with the involvement of seven states.
14 October 1969The GDR establishes a space footprint for the first time with the launch of the Interkosmos 1 satellite to research the Sun. The Zentralinstitut für Solar-Terrestrische Physik (Central Institute for Solar-Terrestrial Physics), which emerged from the Heinrich Hertz Institute for Solar-Terrestrial Physics in 1969, contributes a photometer to research the Sun's short-wave radiation. Twenty-five Interkosmos satellites are launched in total by 1992, 15 with GDR involvement. From November 1970, they are followed by atmospheric and meteorological experiments with the Soviet sounding rocket Vertikal and the weather rockets MR-06 and M-100.
15 November 1971

Constitution of the International Organization of Space Communications (Intersputnik), as a Soviet-dominated counterpart to the Western Intelsat system, which had been founded a few months earlier. Intersputnik does not operate its own satellite network and instead offers Soviet communications satellites for rent. The GDR Ministry of Post and Telecommunications actively uses the Intersputnik network from 1976 onwards and establishes a ground station near Fürstenwalde.

In addition, the GDR is represented in almost all relevant international organisations involved in space research and exploitation. It is a member of the UN Space Committee, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and, from September 1986, Inmarsat.

1972The Forschungsstelle für Kosmische Elektronik (Research Center of Cosmos Electronics) emerges from the Central Institute for Solar-Terrestrial Physics.
1973The Research Center of Cosmic Electronics is renamed as the Institut für Elektronik (Institute of Electronics).
26 August to 3 September 1978

Mission by the 'Intercosmonaut' Sigmund Jähn on the Soviet space station Salyut 6. As the first German in space, he spends seven days conducting scientific-technical, medical and biological experiments on, among other things, the perception of time, hearing and taste sensitivity in weightlessness and the production of high-performance optical glass, as well as taking images of the Earth of scientific, economic and military interest.

The GDR allocates an annual budget of only around 40 million Marks to East German space research during the 1970s and 80s. Nevertheless, East German space research takes part in increasingly sophisticated missions such as the Venus probes (Venera), the international observation of Halley's Comet (Vega) and the ultimately failed attempts to dispatch probes to the two Mars moons (Phobos).

Another notable feature is the GDR's pre-eminence in the area of optoelectronics. The most significant engineering feat is the MKF 6 multispectral camera, which was developed in the 1970s and continuously upgraded over time. It is deployed on the Soviet Union space stations, where it is used for Earth observation and military intelligence.

1981The Institute of Electronics is renamed as the Institut für Kosmosforschung (IKF, Institute of Cosmos Research).

1984 – heute

Drive for autonomy in western Europe, excellent basic research and new space applications

28 November to 8 December 1983First flight of the Spacelab on the Space Shuttle with the West German astronaut Ulf Merbold. The maiden voyage of the German-built laboratory alone features more scientific experiments than all previous European space missions combined.
1984The development of a reusable space transporter by Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm resumes and is then pursued by the German Research Foundation until 1995, within the Hypersonic Technology Programme.
4 August 1984First of eleven launches of the European launcher Ariane 3, an upgrade of Ariane 1, from French Guyana (payload: 2.65 tonnes).
2 July 1985Launch of the European comet probe Giotto. The mission becomes a milestone in cometary research. It revolutionises modern knowledge of comets with a close flyby - within 600 kilometres of Halley's Comet's nucleus - on 14 March 1986.
16 August 1985Launch of the German-British-American AMPTE mission to research Earth's magnetosphere and the solar wind.
30 October 1985

Launch of the astronautical research mission D1 on the Space Shuttle Challenger with the German astronauts Ernst Messerschmid and Reinhard Furrer. The Federal Republic takes charge of preparing and performing the 75 scientific experiments. Management of the mission rests with DFVLR.

The ESA Ministerial Council Meetings of 1985 in Rome and of 1987 in The Hague set the course for ESA's new infrastructure programmes: Columbus will serve as the European research module on the International Space Station (ISS) under German leadership. The European spaceplane Hermes is designed under the auspices of the French; the programme is later discontinued. Continued development of the European rocket system as Ariane 5 is also decided as the third element; it will have the capacity to launch two large satellites at the same time.

30 May 1986The first of six launches by the European launcher Ariane 2, an identical model to the Ariane 3, but without solid rocket boosters (payload: 2.27 tonnes).
16 June 1988Maiden launch of the European launcher Ariane 4, a significantly enlarged adaption of Ariane 3 with a flexible concept of variable-performance solid and/or liquid propellant boosters to adapt to a wide range of payloads ranging from 2.07 to 4.9 tonnes. The system reliability rises to 97.4 percent and Ariane 4 secures a market share of over 60 percent, making it the world's most commercially successful launcher.
1989Foundation of the Deutsche Agentur für Raumfahrtangelegenheiten (DARA, (German Space Agency). Acting on behalf of the Federal Government, it plans and coordinates German space activities financed from public funds and represents Germany in international bodies. DFVLR is renamed the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR, German Research Center for Aeronautics and Space) the same year.
8 August 1989Launch of EURECA, a reusable space platform developed in Germany that enables fully automatic performance of experiments. It is also able to conduct tests of rendezvous and docking manoeuvres, new communication methods and the first use of a European ion thruster for continuous orbit adjustments.
18 October 1989The Galileo research mission to Jupiter launches on the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Three German experiments are carried on board the spacecraft. The spacecraft reaches the largest planet in our Solar System on 13 September 1995, where the atmospheric entry probe is released. On 7 December, it becomes the first space vehicle to enter the atmosphere of one of the outer planets. Data on the prevailing gas and cloud composition, the heat balance, lightning phenomena and the flow of energetic particles in Jupiter's upper atmosphere are transmitted to Earth during the almost one-hour descent. The orbiter sends spectacular new images of and data about Jupiter and its seven moons until September 2003.
25 April 1990Launch of Hubble, the most successful space telescope to date; European scientists use a quarter of its capacities. The 'faint object camera' developed by Dornier is deployed for observation in a wavelength range of 120–700 nanometres, which is not possible from Earth. The 320-kilogram space camera enables the detection of even extremely faint celestial bodies as dim as magnitude 29, as well as neutron stars, quasars and galaxies, with a sensitivity equivalent to spotting a burning candle on the dark side of the Earth from Hubble's orbit at an altitude of 590 kilometres.
1 January 1990Launch of the ROSAT X-ray observatory, which aims to produce a first complete survey of space for X-ray sources. Germany is responsible for operating the two-tonne observatory, while Great Britain and the USA contribute some of the technical equipment and the USA takes charge of the launch. ROSAT remains in operation for nine years.
6 October 1990The European-American solar spacecraft Ulysses begins the first flight around the Sun, in a plane perpendicular to the ecliptic. Its investigations focus on the propagation of the solar wind and the heliospheric magnetic field, X-rays, radio and plasma waves, sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections over the hitherto little-explored regions of the solar poles. German research institutes are involved in eight of the 12 experiments.
17 July 1991The European Earth observation satellite ERS 1 is launched on board an Ariane 4. The conditions of the ocean surfaces, in the atmosphere and over land are investigated under German leadership. 1.5 million radar images are acquired over the course of the nine-year mission.
1992The Institute of Cosmos Research is merged with DLR.
22 January 1992Launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery with the material science, biology and medicine mission IML-1; the German astronaut Ulf Merbold is also on board.
17 to 25 March 1992German-Russian Mir’92 mission with the German astronaut Klaus Dietrich Flade.
26 April 1993Launch of the research mission D2 on the Space Shuttle Challenger with the German astronauts Hans Schlegel and Ulrich Walter. The new scientific focus areas are investigations of the cardiovascular system, the immune system, the receptor systems, occupational psychology, cell fusion in an electric field and robotic research. Twenty-seven German universities with 36 institutes, three large-scale research institutions and nine German industrial companies as well as 22 university institutes from European partner states are involved.
3 October to 4 November 1994EUROMIR 94 mission with the German astronaut Ulf Merbold.
21 April 1995Launch of the second ESA Earth observation satellite ERS-2. It is used to prove that the atmosphere is heating up and that the polar ice caps are melting. ERS also enables the identification of ship captains guilty of dumping toxic substances.
3 September 1995 to 16 January 1996EUROMIR 95 mission with the German astronaut Thomas Reiter, who sets the record for the longest stay in space by a western European.
17 November 1995Launch of the ESA infrared observatory ISO. Among other things, the approximately 26,000 observations enable identification of a number of substances in the interior of prestellar clouds – some of which had never previously before been observed in space – the detection of tens of thousands of new celestial bodies and the demonstration that planets can form not only around young stars, but also around dying ones.
4 July 1996The maiden flight of the new Ariane 5 with four Cluster spacecraft fails.
4 December 1996Launch of the US Pathfinder mission to Mars. Two experiments and some of the on-board electronics originate in Germany.
10 February to 2 March 1997German-Russian Mir'97 mission with the German astronaut Reinhold Ewald. During his stay, a fire broke out in the Russian space station (on 23 February) but was quickly extinguished.
1 October 1997Merger between DARA and DLR, which from then on is known as Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR, German Aerospace Center)
15 October 1997Launch of the European-US mission to Saturn, Cassini-Huygens. The European Huygens lander touches down on the Saturnian moon Titan on 14 January 2005 after a voyage of 4.5 billion kilometres. Its Cassini mother craft explores the Saturn system, including its rings and over 40 moons.
30 October 1997The second launch of an Ariane 5 succeeds. Depending on its version, the launcher can carry between six and 10 tonnes of payload into geostationary orbit.
7 to 17 December 1999First parabolic flight campaign by DLR in the Airbus A300 ZERO-G with eight scientific experiments. The DLR Space Administration (now the German Space Agency at DLR) conducts one parabolic flight per year and increases the number to two in 2006.
10 December 1999Launch of the European X-ray observatory XXM-Newton from the Kourou spaceport - ESA's largest research satellite to date. It investigates black holes, exploding stars and the central regions of galaxy clusters.
11 to 22 February 2000SRTM mission on the Space Shuttle Endeavour produces digital, three-dimensional radar maps of Earth's surface; the German astronaut Gerhard Thiele is also on board.
15 July 2000Launch of the CHAMP geo-scientific satellite. It is built almost exclusively in the eastern states of Germany and designed to produce high-precision measurements of Earth's gravitational and magnetic fields, as well as to investigate the atmosphere and ionosphere.
16 July and 9 August 2000Launch of the four German-built Cluster II spacecraft to study the impact of solar activity on Earth's space environment.
22 October 2001Launch of the German microsatellite BIRD from the Indian spaceport in Shriharikota to produce remote sensing images of the Earth.
1 March 2002Launch of the European environmental satellite Envisat, carrying ten experiments covering all disciplines of scientific Earth observation. The spacecraft has a total mass of 8140 kilograms and is the largest and most complex satellite ever designed and launched by the European partner states.
16 March 2002Launch of the German-US spacecraft GRACE, which precisely surveys Earth’s gravitational field. GRACE continues the tasks that began with CHAMP. DLR is involved with procuring the launch vehicle, ground operations and data processing.
29 August 2002Launch of the first second-generation meteorological satellite MSG.
17 October 2002Launch of ESA's gamma-ray observatory Integral from Baikonur.
2 June 2003Launch of the first ESA planetary orbiter Mars Express, carrying the HRSC stereo camera developed by DLR. The camera acquires what, at the time, were the highest-resolution 3D images of another planet.
2 March 2004Launch of the European comet explorer Rosetta, which entered orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014 and accompanied it for a year on its journey around the Sun. Its Philae lander was developed under the leadership of DLR.
9 November 2005Launch of ESA's Venus Express planetary spacecraft.
28 December 2005GIOVE-A is the first satellite launched as part of Europe's navigation system, Galileo. The system is designed to increase safety and improve traffic guidance, the planning of traffic routes and capacities and fleet management. Twenty-eight eight Galileo satellites are currently in orbit, 24 of which are in operation.
4 July to 22 December 2006Astrolab mission with German ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter as the agency's first long-term mission on the International Space Station (ISS). Reiter breaks his own European record for the longest stay in space - almost one year.
19 October 2006Launch of the European weather satellite Metop-A into a polar orbit.
26 October 2006Launch of the US Stereo solar research mission with German contributions.
27 December 2006Launch of the COROT space telescope to search for extrasolar planets.
10 June 2007Launch of the TerraSAR-X Earth observation satellite, developed and built by DLR and Airbus Defence and Space. Mission control is assigned to the German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen.
2 October 2007Inauguration of the satellite data receiving station run by the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) at DLR in Chetumal/Yucatan, Mexico.
21 June 2010Launch of the TanDEM-X Earth observation satellite for stereographic mapping of the Earth’s surface together with TerraSAR-X.
10 August 2010Inauguration of the DLR satellite reception station in Inuvik, Canada.
30 November 2010The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) operated by NASA and DLR begins its work.
2011With the Sharp Edge Flight Experiment (SHEFEX), DLR has been developing and testing a sharp-edged design for the first time.
2013Inauguration of the :envihab medical research facility operated by the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine at the site in Cologne.
28 May–10 November 2014The German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is deployed on the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Blue Dot mission.
August 2014The Rosetta space probe reaches comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and begins to orbit the comet.
12 November 2004The comet lander Philae touches down on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
3 December 2014The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 reaches the target asteroid (162173) Ryugu, carrying the MASCOT asteroid lander and rover developed by DLR; MASCOT touches down on the asteroid. Hayabusa 2 collects samples and returns them to Earth.
30 September 2016Controlled crash of the Rosetta space probe on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, bringing the mission to an end.
15 September 2017The Cassini spacecraft is deliberately sent plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere, where it burns up, bringing the mission to an end.
6 June–20 December 2018The German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is deployed on the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Horizons mission. Gerst begins his three-month assignment commanding the ISS on 3 October 2018, becoming the second western European to hold this position.
26 November 2018NASA's InSight lander touches down on Mars, carrying an instrument developed by DLR to determine heat flow in the Red Planet's subsurface.
13 July 2019Launch of the German-Russian space observatory Spektr-RG for mapping X-ray sources.
30 July 2020Launch of the NASA mission Mars 2020. Its Perseverance rover will search Jezero Crater on Mars for traces of microbial life (biosignatures). DLR is represented on the scientific team and included in several experiments.
5 December 2020

The capsule belonging to the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft lands on Earth, bringing back samples from the asteroid Ryugu.

  • The upper stage of the Ariane 6 undergoes testing at the DLR location in Lampoldshausen.
  • Establishment of the DLR Institute for Satellite Geodesy and Inertial Sensing in Hanover.
18 February 2021The Perseverance rover (Mars 2020 mission) lands successfully in Jezero Crater on Mars.
27 May 2021Opening of the DLR Institute of Quantum Technologies in Ulm.

  • Andreas Schütz
    DLR Spokesper­son, Head of Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-2474
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Cologne
  • Jessika Wichner
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Cen­tral Archive
    Telephone: +49 551 709-2153
    Fax: +49 551 709-2948
    Bunsenstr. 10
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