9. November 2017
DLR's precursor was founded in November 1907 in Göttingen

The cra­dle of aero­nau­ti­cal re­search cel­e­brates its 110 an­niver­sary

Zep­pelin mod­el in the wind tun­nel
Image 1/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Zeppelin model in the wind tunnel

Mod­el of the Zep­pelin air­ship LZ120 ‘Bo­densee’ in Wind Tun­nel 2 in Göt­tin­gen (1920).
DLR site in Göt­tin­gen
Image 2/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

DLR site in Göttingen

Aeri­al view of the DLR site in Göt­tin­gen.
Plans of the Mod­el Test­ing In­sti­tute, 1907
Image 3/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Plans of the Model Testing Institute, 1907

El­e­va­tion and floor plan of the Göt­tin­gen Mod­el Test­ing In­sti­tute, 1907.
Con­struc­tion of the Mod­el Test­ing In­sti­tute
Image 4/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Construction of the Model Testing Institute

Con­struc­tion of the Göt­tin­gen Mod­el Test­ing In­sti­tute, 1908.
Ludwig Prandtl with his fluid test channel
Lud­wig Prandtl with his flu­id test chan­nel
Image 5/7, Credit: DLR

Ludwig Prandtl with his fluid test channel

Lud­wig Prandtl (1875-1953) with his wa­ter test chan­nel in Han­nover, 1904. Prandtl found­ed the Mod­el Test­ing In­sti­tute in Göt­tin­gen and is re­gard­ed as the ‘fa­ther of aero­dy­nam­ics’.
Smoke flow over a mod­el car, 1921
Image 6/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Smoke flow over a model car, 1921

Test­ing of ve­hi­cle aero­dy­nam­ics us­ing mod­els: pho­to­graph of a limou­sine. The air­flow is ren­dered vis­i­ble us­ing smoke (1921).
Ski jumper test dum­my in a wind tun­nel
Image 7/7, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Ski jumper test dummy in a wind tunnel

Test­ing the aero­dy­nam­ics of a ski jumper test dum­my about 50 cen­time­tres tall in a wind tun­nel at AVA Göt­tin­gen, a pre­de­ces­sor of the present-day DLR. The pho­to­graph has been ro­tat­ed to make it eas­i­er to un­der­stand – in re­al­i­ty, the dum­my was sus­pend­ed up­side down.

  • The cradle of aeronautics research was founded in Göttingen 110 years ago
  • Focus: aeronautics, transport, aerospace, energy, history

The first German state institute for aeronautics research was founded 110 years ago in Göttingen. It was the precursor of the present-day German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), and laid the foundations for modern aeronautics.

When the first airships and aeroplanes took to the air at the beginning of the 20th century, there were frequent unexplained problems and crashes. Certain shapes and constructions flew better than others. But why? Objects moving through the air seemed to be affected by unknown influences. Ludwig Prandtl, appointed as Director of Technical Physics at the University of Göttingen in 1904, wanted answers. And so in November 1907, at Prandtl's instigation, the Göttingen Model Testing Institute was established to carry out aerodynamic experiments. "This was the first national institute for aeronautics research in Germany," says Jessika Wichner, Head of the DLR Central Archive. "At the beginning of the 20th century in Göttingen, the theoretical and experimental foundations were laid without which present-day aviation would not be possible."

The quest for the perfect shape

One of the things that the new research establishment looked into in its early years was the development of the best shape for an airship. Ludwig Prandtl is acknowledged worldwide as the 'father of aerodynamics' for his research into the scientific principles underlying boundary layer theory and aerofoil theory.

After the First World War, the Model Testing Institute became the Göttingen Aerodynamic Experimental Station (AVA), one of DLR's three predecessor organisations. "Göttingen was a magnet for the pioneers of aeronautics research across the globe," says Wichner. Among those who worked there were the Hungarian scientist Theodore von Kármán, who would become one of the foremost aerodynamics experts in the USA, and Hans Pabst von Ohain, inventor of the first jet engine.

The primary focus of the work has remained the same: the scientific quest for perfect flight and travel conditions – whether for aircraft, spacecraft or high-speed trains.

DLR film from 2012 on 100 years of aeronautics research in Germany (in German):

A flight in a century
Video "Ein Jahrhundert im Flug"
Credit: DLR

The flying wing

In 1907, Prandtl developed the 'Göttingen-type' wind tunnel that, unlike the wind tunnels commonly used at that time, consisted of a completely closed circular system; most modern wind tunnels are now based on it. Such revolutionary designs as the flying wing and the rotor ship were tested in Göttingen-type wind tunnels. A flying wing is an aircraft with no tailplane and no differentiation between wing and fuselage. Models designed by the Horten brothers were tested in Göttingen before and after the Second World War. Today, this design is considered to have been the inspiration for the American B2 stealth bomber and the next generation of civilian wide-bodied aircraft.

Rotor ships were being developed in Göttingen as early as the 1920s. They were driven by a rotating cylinder – an idea that did not catch on, but which has been taken up again in recent years in the E-Ship 1 An invention as simple as it was groundbreaking was the swept wing, now standard in almost all modern aircraft. Without the swept wing, modern fast cruising flight would not be possible.

Today, 480 of DLR's 8000 staff members work at the DLR site in Göttingen.

  • Jens Wucherpfennig
    Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Göt­tin­gen and Hanover
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 551 709-2108
    Fax: +49 551 709-12108
    Bunsenstraße 10
    37073 Göttingen
  • Jessika Wichner
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Cen­tral Archive
    Telephone: +49 551 709-2153
    Fax: +49 551 709-2948
    Bunsenstr. 10
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