The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) will be showcasing its latest projects and research results from 17 to 23 June 2019 at this year’s Paris Air Show. At the joint German stand in Hall 2C, DLR will be featuring its activities in digitalisation, climate change and maintaining mobility. On display will be technical innovations for eco-efficient aircraft with lower carbon dioxide and noise emissions, including electric flight, as well as the DLR Falcon 20E, the flying laboratory for environmental and climate research. A model of the German-French satellite mission MERLIN for the observation of the greenhouse gas methane will also be showcased. This mission focuses on the global monitoring of the dynamic system Earth from space. The mobile astronaut assistant CIMON®, the planned demonstrator of a reusable rocket stage and the two instruments that DLR has contributed to the European BepiColombo mission to Mercury round off the trade fair appearance in the space sector.
“DLR is Europe’s largest aerospace research organisation. Its personnel are engaged in research into the scientific and technological bases for new, innovative products that will, among other things, help maintain sustainable mobility,” says Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board. “Modern technologies, such as those from the aerospace industry, have become an integral part of our society. These technologies must be designed responsibly in the interest of preserving the environment and used sustainably. This is a task to which DLR has strongly devoted itself on behalf of society.” The 53rd Aerosalon Paris, one of the largest aviation trade fairs in the world, also offers a platform for new partnerships. Most recently, delegations from 98 countries were represented. The trade fair will also be accompanied by a B2B meeting programme in which the focus will be on the exchange of knowledge and experience together with the search for solutions in the aerospace sector. Various DLR cooperation agreements with ONERA, CNES, JAXA and NASA are planned for the Paris Air Show 2019.
DLR will be presenting the following topics from the fields of aeronautics and space:
Regional aircraft concept with distributed electric propulsion
The primary objectives of European aeronautics research, given the growth in air traffic, are to make the air transport system pollutant-free, efficient, quiet and safe. The development of electric propulsion systems plays a decisive role in this. With the concept for a regional aircraft presented here, the arrangement of multiple propulsion units along the wing has made it possible to increase lift and improve propulsion efficiency. The increased lift can be used to reduce the wing area and thus lower the weight and drag. In addition, control of the aircraft can be partially taken over by individual control of the propulsion system motors; this means that some of the control surfaces can be smaller and thus lighter, while producing less drag. This type of propulsion integration is made possible by electrical power distribution, since implementing the concept with conventional mechanical means is not a serious prospect. The electrical power can be provided by fuel cells or a hybrid system with a gas turbine.
Multimodal Cockpit Simulator (MMCS)
The Multimodal Cockpit Simulator (MMCS) is a fixed-base cockpit simulator in which the cockpit and surrounding environment are displayed using virtual reality glasses. This allows researchers to simulate different existing helicopter types as well as display and test their own newly developed flight deck layouts. The simulator is equipped with a 3D virtual audio system to create a realistic acoustic environment for higher immersion and to test future audio pilot assistance systems. Just like a conventional helicopter, the simulator is flown using three control elements: cyclic stick, collective and pedals. These are active control components. Integrated motors generate precise force feedback to give the pilot a realistic impression of the control loads. The flight simulation itself is powered either by the commercial simulation software X-Plane 11 or by DLR’s own helicopter flight models, including novel flight-control systems. Flexible test environments like this are particularly important during the early development phases for comparing different configurations in a shorter time and as realistically as possible.
Numerical simulation – making the aircraft of the future more efficient and environment friendly
Aeronautics researchers have been addressing the challenges of digitalisation for many years. Their vision is for the entire lifecycle of an aircraft – from the initial design all the way through development, certification, maintenance and finally decommissioning – to be depicted digitally by computer systems. Such a ‘virtual product’ would greatly reduce costs and levels of risk. However, an aircraft and its aerodynamic properties are complex. To get closer to reality by digital means, researchers divide the space around an aircraft into a network of many cells. Physical quantities such as pressure, density and flow velocity can be calculated in each cell. The smaller the cell size, the more accurate the simulation. This produces an enormous system of mathematical equations for the flow quantities that need to be calculated. High-performance computers make it possible to carry out millions and millions of compute operations per second and to fill such a network of cells with consistent values. Solving complex numerical problems and simulating the behaviour of aircraft using a computer are key steps when aeronautics research seeks to reduce fuel consumption, pollutant emissions and noise, and make the aircraft of the future safer and more environment friendly, as well as increasing their cost efficiency.
Falcon 20E - Flying for climate and environmental research
When the Icelandic volcano Eyjafiallajökull erupted in April 2010, DLR’s Falcon 20E-5 had its most spectacular deployment to date – flying into the ash cloud over Germany, the UK and Iceland as a ‘volcano ash hunter’. There, it investigated the composition and concentration of the volcanic particles that had brought scheduled air traffic to a standstill. Scientists still use the Falcon to investigate an array of questions relating to the atmosphere and climate research. On board, they directly measure trace gases and aerosols, and collect air samples for subsequent laboratory analysis. In recent years, the Falcon has become one of DLR’s most important large-scale facilities for researching the effects of aircraft emissions on the composition of the atmosphere. The Falcon’s unique modifications and instruments make it a useful multi-purpose platform for research applications that can be adapted to specific requirements.
The German-French MERLIN climate mission
After carbon dioxide, methane is the second largest contributor to anthropogenic global warming. A panel of scientists appointed by the United Nations has confirmed that methane has a global warming potential that is about 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. In order to be able to effectively protect the climate, it is urgently necessary to better understand the cycle of the greenhouse gas methane. The high-precision global measurement of the methane content in the Earth’s atmosphere can only be carried out from space. In particular, key regions such as tropical wetlands, rainforests and permafrost regions are difficult to access without satellites. From 2024, the Franco-German climate mission MEthane Remote sensing LIdar mission (MERLIN) will use lidar technology to detect the greenhouse gas Methane from an altitude of approximately 500 kilometres. One of the aims of the three-year mission by DLR and the French space agency CNES is to produce a global map of methane concentrations.
An astronaut assistance system with artificial intelligence
CIMON® is an innovative and globally unique astronaut assistance system developed and built in Germany. This autonomous flying system is equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) from IBM and was used for the first time by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst during the ‘horizons’ mission. CIMON® aims to demonstrate that human-machine interaction can support the work of astronauts and increase their efficiency. The flying companion can present and explain a wide range of information and instructions for scientific experiments and repairs. One big advantage of CIMON® is that the astronaut can work freely with both hands while having voice-controlled access to documents and media. A further application of CIMON® is its use as a mobile camera for operational and scientific purposes. The flying companion can carry out routine tasks, such as documenting experiments, searching for objects and taking inventory.
CIMON® can also see, hear, speak and understand. Cameras and facial recognition software for orientation and video documentation serve as its ‘eyes’. Ultrasound sensors measure distances to avoid collisions. Its ‘ears’ are comprised of several microphones for spatial detection and a directional microphone for good voice recognition. CIMON®’s ‘mouth’ is a loudspeaker, through which it can speak and play music. The DLR Space Administration awarded Airbus the contract to undertake the CIMON® project using funds from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), and it was specially developed for use in the European Columbus module of the ISS.
Reusable launcher systems
CALLISTO (Cooperative Action Leading to Launcher Innovation in Stage Toss back Operations) is a reusable demonstrator for a Vertical Take-off and Vertical Landing (VTVL) rocket stage. The introduction of reusability for launcher systems could make it possible to reduce launch costs and enhance the versatility of the launcher system. The German-French-Japanese project by DLR, CNES and JAXA aims at improving knowledge of VTVL rocket stages and demonstrating the capabilities and technologies required for developing and exploiting an operational, reusable VTVL rocket stage.
The CALLISTO vehicle itself is single stage and is operated using cryogenic oxygen (LOX) and hydrogen (LH2). The engine can be throttled so as to enable precise, soft landings. At least five different missions are to be flown using the same vehicle from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Test flight results will also be used to optimise the design of a future reusable space transportation system.
Instruments contributed to the European BepiColombo mission to Mercury
The BepiColombo Laser Altimeter (BELA) and the MErcury Radiometer and Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (MERTIS) were successfully launched on board the BepiColombo mission on 20 October 2018. BepiColombo will reach Mercury’s orbit in 2025 after several flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury. The mission is a joint project between ESA and JAXA, and consists of a propulsion module, the Mercury Transfer Module, and two orbiters – the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). The mission is carrying a total of 16 experiments.
Upon arrival of the MPO, BELA will measure the surface topography of Mercury from altitudes of up to 1000 kilometres. Ten laser pulses with 50 millijoule energy and a wavelength of 1064 nanometres will be emitted per second in the direction of Mercury and detected a few milliseconds later by the instrument’s receiver. From the propagation time of the laser pulses, the scientists will be able to obtain accurate information about the shape and surface of Mercury. Based on this data, the researchers can obtain 3-D elevation models and determine the topography of the planet.
Once in Mercury’s orbit, MERTIS will closely examine the surface and, indirectly, the innermost planet’s interior. Using a mid-infrared spectrometer, MERTIS will record the planet globally with a spatial resolution of 500 metres and identify rock-forming minerals on the surface. MERTIS uses the first space-qualified microbolometer produced in Europe. The resolution of the instrument can be flexibly adapted to the observation conditions. It can thus also be used to study the polar regions. These have not been investigated in detail so far and show a reflection of radar signals in deep craters into which sunlight never penetrates. Scientists suspect that water ice could be present due to the extremely low temperatures prevailing there. Knowledge of the mineralogical composition is crucial for researchers to understand the evolution of the Sun’s innermost planet. The MERTIS radiometer is designed to measure the surface temperature variations of the planet over the entire temperature range of 80 to 700 kelvin (approximately minus 190 to plus 430 degrees Celsius) and its thermal inertia.
Hunting for Dark Energy with eROSITA
Since the Big Bang, the Universe has been expanding. This expansion should actually be slowed down by the gravity of matter. But driven by Dark Energy, the expansion is accelerating. Dark Energy is invisible and only noticeable over very large distances. How can it be investigated with an X-ray telescope? The key to this is galaxy clusters – groups of up to several thousand individual galaxies. Their gravity attracts the surrounding hydrogen gas. This process is called accretion and produces very high temperatures, which cause the gas to emit X-rays. Hence the clusters of galaxies become visible to eROSITA (extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array). eROSITA will study the distribution of approximately 100,000 galaxy clusters.
By determining the distribution of galaxy clusters in space, astronomers can draw conclusions about the structure of the Universe today and in the past. This is possible since the light that arrives from large distances was emitted a long time ago. Far away from Earth, the seven-eyed telescope is the primary instrument of the Russian-German satellite mission ‘Spektrum-Röntgen-Gamma’, which from mid-2019 will systematically scan the sky for X-ray sources. The project is supported by the DLR Space Administration with funds from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).