Anja Frank is an aerospace engineer. At DLR’s Lampoldshausen site, she heads the Test Facilities Department at the Institute of Space Propulsion.
As a child, I could hear the engines when a test was running at DLR’s Lampoldshausen site. I grew up nearby, and my father worked at DLR. The sound really sparked my imagination – I would have loved to have flown to Mars as an astronaut at the drop of a hat.
My career didn’t take me into space as an astronaut, but to DLR’s Lampoldshausen site. After studying aerospace engineering in Stuttgart, I started working there straight away as a test engineer at the Institute of Space Propulsion. I immediately became involved in the development of the Vulcain-2 engine for Europe’s Ariane launcher. Today I am putting my ideas into practice as Head of the Test Facilities Department. Our test stands for rocket engines, which are unique in Europe, have already been used to test various space propulsion systems for 50 years. From small thrusters for satellites to the main stage engine of Ariane, all possible types are tested on our numerous test stands.
My team and I are responsible for the planning, construction and operation of the test stands on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA). We also cooperate with Europe’s space industry: The manufacturers deliver their engines to DLR so that they can be run and measured on a test stand. The data we collect in the process provides us with insights into how to improve them.
Extensive knowledge from numerous research areas is necessary for the operation and continuous development of the test stands – physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering and information technology, to name just a few. Therefore, the over 100 personnel in my team come from a wide range of research disciplines.
As Head of Department, I sometimes miss doing experiments myself. However, I can now help shape spaceflight by expanding the infrastructure and negotiating with clients. But the unique ‘sound’ of the tests still fascinates me – each time anew!
Like Anja Frank, all researchers at DLR pursue their tasks with curiosity and passion every day. They are free to focus all their energy on research and carry out pioneering work in the areas of aeronautics, space, energy, transport, security and digitalisation.
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