January 21, 2016 | DLR missions and projects 2016

Launch to Mars, environment-friendly and efficient aviation, and the largest artificial Sun in the world

With its research and management divisions, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) contributes to the solution of global challenges. The work includes not only the reduction of emissions caused by air transport, but also highly automated travel for the mobility of the future, cost-effective energy storage solutions and environmental monitoring for the protection of the atmosphere. DLR also provides services to support policy making, science and industry – from analysis and consulting to development and implementation. "DLR's extensive expertise and outstanding results, which are achieved by exploiting the unique synergies between our research and management divisions, give us the impetus to actively participate in shaping societal changes for the better in the near future," says Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of DLR's Executive Board.

The following provides a selection of DLR's research topics for 2016 in our research areas: Space, Aeronautics, Transport, Energy, and Security.


Europe's data highway in space

On 27 January 2016, the first payload of ESA's European Data Relay System (EDRS) programme is scheduled to be launched with the EUTELSAT 9B satellite aboard a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. With this system, very large amounts of data from Earth observation satellites, which travel in relatively low orbits, can be transmitted to the ground via a relay station in a short period of time. At present, the data can be transmitted from an observation satellite to a ground station only for a short period during each orbit, when the satellite passes over the ground station. This occurs approximately only once every 100 minutes and severely restricts the amount of data that can be returned. The EDRS payload mainly consists of Laser Communication Terminals (LCTs) that were developed and built in Germany and enable real-time transmission at extremely high data rates. The DLR Space Administration has invested a total of more than 280 million Euros in EDRS/LCT technology on behalf of the German Federal Government. The German Space Operations Center at the DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich, is responsible for receiving the data.

ExoMars – searching for trace gases in the Martian atmosphere

In March 2016, the first part of the European-Russian ExoMars mission will set off to the Red Planet. On board will be the Trace Gas Orbiter, which will analyse trace gases in the Martian atmosphere, and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator. The orbiter will arrive at its destination in October 2016 and deploy the lander onto Mars. DLR assisted in the selection of a suitable landing site by providing digital elevation models derived from data acquired by the Mars Express orbiter and is also scientifically involved in the Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS). On board the Schiaparelli lander, there are also four measuring sensors from DLR that will acquire, among other things, data for the second part of the mission in 2018. The entry into the Martian atmosphere was tested using DLR’s wind tunnels DLR. The DLR Space Administration coordinates the German contributions to the European Space Agency (ESA).

ESA Ministerial Council and ISS operations

From the German point of view, the future and the further utilisation of the International Space Station (ISS) will be in the focus of interest during the next ESA Ministerial Council meeting on 1 and 2 December 2016 in Lucerne (Switzerland). Germany is currently committed to the ISS until 2020; now it is time to consider prolongation beyond that date. All Space Station Partners (USA, Russia, Japan, Canada) except for Europe have indicated that they are in favour this prolongation. In this context, and in the light of an intensified involvement of private partners, NASA awarded three new contracts for ISS payload delivery to US companies during the past week.

Initial tests with the Ariane 6 launcher

In 2016, the DLR site at Lampoldshausen will carry out initial tests with the Vinci upper stage engine that has been adapted for use on the Ariane 6 launcher, as well as with the Vulcain 2.1 main engine. For this purpose, the existing test rigs have been rebuilt to meet the requirements of these test campaigns. Both tests will serve to qualify the engines for application on Ariane 6. Additionally, another test rig is currently being constructed at DLR. On this test rig, not only engines and individual components, but also the entire upper stage – engine and tanks – are to be tested.

Reusable launch system

With the New Flight Experiment (NewFex) project, DLR is conducting research on reusable spaceflight systems. The primary objective is a demonstration flight along a trajectory that can be used to show the controllability and manoeuvrability of the vehicle over hypersonic to transonic flight speed range. Among other things, issues relating to structural and thermal protection, navigation and aerodynamic design will be investigated. Discussions are currently underway with both the French space agency CNES and the Japanese space agency JAXA, who have expressed their interest in an international cooperation with the DLR.

Commercialisation of space travel

Space creates innovations; the DLR Space Administration has put together a package of measures for improved exchange and technology transfer between the traditional and 'new' space industry sectors (key word New Space / Industry 4.0). With the INNOspace initiative, new ideas and markets are to be found and developed. For this purpose, among other activities in 2016, a cross-sector conference in Bavaria, the 'INNOspace Masters Satellite 4.0', as well as an award presentation ceremony in Berlin and a KMU day at the International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) are planned. In addition, the aerospace industry suppliers are to be supported specifically to remain successful – both nationally and globally.


New technologies for eco-efficient flying

The European Union Joint Technology Initiative Clean Sky website is intended to advance technological developments for environment-friendly aviation by 2024. 'Clean Sky 2' comprises three 'Integrated Aircraft Demonstrator Platforms', three 'Integrated Technology Demonstrators' as well as several so-called 'Transversal Activities', for example in 'Small Air Transport' – new, environment-friendly aviation technologies for the next generation of aircraft. As part of 'Clean Sky 2', DLR manages the area of technology evaluation and technology assessment, where the effects of the 'Clean Sky 2' technologies are investigated with respect to the environment, society and competitiveness. The aim is to give continuous feedback on the longer-term benefit of the technologies developed in 'Clean Sky 2' and to be able to provide a realistic assessment of the initiative’s overall success in all three aspects – environment, society and competitiveness.

Reality check for aircraft noise impact

The MIDAS project aims at creating a set of meaningful measures for active noise abatement. As part of the project, DLR will – among other things and for the first time anywhere – carry out a study in 2016 to investigate the impact of nocturnal aircraft noise on children's sleep. In addition, DLR is testing a pilot assistance system for noise-optimised approach procedures using the AVES – Air Vehicle Simulator (Air Vehicle Simulator) system, in flight tests with the A320 ATRA (Advanced Technology Research Aircraft), and in normal operations at Frankfurt airport..

Climate research at the Arctic Circle

With the research missions 'POLSTRACC', 'GW-LCYCLE' and 'SALSA', multi-week flight tests in early 2016 are intended to investigate the variation of the composition of the atmosphere in the northern polar region. Starting from Kiruna in Sweden, measurement flights will be carried out with DLR's HALO Project Website and Falcon research aircraft to investigate still insufficiently understood aspects of the cloud physics in polar regions, of the transport of trace substances, and of the dynamic coupling between the lower and middle atmosphere. For this purpose, HALO will be equipped with an ozone and water vapour LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) system, a mass spectrometer, and a detector for nitrogen oxides. The Falcon is equipped with a wind LIDAR, additional trace gas instruments and a spectrometer to analyse airglow at an altitude of 85 kilometres. During some flight experiments, HALO and Falcon will fly in formation – one above the other –to obtain as complete a picture as possible of the atmospheric conditions.


Synlight – the largest artificial Sun in the world

The largest high-power light source in the world, SynLight, will be completed in a specially constructed building at the Jülich Technology Centre (TZJ) by the end of the year. Around 150 lamps will then be able to produce a light intensity at least 10,000 times higher than that of natural solar radiation on Earth's surface. The solar energy researchers at DLR will be able to experiment with the artificial Sun independently of weather conditions and time of year, and thus expedite their research work. Additionally, the artificial Sun provides constant, precisely defined radiation conditions, enabling better evaluation and classification of scientific experiments. In particular, the researchers will work on new methods for the production of solar fuels and the development and testing of new components for solar power plants in the new facility.

Understanding and designing the energy system – systems analysis with the AMIRIS model

Energy systems analysis offers the possibility to better assess and manage developments in the energy system – for instance by means of technologies or support measures. The use of the agent-based AMIRIS simulation model – that is, a model that takes the individual stakeholders into account – makes it possible to investigate effects of different general conditions in the energy sector on the stakeholders involved for the market integration of renewable energies. These analyses are intended to help politicians and decision makers to effectively organise the promotion of renewable energy sources.

Quality test for salt-based thermal storage

Thermal energy stores have the capability to store large amounts of energy in a cost-effective way for a period of several hours and deliver it again when required. High-capacity thermal energy stores are in demand predominantly in solar thermal power plants. The energy can then be made available during peaks of demand in the evening hours. DLR will operate a test infrastructure for salt-based storage at the CeraStorE centre of excellence in Cologne. The storage materials will be tested scientifically at different temperatures to determine their properties. The test infrastructure will assist providers of salt-based energy stores to design their facilities better and more precisely in the future.

DLR will present its energy research expertise and current research projects at the Hanover Trade Fair from 25 to 29 April 2016.


Automated driving in the city

Automated driving is presently the most discussed topic in the area of road vehicles. This would give the driver the opportunity, for instance, to surf the Web or write emails while the vehicle is driving autonomously. During a presentation of the results of the DLR project 'Vehicle Intelligence and Mechatronic Chassis' in April 2016, a research vehicle that is able to travel independently in urban traffic, adjust its speed to the vehicle ahead and communicate with the traffic light systems will be revealed. Up to now, such systems were only used on motorways. Hence, the knowledge and skills acquired in the project constitute an important step towards 'automated driving in the city'. This project is embedded in DLR's research activities relating to the Next Generation Car (NGC). In addition, testing and release procedures for automated vehicles – which are expected to enter the market in 2020 – are being conceived and developed as part of the 36-million-Euro Pegasus project of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

Fuel cell power for railway traction – DLR at InnoTrans in Berlin

Within the BetHy project, the rail vehicle manufacturer Alstom is developing environment-friendly, fuel cell powered hybrid train sets – the prototypes of which are expected to be tested in 2018. The objective is to demonstrate the usability of a fuel cell power system for railway traction in regional passenger transport. DLR conceptualised and specified the battery and fuel cell modules for Alstom and is giving advice for their integration into a diesel railcar of the LINT series and for the hydrogen infrastructure. DLR researchers are testing the service life of the batteries in a laboratory environment. In addition, the DLR researchers accompany the system tests of the drive system, the commissioning, and the trial operations. The drive system is currently being tested successfully in France. The first vehicle is expected to be equipped by the end of 2016. After that, following iLINT product development, 40 fuel cell powered trains are scheduled to commence operations in four German Federal states in 2020.

In 2016, the DLR will present its transport expertise and numerous research projects at InnoTrans, which will be held from 20 to 23 September in Berlin..

Schorndorf reality lab – local public transport on demand

Demographic change, climate-friendly living, and new forms of mobility – many social challenges become apparent, especially in cities. The Ministry of Science of the German Federal state of Baden-Württemberg promotes reality labs where researchers, along with local authorities, businesses and residents, initiate and scientifically investigate changes in the residential environment. In Schorndorf, DLR and its project partners will develop a demand-driven, digitally supported concept for buses in public transport. This concept will not employ fixed stopping points, thus adapting local transport to the individual demands of its users.


Assistance from space in the event of a crisis

Up-to-date satellite images can assist emergency services with important situational information in crisis or disaster situations. As part of the EU-FP7 'Project on a Multi-Hazard Open Platform for Satellite Based Downstream Services' (PHAROS), an open-service platform is to be developed and established on which both satellite-based and also terrestrial technologies will assist with crisis management. On the platform, the data from different satellites and terrestrial sensors will be collected, processed and made available to the user as required. In spring of 2016, the system will be tested by the regional fire department in Catalonia during a controlled forest fire and thereafter developed further with all parties involved in the project.

Maritime security – demonstration of the results of the joint EMSec project

In September 2016, the research results of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research joint project 'Real-Time Services for Maritime Security' (EMSec) will be demonstrated as part of a multi-day exercise. Essential innovations in the field of position detection by means of air-based and space-based sensors will be presented there, with the participation of the Federal Maritime Police (BPol See), the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (DGzRS), and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW). Above all, these innovations serve to support action and rescue forces in the rescue of people at sea in cases of major catastrophic events, piracy or maritime terrorism, as well as to protect offshore facilities such as oil and gas production platforms. The objective of the joint EMSec project is to better protect people, infrastructure, and economic activities at sea.

Maritime security – protection against hackers at sea

The shipping industry is increasingly using satellite data and IT systems for more secure, faster and automated processes. However, such systems are threatened by external manipulative interventions. For example, the navigation of ships based on global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) such as GPS or Galileo is not protected sufficiently. The course of a ship can demonstrably be changed by GPS spoofing where deceptive signals that imitate a GPS satellite are transmitted. Another method, GPS jamming, severely disrupts the reception of satellite signals so that a ship's GNSS navigation systems no longer function. DLR is working on making the navigation systems more robust against attacks from outside. To be able to better investigate maritime navigation systems, the German Federal Network Agency enables DLR, as part of a frequency authorisation, to test jamming and deceptive transmitters on a temporary basis within a small area of the Baltic Sea with very limited maritime traffic. In this context, a series of tests will be carried out by the DLR Institute of Communications and Navigation within the test area.


Andreas Schütz

Head of Corporate Communications, DLR Spokesperson
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne
Tel: +49 2203 601-2474

Dorothee Bürkle

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Media Relations, Energy and Transport Research