Planetary Sensor Systems

The Ganymede Laser Altimeter (GALA) as integrated on the JUICE spacecraft

The PSS department is an engineering group specialised in the design and development of instruments for scientific planetary exploration missions. Our space-qualified instruments and experiments are built in close collaboration with industry and other scientific institutions in Germany, Europe and worldwide. We work on advanced space instruments, sensors, and detectors and build instruments for remote-sensing and in-situ investigations. Our instruments study objects and materials in the solar system and are employed for the detection and characterisation of extrasolar planets. We develop algorithms and software for operational purposes and embedded onboard software for data processing. In this way, we contribute to the exploration of the solar system and beyond, while simultaneously inspiring and training the next generation of scientific engineers.

In addition to building flight hardware, the department conducts technology studies for future planetary missions. We are building a detector characterisation laboratory to study the performance of ultraviolet, optical, and infrared detectors under relevant environmental conditions. Furthermore, we adopt existing technologies for space applications and study, e.g., miniaturized MEMS-based Fabry-Perot interferometers and single photon counting laser altimeters for a potential application on small landers and cube-sats.

Key Competences of the Department

  • Designing instruments for scientific planetary exploration missions.
  • Designing complex analogue and digital electronics for sensors and detectors.
  • Characterisation, calibration and operation of advanced optical and infrared sensors and detectors.
  • Quality assurance and qualification of complex scientific space instruments.
  • Development of complex on-board software for planetary space instruments.



Mission Contributions of the Department



Dr. Matthias Grott

Department Head
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Planetary Research
Department Planetary Sensor Systems
Rutherfordstraße 2, 12489 Berlin