Microgravity research laboratory

The microgravity research laboratory at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne is a space simulation facility that enables cell cultures and organisms to be preserved and examined under altered gravity. Through the laboratory, researchers gain important insights into maintaining the health of astronauts while also expanding general medical knowledge, particularly in relation to the immune system and functional disorders linked to muscle loss, bone breakdown or nerve depletion. In addition, this large-scale facility allows a fundamental analysis of how biosystems, at the cellular level, perceive and adapt to gravity.

Working with altered gravity

Research carried out in the microgravity research laboratory examines how cell cultures, single-celled organisms and small plants and animals react to altered gravitational conditions. The equipment available here has mostly been devised in-house with special technical features enabling experimental possibilities that are unique within Europe. The laboratory's capabilities are built on the scientific and technical expertise of the institute's Department of Gravitational Biology.

Within this facility it is possible to artificially alter the effective force of gravity and thus simulate weightlessness, lower gravity or higher gravity. Researchers can thus explore the basics of gravitational biology or potential biotechnological applications such as 3D tissue engineering or spheroid cell formation. Data obtained on the ground can then be validated by experiments in real microgravity conditions, whether in the drop tower, in parabolic flight, with sounding rockets, on board the ISS (in the Biolab) or on board satellites (such as DLR's Eu:CROPIS mission).

As gravity is the only environmental stimulus that has fundamentally affected the evolution of all living beings, the focus of this research is to study the processes whereby cells perceive gravity, react to altered gravity and adapt to different gravitational conditions. A better understanding of the signalling pathways of cells is an area of particular emphasis.

Ultimately, the goal of the research is to develop methods for maintaining the health of astronauts who are exposed to microgravity conditions. These findings should also contribute to the development of measures to counter functional disorders and degeneration of the muscular, bone, nervous and immune systems that can occur due to both weightlessness and immobilisation.


Volker Speelmann

Head of Research Infrastructures
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Executive Board department for Innovation, Transfer and Research Infrastructure
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne

Jens Hauslage

Gravitational Biology
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Aerospace Medicine
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne