Since its founding in 1959 by space pioneer, Professor Eugen Sänger, the DLR (German Aerospace Centre) in Lampoldshausen has been testing liquid rocket engines as part of European space programmes. The first large-scale test facilities for development and acceptance tests for the third stage of the initial European EUROPA launcher rocket were built at the 52-ha premises in the mid-1960s. Right from the start, the DLR has acquired special skills in rocket engine tests under high-altitude conditions, known as altitude simulation systems.
The Institute of Space Propulsion has been involved with the European ARIANE launcher rocket programmes since 1973, with one major highlight coming in 1990, when Germany’s largest rocket test facility, the P5, commenced operation. It was designed for tests conducted on engines from the VULCAIN ARIANE 5 main-stage engine family, which are operated using liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Most of the tests on the P5 are performed in ground conditions, and are known as “Sea Level Tests”. In the standard configuration of the facility, special test configurations do not simulate any altitude conditions.
The P4.1 test facility, the world’s most modern altitude simulation test facility for cryogenic upper-stage engines, has been in operation in Lampoldshausen since 2005. This test facility was developed and built by the DLR Lampoldshausen for the ESA. In addition to tasks based on European astronautics, the Institute of Space Propulsion also designs, constructs and operates test facilities like the P1 and P8 for the DLR’s own purposes.