The German space industry and space science can look back on a successful decade. Both in Europe and world-wide, Germany has won a reputation as a reliable supplier of fine technology, and a welcome co-operation partner. For many years and in many fields, moreover, German space technology has been making essential contributions towards enhancing our standard of living, progress in science, and security in Germany and Europe. It has become an engine of our country’s economic development and an important factor in promoting Germany as a business location.
The German Space Agency is guided by a number of overarching objectives derived from its statutory mandate and the political targets set by the Federal Government's space strategy. We serve these objectives by implementing programmes and missions in:
In their coalition agreement of 2009, the governing parties firmly announced a redirection of Germany's space policy: German space activities need clear-cut objectives. For that purpose, it was decided to develop a space strategy stating clear mission and technology objectives within a year. In November of 2010 the Federal Cabinet adopted a space strategy entitled "Making Germany’s Space Sector Fit for the Future", which was presented to the expert public on December 1, 2010.
The Raumfahrtaufgabenübertragungsgesetz (RAÜG, Act on Space Science and Technology Mandating) provides the legal basic rules for this strategy. It mandates DLR as an agency to plan Germany’s space activities and represent Germany's space interests at the international level, particularly vis-à-vis ESA. Based on the RAÜG, the German Space Administration awards orders and remits funds for proposed space projects under the National Space Programme. Its tasks range from counselling applicants, making funding decisions, down to facilitating technology transfers.
Augmenting the common benefit of space technology
The German Space Agency rates projects by their scientific excellence and economic efficiency. Projects contributing towards solving global challenges are considered increasingly important, as we intend to respond to new challenges and offer solutions for them more rapidly. In this regard, one of our major tasks is to involve all stakeholders in a dialogue about the future of space science and technology, for which we need to present a transparent account of DLR’s activities and those of the German space industry as a whole. For this purpose, the German Space Agency works to keep politicians, scientists, industry, the media, and the public informed about its activities.
Guaranteeing scientific excellence
Today, we live in a knowledge-based society, and our country’s future depends to some degree on the cognitive capabilities of every individual. Knowledge has become the strategic resource of the 21st century. The contest for the best brains is in progress. Only excellent national competencies will enable Germany to hold its own in European co-operation as well as in international competition as an eminent business nation with a high standard of living, an intact public welfare system, and effective internal and external security. The soil on which all this must grow consists of excellent scientific research and a systematic promotion of young researchers.
Science conducted in space offers new insights into the nature and development of our Solar System and the Universe. It creates new opportunities to verify fundamental questions in physics, such as the Theory of Relativity, and it provides us with fresh knowledge about the influence of gravity on biological, medical, and physical processes. Research under microgravity conditions is dedicated to human medicine and questions in biology, physics, and materials science.
However, space science also focuses on our own home planet, Earth: investigating our climate system, our atmosphere, the tropical rain forests, the oceans or the poles is indispensable if we are to understand and protect our eco-system to ensure its survival. Then again, excellent research can and should also be applied to launchers, satellites, and other components of the space infrastructure. With this in mind, the German Space Agency puts a special focus on funding projects of excellence in basic and applied research from which other disciplines may benefit.
Encouraging commercialisation and innovation
One important criterion of success stipulated by the Federal Government's space strategy is the extent to which space technologies are being commercially exploited. This policy aims at a whole range of fields of action, resulting, firstly, from extending the commercial exploitation of satellite data, and secondly, from applying space technologies in other sectors. A great variety of target groups that must be addressed in this context:
The German Space Agency plans to expand its activities in all three areas. Spaceflight, beyond being important to industry, science and politics in its own right, has always been a rich source of innovations and spin-offs, given that the extreme conditions prevailing in space fire up the creativity of engineers and scientists to the utmost.
Promoting technology developments and innovations and preparing their translation into marketable products or services is an increasingly important planning task in Germany's Space Programme. The intention is to see concrete applications derived from space technology to benefit as many industrial sectors and users as possible.
Increasing the efficiency of space investments
In the future, spaceflight activities will be judged far more than in the past by their ability to manage their budgets reliably and responsibly. The German Space Agency aims to award space technology grants based on the best cost-benefit ratio, thus underpinning the competitiveness of Germany's space industry in technological as well as financial terms.
Related aspects include calculating the cost of space missions, using valid pre-investment studies so that any technical and financial risks can be assessed reliably and in good time, ensuring stringent cost engineering, long-range software and hardware quality control, and the capability to deliver valuable data until the very end of the mission. Where satellites are concerned, sustainability demands that there should be a possibility to dispose of them safely in compliance with the international Code of Conduct. We will look for intelligent engineering solutions for complex space projects and develop and establish up-to-date operating scenarios.
Strengthening co-operation and winning new partners
Long-term co-operation on the national and international level is an important success factor for safeguarding the long-term future of Germany as a business location as well as of the European Economic Area as a whole. The German Space Agency contributes towards this by maintaining a closely-knit community of high-technology experts in Germany and by co-operating with partner countries, particularly the ESA member states.
One constant challenge in this regard is finding and involving new partners from academia and the business world for whom space science and technology might hold new potential, and actively fostering and organising networks. Meanwhile the German Space Agency has launched a number of new initiatives in this field.
Recruiting and promoting young talent
For a long time, space has been very helpful in countering recruiting shortages particularly for scientific and technical occupations. After all, there is hardly another discipline that has the same potential as astronautics to inspire young people with enthusiasm for science and technology. Consequently, the German Space Agency will continue to promote education in schools and research in universities.