The preservation and expansion of the space ecosystem is the central goal of the ION project. The targeted pooling of expertise from the three DLR research fields of space, aeronautics and security, particularly in the areas of robotics and automation, satellite operations, detection, positioning and evaluation of large space debris, as well as maintenance and repair from aeronautics, will make a significant contribution to orbital sustainability by the development of new operational processes. The individual contributions not only build on each other logically, but are also technically coordinated and flow into a joint demonstrator system.
• Raumflugbetrieb und Astronautentraining (DLR)
• Institut für Solar-Terrestrische Physik (DLR)
• Institut für Technische Physik (DLR)
• Institut für Systemdynamik und Regelungstechnik (DLR)
• Institut für Instandhaltung und Modifikation (DLR)
• Institut für Optische Sensorsysteme (DLR)
• Institut für Robotik und Mechatronik (DLR)
Technology developments are being carried out to support sustainability and circular economy in orbit. The following activities are of general interest: in the short term, space debris removal, life extension and inspection; in the mid-term, repair, payload retrofit and on-orbit assembly; in the long term, recycling and orbital depots. A white paper on sustainability and circular economy in orbit is being prepared, in which the short, medium and long-term achievable goals are analyzed and missing technologies and framework conditions are identified. Efforts are also being made to incorporate ecological criteria into the technical design and operational life cycle of satellites.
Technologies for the identification and charachterization of space debris, from ground and from space, as well as for the modeling of atmospheric drag in relation to solar activity, are being developed for purpose of debris removal mission planning. Robotic and satellite technologies for the rendezvous and capture of known or unknown space debris objects are being developed, integrated and formally validated on ground with dedicated simulation and experimental facilities. These facilities aim at reproducing a representative orbital environment to provide a means of on-ground testing in preparation for a space mission.