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The German Aerospace Center (DLR) ( ) is the national centre for aerospace, energy and transportation research of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has multiple locations throughout Germany. Its headquarters are located in Cologne. It is engaged in a wide range of research and development projects in national and international partnerships. In addition to conducting its own research projects, DLR also acts as the German space agency. As such, it is responsible for planning and implementing the German space programme on behalf of the German federal government. As project management agency, DLR also coordinates and answers for the technical and organisational implementation of projects funded by a number of German federal ministries.


DLR at Adlershof, Berlin in 2007
DLR currently employs about 6,200 people. It has 29 institutes and facilities, spread over 13 sites, as well as offices in Brussels, Paris and Washington, D.C. DLR has a budget of about 670 million euro to cover its own research and development activities as well as its operational tasks. Approximately one third of this sum comes from competitively allocated third-party funds (German: Drittmittel). In addition to this, DLR administers around 500 million euro in German funds for the European Space Agencymarker (ESA). In its capacity as project management agency, it manages over 650 million euro in funds earmarked for research in a wide range of fields on behalf of German federal ministries. DLR is a full member of the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS) and a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres (German: Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren).

In the context of DLR’s initiatives to promote young research talent, seven DLR School Labs were set up in Berlin-Adlershof, Göttingenmarker, Hamburg-Harburg, Lampoldshausen/Stuttgart, Cologne-Porz, Oberpfaffenhofenmarker and Dortmundmarker over the past years. In the DLR_School_Labs, school pupils can become acquainted with the practical aspects of natural and engineering sciences by conducting interesting experiments.

The members of the DLR Executive Board are:
  • Prof. Dr.-Ing. Johann-Dietrich Wörner (Chairman) since March 2007
  • Klaus Hamacher (Vice Chairman) since April 2006
  • Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Reiter (Executive Board member for space research and development) since October 2007
  • Prof. Dr. Joachim Szodruch (Executive Board member) since 2002
  • Dr. Ludwig Baumgarten (Executive Board member) since April 2002


German space institutes
Years Name Abbr.
-1969 Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt "Aerodynamic Experimental Station" AVA
1927 Verein für Raumschiffahrt e.V.
"Association of Space-Flight Reg.
1947-1948 Arbeitsgemeinschaft Weltraumfahrt "Consortium on Space Flight"
1948-1972 Gesellschaft für Weltraumforschung "Society for Space Research" GfW
1969-1989 Deutsche Forschungs- und Versuchsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt "German Test and Research Institute for Aviation and Space Flight" DFVLR
1989-1997 Deutsche Agentur für Raumfahrtangelegenheiten German Aerospace Agency DARA
1989-1997 Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) "German Research Institute for Aviation and Space Flight" DLR
1997-Present Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt "German Center for Aviation and Space Flight"
German Aerospace Center
1970-Present Institut für Raumfahrtsysteme Institute for Space systems IRS

The modern DLR was created in 1997, but was the culmination of over half a dozen space, aerospace, and research institutes from across the 20th century.

The oldest predecessor organization of DLR was established by Ludwig Prandtl in Göttingen in 1907. This Modellversuchsanstalt der Motorluftschiff-Studiengesellschaft (MLStG; German for "Institute for Testing of Aerodynamic Models of the Powered Airship Society") later became the Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt (German for "Aerodynamics Laboratory" or "Aerodynamic Experimental Station").

In 1947 the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Weltraumfahrt ("Consortium on Space Flight") was formed, leading to the Gesellschaft für Weltraumforschung (GfW; German for "Society for Space Research") being formed in 1948.

What was later called the DLR was formed in 1969 as the Deutsche Forschungs- und Versuchsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DFVLR; German for "German Test and Research Institute for Aviation and Space Flight") through the merger of several institutions. These were the Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt (AVA), the Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt (DVL; German for "German Laboratory for Aviation"), the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Luftfahrt (DFL; German for "German Research Institute for Aviation") and (in 1972) the Gesellschaft für Weltraumforschung (GfW; German for "Society for Space Research").

In 1989, the DFVLR was renamed Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR; German for "German Research Institute for Aviation and Space Flight"). Also in 1989, the Deutsche Agentur für Raumfahrtangelegenheiten (DARA; German for "German Agency for Space Flight Affairs") was created.

Following the merger with the Deutsche Agentur für Raumfahrtangelegenheiten (DARA; German for "German Agency for Space Flight Affairs") on 1 October 1997, the name was changed to "Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt" (DLR), literally meaning "German Center for Aviation and Space Flight". The shorter translation "German Aerospace Center" is used in English-language publications.

Other German space organizations include the Institut für Raumfahrtsysteme (IRS; Institute for Space Systems), founded in 1970. Also, significant contributions are made to the European Space Organization.


DLR’s mission comprises the exploration of the Earth and the solar system, as well as research aimed at protecting the environment and developing environmentally compatible technologies, and at promoting mobility, communication and security. DLR’s research portfolio, which covers the four focus areas Aeronautics, Space, Transportation and Energy, ranges from basic research to innovative applications. DLR operates large-scale research centres, both for the benefit of its own projects and as a service for its clients and partners from the worlds of business and science.

The objective of DLR’s aeronautics research is to strengthen the competitive advantage of the national and European aeronautical industry and aviation sector, and to meet political and social demands – for instance with regard to climate-friendly aviation. German space research activities range from experiments under conditions of weightlessness to the exploration of other planets and environmental monitoring from space. In addition to these activities, DLR performs tasks of public authority pertaining to the planning and implementation of the German space programme, in its capacity as the official space agency of the Federal Republic of Germany. DLR’s Project Management Agency (German: Projektträger im DLR) has also been entrusted with tasks of public authority pertaining to the administration of subsidies. In the field of energy research, DLR is working on highly efficient, low-CO2 power generation technologies based on gas turbines and fuel cells, on solar thermal power generation, and on the efficient use of heat, including cogeneration based on fossil and renewable energy sources. The topics covered by DLR’s transportation research are maintaining mobility, protecting the environment and saving resources, and improving transportation safety.

In addition to the already existing projects Mars Express, global navigation satellite system Galileo, and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, the Institute of Space Systems (German: Institut für Raumfahrtsysteme) was founded in Bremen on 26 January 2007. In the future, 80 scientists and engineers will be doing research into topics such as space mission concepts, satellite development and propulsion technology.

HRSC on board Mars Express

The High Resolution Stereo Camera HRSC is the most important German contribution to the European Space Agency ESA’s Mars Express Mission. It is the first digital stereo camera that also generates multispectral data and that has a very high resolution lens. The camera records images of the Martian surface which form the basis for a large number of scientific studies. With the HRSC, which was developed at the German Aerospace Center’s Institute of Planetary Research (German: Institut für Planetenforschung), it is possible to analyse details no larger than 10 to 30 metres in three dimensions.

Remote sensing of the Earth

In remote sensing of the Earth, satellites provide comprehensive and continually updated information on "System Earth". This remote sensing data is used to investigate the Earth’s atmosphere, land and ocean surfaces, and ice sheets. Practical applications of this technology include environmental monitoring and disaster relief.

Following the Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004marker, for instance, up-to-date maps could be compiled very quickly using Earth observation satellites. These maps could then be used for orientation during relief missions. DLR conducts these research activities at the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) (German: Deutsches Fernerkundungsdatenzentrum), a DLR institute based in Oberpfaffenhofen. Nowadays, satellite data is also important for climate research: it is used to measure temperatures, CO2 levels, particulate matter levels, rainforest deforestation and the radiation conditions of the Earth’s surface (land, oceans, polar ice).


The new German Earth observation satellite TerraSAR-X was launched in June 2007. The objective of this five-year mission is to provide radar remote sensing data to scientific and commercial users. The satellite’s design is based on the technology and expertise developed in the X-SAR and SRTM SAR missions (Synthetic Aperture Radar). The sensor has a number of different modes of operation, with a maximum resolution of one metre, and is capable of generating elevation profiles.

TerraSAR-X is the first satellite that was jointly paid for by government and industry. DLR contributed about 80 percent of the total expenses, with the remainder being covered by EADS Astrium. The satellite's core component is a radar sensor operating in the X band and capable of recording the Earth’s surface using a range of different modes of operation, capturing an area of 10 to 100 kilometres in size with a resolution of 1 to 16 metres.

Research aircraft

SOFIA's maiden flight on 26 April 2007
DLR operates Europe’s largest fleet of research aircraft. The aircraft are used both as research objects and as research tools. DLR’s research aircraft provide platforms for all kinds of research missions. Scientists and engineers can use them for practical, application-oriented purposes: Earth observation, atmospheric research or testing new aircraft components. DLR is for instance investigating wing flutter and possible ways of eliminating it, which would also help to reduce aircraft noise. So-called "flying simulators" can be used to simulate the flight performance of aircraft that have not been built yet. This method was for instance used to test the Airbus A380 in the early stages of its development. The VFW 614 ATTAS was used to test several systems. .

The high-altitude research aircraft HALO (High Altitude and Long Range Research Aircraft) will be used for atmospheric research and Earth observation from 2009. With a cruising altitude of more than 15 kilometres and a range of over 8,000 kilometres, HALO will provide for the first time the capability to gather data on a continental scale, at all latitudes, from the tropics to the poles, and at altitudes as high as the lower stratosphere.

The Airbus A320-232 D-ATRA, the latest and largest addition to the fleet, has been in use by the German Aerospace Center since late 2008. ATRA (Advanced Technology Research Aircraft) is a modern and flexible flight test platform which sets a new benchmark for flying test beds in European aerospace research – and not just because of its size.

DLR and NASAmarker jointly operate the flying infrared telescope SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomymarker). A Boeing 747SP with a modified fuselage enabling it to carry a reflecting telescope developed in Germany is used as an airborne research platform. The aircraft is operated by the Dryden Flight Research Center at Site 9(USAF Plant 42) in Palmdale, California. Observation flights will be flown 3 or 4 nights a week, for up to eight hours at a time and at an altitude of 12 to 14 kilometres. SOFIA has been designed to remain operational for a period of 20 years. It is the successor to the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO), which was deployed from 1974 to 1995.

Emissions research

DLR conducts research into CO2 and noise emissions caused by air transport. In order to ensure that increasing traffic volumes do not lead to an increase in the noise pollution caused by air transport, DLR is investigating options for noise reduction. The "Low-noise Approach and Departure Procedures" research project (German: Lärmoptimierte An- und Abflugverfahren), for instance, forms part of the national research project "Quiet Traffic" (German: Leiser Verkehr). The objective of this project is to find flight procedures that can reduce the amount of noise generated during takeoff and landing. One approach is to analyse noise propagation at ground level during takeoff using a large number of microphones. Researchers are also trying to reduce the noise at source, focusing for instance on airframe and engine noise. They hope to minimise noise generated in the engines using so-called "antinoise".

The German Aerospace Center's research work on CO2 emissions caused by air transport focuses for instance on model calculations concerning the effects of converting the global aircraft fleet to hydrogen propulsion. The growth rates of aviation are above average. This raises the question if CO2 emission-free hydrogen propulsion could perhaps limit the effects of growing air traffic volumes on the environment and the climate.

Hydrogen as an energy carrier

The Hydrosol and Hydrosol-2 is one of the energy research projects in which DLR scientists are engaged. For the first time, scientists have achieved thermal water splitting using solar energy, generating hydrogen and oxygen without CO2 emissions. For this achievement, the DLR team and several other research groups received the Descartes Prize, a research award created by the European Commission. The FP6 Hydrosol II pilot reactor (around 100kW) for solar thermochemical hydrogen production at the Plataforma Solar de Almeríamarker in Spainmarker started in November 2005 and is in operation since 2008.

Soccer traffic

During the 2006 FIFA World Cup football championship, DLR implemented the Soccer project aimed at preventing traffic congestion. In this transportation research project, traffic data was obtained from the air in Berlin, Stuttgart and Cologne and used as input for traffic forecasting. A sensor system combining a conventional and a thermographic camera was used to obtained the data. A zeppelin, an aeroplane and a helicopter served as flying research platforms. An image analysis software package generated aerial photos showing the current traffic parameters as well as traffic forecasts. In this way, traffic control centres could be provided with almost real-time traffic information, and road users could be diverted whenever necessary.

Solar tower power plant

In 2007, the first commercially operated solar tower power plant, the PS10 solar power towermarker, was commissioned. It has a capacity of eleven megawatt and it is located near Sevilla, in Sanlúcar la Mayormarker (Spain). DLR is prominently involved in developing the technology for this type of power plant. In solar tower power plants, sun-tracking mirrors (heliostats) redirect the solar radiation onto a central heat exchanger (receiver) on top of a tower. This generates high-temperature process heat, which can then be used in gas or steam turbine power plants to generate electrical power for the public electricity grid. In the future, solar thermal tower plant technology could also be used to generate solar fuels, such as hydrogen, without CO2 emissions.


DLR operates the Columbus Control Center in Oberpfaffenhofenmarker, Germanymarker. It is responsible for the coordination of scientific activities as well as for systems operations and life support on board the orbiting Columbus laboratory.

In February 2008, the Columbus laboratory, Europe’s core contribution to the International Space Station ISS, was brought into space by the Space Shuttle and docked to the ISS. The cylindrical module, which has a diameter of 4.5 m (14.8 feet), contains state-of-the-art scientific equipment. It is planned to enable researchers on Earth to conduct thousands of experiments in biology, materials science, fluid physics and many other fields under conditions of weightlessness in space.

Astronomical surveys

The Uppsala-DLR Trojan Survey (UDTS) was a search for asteroids near Jupiter in the 1990s, in collaboration with the Swedish Uppsala Astronomical Observatorymarker. When it concluded there was another survey, the UAO-DLR Asteroid Survey, this time with a focus on Near Earth asteroids and both surveys discovered numerous objects.


DLR is present in Germany at thirteen locations:

  • Berlin-Adlershof
    • Institute for Planetary Research (Institut für Planetenforschung)
    • Institute for Transport Research (Institut für Verkehrsforschung)
    • Optische Informationssysteme
    • Cluster Angewandte Fernerkundung
    • Projektträger im DLR - Informationstechnik
    • Institut für Raumfahrtsysteme, Abt. Systemkonditionierung
    • DLR_School_Lab
  • Räumlich integriert in TU Berlin
    • Institut für Antriebstechnik, Abt. Triebwerksakustik
  • Berlin-Charlottenburg
  • Berlin-Carnot-Strasse
    • Projektträger im DLR - Arbeitsgestaltung und Dienstleistung
  • Bonn-Oberkassel
    • Space Agency (Raumfahrt-Agentur)
    • Projektträger Luftfahrtforschung und -technologie
    • Projektträger im DLR
    • Internationales Büro des BMBF, verfolgt das Ziel, die internationale Vernetzung deutscher Hochschulen, Forschungseinrichtungen und Unternehmen auszubauen
    • EUREKA/COST-Büro
    • EU-Büro des BMBF
  • Bad Godesberg
    • Projektträger im DLR

    • Flugbetriebe
    • Institut für Aerodynamik und Strömungstechnik
    • Institut für Faserverbundleichtbau und Adaptronik
    • Institut für Flugführung
    • Institut für Flugsystemtechnik
    • Institut für Verkehrssystemtechnik
    • Simulations- und Softwaretechnik
    • Deutsch-Niederländische Windkanäle (DNW)

  • Institut für Raumfahrtsysteme

    • Institut für Aerodynamik und Strömungstechnik
    • Institut für Aeroelastik
    • Institut für Antriebstechnik, Abt. Turbinentechnologie
    • Deutsch-Niederländische Windkanäle (DNW)
    • DLR_School_Lab

    • Abteilung Luft- und Raumfahrtpsychologie (neben Forschung auch an Auswahl der Astronauten und Lufthansamarker-Piloten beteiligt)
    • Institut für Luft- und Raumfahrtmedizin
    • Forschungsstelle Lufttransportsysteme und technologiebewertung
    • DLR_School_Lab

    • Board of Directors (Vorstand)
    • Flughafenwesen und Luftverkehr
    • Institut für Antriebstechnik
    • Institut für Luft- und Raumfahrtmedizin
    • Institut für Materialphysik im Weltraum
    • Institut für Werkstoff-Forschung
    • Institut für Aerodynamik und Strömungstechnik, Abt. Windkanäle Köln
    • Institut für Technische Thermodynamik, Abt. Solarforschung
    • Raumflugbetrieb und Astronautentraining
    • Simulations- und Softwaretechnik
    • Zentrum für Erstarrung Unterkühlter Schmelzen (ZEUS)
    • DLR_School_Lab
    • Deutsch-Niederländische Windkanäle (DNW)

    • Institut für Raumfahrtantriebe
    • Außenstelle des Instituts für Technische Physik


    • Applied Remote Sensing Cluster
    • Space Operations and Astronaut Training
    • German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD)
    • Flugbetriebe
    • Microwaves and Radar Institute (Institut für Hochfrequenztechnik und Radarsysteme)
    • Institute of Communications and Navigation (Institut für Kommunikation und Navigation)
    • Institut für Methodik der Fernerkundung
    • Institute of Atmospheric Physics (Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre)
    • Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics (Institut für Robotik und Mechatronik)
    • Raumfahrtkontrollzentrum / German Space Operations Center (GSOC)
    • DLR_School_Lab

    • Institut für Bauweisen- und Konstruktionsforschung
    • Institut für Fahrzeugkonzepte
    • Institut für Technische Physik
    • Institut für Technische Thermodynamik
    • Institut für Verbrennungstechnik
    • DLR_School_Lab


Weilheimmarker (Oberbayern)

Research aircraft

The VFW 614 used by the DLR for ATTAS in the 1990s


  3. Experimental Cockpit
  4. Hydrosol II
  5. DLR scientists achieve solar hydrogen production in a 100-kilowatt pilot plant

External links

Further reading

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