Helmholtz Association

Research Field Aeronautics, Space and Transport

Mobility, information, communication, managing the resources as well as environment and security are decisive factors for the economic, ecological and social development of modern national economics.


The scientists involved in aeronautics, space and transport research address the major challenges of society in the fields of mobility, information systems, communication, resource management, the environment and safety.

Der Niedergeschwindigkeits-Windkanal in Braunschweig. Bild: DLR

The scientists involved in aeronautics, space and transport research address the major challenges facing our society in the fields of mobility, information systems, communication, resource management, the environment and safety. They develop concepts and solutions and provide advice for policymakers. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is Germany’s national centre for aeronautics and aerospace research. On behalf of the German government and in its capacity as the German space agency, the DLR is responsible for research within the framework of the national aerospace programme and for Germany’s contribution to the European Space Agency (ESA).

The Helmholtz DLR@UNI Alliance provides a framework for content-based partnerships between universities and selected DLR facilities throughout Germany. At the same time, the DLR works closely with other Helmholtz research centres, particularly in the two areas of energy research and Earth and environmental research.

Furthermore, it collaborates with the private sector, one example being the TAMS project, funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. Together with Siemens and the various medium-sized companies involved in this project, the DLR has demonstrated how costs, emissions, noise and flight delays can be reduced by integrating ground and air-based systems at airports. Close cooperation with industry was also a cornerstone of the E-City Logistics project in the “model regions” of Berlin and Brandenburg. Supported by DHL and the Meyer & Meyer logistics company, this project focused on the pilot use of electric vehicles for urban delivery services.


In addition to the ever-evolving implementation of the previous research topics, the scientists in this research field will collaborate with industry on research projects devoted to aircraft simulation, next-generation rail-based vehicles and the development of robots. In mid-2011, the DLR established an internal maritime safety research group in order to pool and expand research at the various DLR institutes. The activities in this area are supported by a positively evaluated portfolio proposal “R&D and Real-Time Services for Maritime Safety” and are coordinated with the Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

Research Programmes


Goals of the programme are an increased capacity of the air transport system, greater cost-effectiveness, the reduction of aircraft noise and harmful emissions, the enhanced attractiveness for passengers and higher safety standards.

More details about Research Programme Aeronautics


The programme’s research topics include Earth observation, communications and navigation, space exploration, research under space conditions, space transport, space systems technology and robotics.

More details about Research Programme Space


The scientists in the transport programme aim to develop a modern transport system for people and goods that is sustainable over the long term from an economic, ecological and social perspective.

More details about Research Programme Transport

The Programmes in the Funding Period 2013-2018

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is the only Helmholtz centre in the field of aeronautics, space and transport research.

Scientists conduct research and collaborate in the following three programmes:

Research Programmes


Scientists in DLR aeronautics research work on increasing the performance capability and economy of the air transport system, on reducing flight noise and harmful emissions and on guaranteeing safety. These goals are also targeted within the scope of European collaboration.

More details about Reserach Programme Aeronautics


Space research in Germany means R&D to provide direct benefits to the public and, simultaneously, inspiration for the future. In the Helmholtz programme Space, scientists observe the system earth, its processes and changes, they explore the solar system...

More details about Research Programme Space


The currently existing traffic system is largely overloaded and faces increasing difficulties absorbing the rising amount of traffic. This chronic overload increasingly jeopardises the competitiveness of the German and European economy...

More details about Research Programme Transport

Involved Helmholtz Centre

German Aerospace Centre

Insights into Research Field Aeronautics, Space and Transport

Here, we present projects currently being carried out by scientists at the Helmholtz Centres.

Europe's comit hunter probes the origins of life

First comet landing: On 12 November 2014, the Rosetta space probe set down its Philae lander on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, where the lander gathered data about the celestial body. Image: ESA-C. Carreau/ATG medialab

In recent months no other large-scale scientific project has drawn as much attention as the European Rosetta mission, which has been investigating one of the oldest, most primitive celestial bodies, the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The mission consists of an orbiter and the Philae lander. The DLR constructed key elements of the lander and the instruments it is carrying. It is also directing the Philae project and running the lander control centre. DLR scientists prepared the difficult and unprecedented landing on the comet and implemented it in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). The DLR Institute of Planetary Research is responsible for three lander instruments which are taking measurements that should provide insights into the origins of our solar system.

The spacecraft began its journey ten years ago, on 2 March 2004. While on route to its ultimate destination, the mother ship carried out several complex manoeuvres (taking it past Earth three times and once past Mars). These gave it sufficient momentum for the long haul out to the comet. In July 2011 Rosetta was put into sleep mode due to the fact that, at 800 million kilometres from the Sun, its solar cells could no longer generate sufficient electricity for important functions. On 20 January 2014 Rosetta was successfully woken up and in August 2014 it entered an orbit around the comet. The first measurements it took involved mapping the comet’s uneven surface in order to locate a suitable landing site. On 12 November the Philae lander separated from the mother ship and headed for the comet’s surface. However, on making initial ground contact, the lander bounced back off because its anchoring harpoons failed to trigger. After three hops the lander finally settled in what was initially an unknown position. Although it was able to begin taking measurements, its location in the shadow of a cliff meant that its solar collectors could not produce as much energy as hoped, and on 15 November it again went into sleep mode. There was consequently a great sense of relief on Earth when, on 13 June 2015, Philae reported back from its shadowy landing site and began sending data homeward.

Philae and Rosetta were accompanying the comet to the point where it passed closest to the sun in August 2015. At this stage in its mission, scientists are hoping to learn more about the origins of life, above all if they are able to detect amino acids in gas chromatograms.



High pressure to combat aircraft noise

Inlet of the air collection chamber at the DLR turbine testing facility with circular microphone antenna. Image: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Compressed air blown into an aircraft engine can significantly reduce rotor noise. DLR researchers have now developed a process that involves blowing air through several perforated rings behind the rotor. The air introduced in this fashion generates alternating forces that act on the guide vanes behind the main rotor and, provided the air supply is precisely controlled, result in active noise cancellation. In a world first, this development has enabled researchers to reduce the perceived volume of the particularly annoying rotor-stator noise by half.

Climate research above Brazil's rainforest

HALO with its nose mast in front of a thundercloud. Image: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Thunderclouds above the rainforest influence the climate. In autumn 2014 the DLR’s HALO research aircraft conducted measurements in Brazil’s Amazon region. As part of a collaborative project involving a number of German environmental and climate research institutions, HALO gathered data that will provide insights into how trace elements are transported up through these towering clouds and how burning off land influences cloud characteristics and precipitation. DLR researchers contributed to the project by providing measurements of trace gases, aerosols and ice particles.

Inspection tour with minimal luggage

The software developed by DLR researchers to check rail networks is operated using a device that fits into a small suitcase. Image: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Germany’s rail network needs to be monitored regularly. During these checks, lines need to be closed, which is laborious and costly for the railway operator. Transport researchers at the DLR have now found a way to pack the required measuring technology into a small suitcase. Equipped with a microphone, camera and sensors, this suitcase can be carried on normal trains and used, for example, to measure vibrations and noise levels. Damage to tracks can thereby be detected with far less effort than was previously required. Moreover, the software can be installed as a smart phone app that transmits location data to a server..

Tideland in three dimensions

The island of Sylt seen t hrough radar eyes, in this case using TerraSAR-X satellite. Image: DLR

Tides and rough weather bring constant change to the Wadden Sea, or Wattenmeer. Radar interferometry is helping researchers to trace the topography of this tideland. The data they are gathering are important both for monitoring this sensitive ecosystem and for shipping. The DLR has been commissioned by the Federal Institute of Hydrology to investigate how the tideland can be mapped from the air using radar. The advantage of using radar instead of laser measurements is that radar can scan a larger area during each flyover, which makes mapping 10 to 20 times faster.

Patches for polymers

Structures made of fibre-reinforced polymers can be repaired quickly and ef ficiently with the help of a mobile r epair station. Image: DLR/Frank Eppler

A new concept for repairing structures made of fibre-reinforced polymers could make such materials more economically viable in aircraft and vehicle manufacturing. The idea involves using a laser to remove damaged material and then applying a kind of band-aid by means of sheet metal warmed by induction. This method allows the patch to be pressed onto the affected areas using the effects of heat and pressure. Repairing damage to polymer structures has hitherto entailed their complete replacement. The repair concept was selected as one of the best innovations to be presented at the JEC Americas Composite Show & Conference in Houston, USA.

Virtual flight over the dwarf planet ceres

The surface of the dwarf planet, photographed on 23 May 2015 from the Dawn orbiter at a distance of 5,100 kilometres and with a resolution of 480
metres per pixel. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

On 6 June 2015, planetary researchers at the DLR released a film showing a scenic flight over the icy dwarf planet Ceres. The film was made using 80 photographs of Ceres taken from the Dawn orbiter. The virtual flight, which shows a planetary body more than 335 million kilometres from Earth, takes viewers across crater landscapes, light patches and extensive plains. The film-makers used the images of Ceres to create a three-dimensional terrain model, which is being refined as the mission progresses. DLR researchers are also respon- sible for producing cartographic surveys of the dwarf planet.


Prof. Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund

Research field coordinator Aeronautics, Space and Transport

German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Postal address:
51170 Köln

Phone: +49 2203 601-4201
Fax: +49 2203 64190
pascale.ehrenfreund (at) dlr.de

Olaf Kranz

Research Field Aeronautics, Space and Transport

Helmholtz Association

Phone: +49 30 206329-31
olaf.kranz (at) helmholtz.de