Knowledge for tomorrow


DLR is a German Space Agency that’s in many ways much closer to NASA than it is to ESA. Much like NASA it’s dedicated not only to space research, but also, perhaps more importantly, aeronautics. DLR stands for “Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt”, German Center for Air- and Space Flight.

DLR has the largest fleet of research aircraft in Europe, its own ground station and mission control, solar thermal power plant and a number of other facilities, many of which are listed on the map below. DLR also participated in a long list of space missions in cooperation with various space agencies, mostly ESA, but also NASA, JAXA, and others.

DLR’s primary research areas

  • Aeronautics
    Digitisation of aviation, material science, innovative propulsion, air traffic management, flight research etc.
  • Space
    ISS research, individual space missions, climate research, space transportation, telerobotics, etc.
  • Energy
    Renewable energy sources, energy storage, alternative fuels, power grid management etc.
  • Transportation
    Sustainable transportation, autonomous driving, emissions, traffic management, automotive industry, etc.
  • Digitization
    Connectivity, big data processing, networked transport networks, robotics in manufacturing, etc.
  • Defence & Security
    Crisis management, maritime security, airport security, etc.

DLR Space Administration

Administrative building. Also includes DLR Projektträger, DLR Project Management Agency, which provides management of polices, programmes and projects to a number of internal and external entities.

DLR Headquarters

Primarily spaceflight and aviation research. Facilitates number of wind tunnels, engine and material testing facilities and notably a Xenon High-Flux Solar Simulator. European Transonic Wind Tunnel  is located in the same complex, along with ESA’s European Astronaut Centre.

DLR Neustrelitz

Research site for satellite navigation, notably GMES and Galileo, and remote sensing. Facilities include a DEMMIN test site, which is dedicated for remote sensing, data center, and a 4 systems of radio-telescopes.

DLR ground station Weilheim

Ground station used to communicate with the satellites. Equipped for both: Deep-space and near-space communications in L, S, X, Ku and Ka-band. Telescopes range in size from 4,5m to 30m. Each antenna is operated independently, supporting number of missions 24 hours / 7 days a week. Ground station is connected with nearby Oberpfaffenhofen site.

DLR Augsburg

Center dedicated to material sciences. It includes two major facilities: The Lightweight-Production-Technology, which is a research facility dedicated to the development of production methods for various lightweight materials used in aerospace, such as carbon fiber. And the Institute of Test and Simulation for Gas Turbines, which is focusing on research of the aviation engines.

DLR Oberpfaffenhofen

One of the largest research centers in Germany. Number of key facilities is located here, notably German Space Operations Center controlling a number of spacecrafts, space experiments, planning missions and monitoring space debris along with issuing warnings and correcting orbits. Customers and partners using GSOC include ESA, NASA, EUTELSAT or TV-SAT. Facilities on site also include Robotics and Mechatronics Center which is leading research facility of its kind in Europe, German Remote Sensing Data Center, Remote Sensing Technology Institute, Galileo Control Center, and several other.

DLR Stuttgart

Branch in Stuttgart is composed of a number of institutes: Structures and Design, Vehicle Concepts, Technical Physics, Engineering Thermodynamics, Combustion Technology, and the Solar Research. Additionally Systemhaus Technik provides scientists with a number of services, such as additive manufacturing, precision manufacturing, engineering services, production studies, as well as experimental support.

Institute of Space Propulsion Lampoldshausen

Europe’s largest liquid rocket test site. All the European liquid rocket engines for the launch vehicles were tested in Lampoldshausen. Site contains a number of test stands and various facilities dedicated to the development testing and certification of the liquid rocket engines. The latest addition to the Institute is the P5.2 test rig, which allows for testing of the entire upper stages, including fueling and hot firing. It’s used to test upper stage of the Ariane 6.

DLR Institute of Data Science in Jena

Funded in 2017 institute dedicated to big data processing.

DLR Jülich

Site dedicated to solar research. Includes Jülich Solar Tower, a large scale experimental concentrated solar power plant, built on an area of 18 ha it’s capable of generating peak power of 1500 kW.

DLR Institute of Software Methods in Dresden

Opened in August 2017 this new institute is dedicated to the development of the product virtualization in aviation, allowing for earlier tests of hardware in virtual environment, before committing to the actual hardware testing.

DLR Göttingen

Site dedicated to aviation and traffic engineering. It includes 3 major institutes (Aerodynamics and Flow Technology, Aeroelasticity and Propulsion Technology), a number of wind tunnels built and operated by DNW (German-Deutch Wind Tunnels) including Transsonic Windtunnel Göttingen, and a number of test stands for experimental research.

DLR Braunschweig

Located at the research airport this site contains a number of facilities dedicated to aerospace and automotive research, land and air-traffic management, number of experimental test stands, airworthiness testing, Rail Site for testing of the railway components and a number of other facilities. There’s 6 institutes located on site: Aerodynamics and Flow Technology, Air Transport and Airport Research, Composite Structures and Adaptive Systems, Flight Guidance, Flight Systems, and the Transportation Systems.

DLR Institute for Planetary Research in Berlin-Adlershof

Site dedicated to planetary sciences plays a key role in a number of missions, such as now-completed Cassini-Huygens and Rosetta or an ongoing Mars Express. It’s closest partners include ESA, NASA and Italian space agency ASI.

DLR Trauen

Remote site with access to the German military airport Fassberg played a historical role in development of the European rocket engines. Nowadays it’s devoted to jet engine research, spacecraft reentry testing (notably THERMEX-A and -G test stands), as well as an extensive facilities for research and testing in aviation firefighting technology.

DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen

Institute designs, evaluates and develops variety of components used on a number of spacecrafts and launchers. Its wide portfolio includes everything from life support systems, through asteroid lander MASCOT to spacecraft trajectory calculations. Some of the best known concepts developed in Bremen institute include Spaceliner and Liquid Fly-Back Boosters for Ariane 5. Among numerous facilities one can find TRON (Testbed for Robotic Optical Navigation), EDEN (which we covered in the article about the Moon Village, currently in Antarctica) and a nearby 146m high ZARM drop tower operated by the University of Bremen, the highest drop tower in Europe.

Institute of Networked Energy Systems in Oldenburg

An institute dedicated to the research in renewable energy and decentralization of both: power production and heating.

DLR Hamburg

This site contains two major institutes: Institute for Aerospace Medicine and the Institute of Air Transportation Systems. The former conducts selection and training of both: aviation personnel and astronauts. The latter conducts design and evaluation of various air transportation systems, including their role and impact on the whole aviation industry.

DLR Stade research facility

Operated by the Center for Lightweight Production Technology this facility consists of the DLR Institute of Composite Structures and Adaptive Systems and the Center for Lightweight Production Technology. It contains a large-scale multi-functional facilities for production of the components made of carbon-fibre reinforced polymers, autoclaves, number of robots supporting fully automated manufacturing and other.

Institute for the Protection of Maritime Infrastructures

Opened in June 2017 this institute is dedicated to the research in maritime security and safety as well as resilience of maritime systems. Resilience research studies relationships between various systems in relation to the security and defence concerns. Facility is located in one of the Ports of Bremen, a large network of ports bringing over 60 million tons of goods into Europe each year.


Alexander Gerst

While being an ESA scientist, DLR is actively participating in Gert’s missions, participating in 41 german experiments during Expeditions 56/57 and operating the ISS Columbus module from German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen.

With the Horizons mission, I want to make people realise that there is always a chance to go beyond their personal horizons, doing something that they have never done before. For me, becoming the Space Station commander for the first time was a learning experience and something that I had to work hard for. It might be scary at the beginning, but then you grow into that position. And at the end, you realise that it was much easier than you thought.
Alexander Gerst

Astronaut, Geophysicis


9.6kg lander delivered to the asteroid 162173 Ryugu by the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft. It carries spectrometer (for determining surface composition), radiometer (temperature) magnetometer (magnetic field) and a wide-angle camera. It’s unique in being the first lander to be able to move on an asteroid. It will do this by hopping on a surface by swinging a 120g mass on an arm with a brushless motor, somewhat similarly to the way smartphone vibrates.

Space Liner

Probably DLR’s most ambitions concept – large, 65.6m long, fully reusable two-stage-to-orbit spaceplane allowing for both: space point-to-point travel and a cheap satellite launch platform. In its reference design it offers passenger and satellite launch modules. A passenger platform can carry 50 people and additional 2 crew members up to 80 km, reaching Australia in only 90 minutes, or up to 100 passengers in shorter, 60 minute transpacific or Europe-China, routes. Cargo module allows for launching super-heavy 8.25 tonne satellites into Geostationary Transfer Orbit from French Guiana. It requires no exotic technologies, plans for 25 reuses, and offers escape system for the passenger module in case a launch failure.
Below you can see a photograph of a scale model we’ve seen on ILA 2018.

Next Generation Train

NGT is a research programme into the future of railway transportation by designing a family of 3 trains – Cargo, Link (inter-city) and HST (High Speed Train) along with number of associated systems. Aim is to increase train speed by 25% while at the same time lowering energy consumption by 50%, lowering cabin and external noise, vibrations, increasing safety and implementing modular design and decreasing manufacturing costs. Those extremely ambitious goals wouldn’t be possible without implementing latest technologies from both: automotive and aerospace industries, something DLR is uniquely positioned to achieve. Wide range of this study goes way beyond what can be described in this short overview, but it’s probably the most interesting initiative in railway industry.