Exploration and Propulsion Systems

The workgroup „Exploration and Propulsion Systems” studies manned and unmanned exploration of space beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Current focus is on the development of key technologies to support the construction of a future international lunar base and the utilization of space near the Moon.

The main research areas of the group are:

  • Propulsion systems for small satellites and space probes: Investigation and development of innovative propulsion concepts for cost-effective and flexible CubeSat missions beyond Low Earth Orbit. These propulsion systems shall allow high velocity changes, for example for self-propelled trajectories to the Moon or adjustments of orbital parameters.
  • Utilization of local resources: In-Space Resource Utilization (ISRU), such as processing the regolith of the lunar surface, enables substantial reductions of transport costs and a more flexible expansion of infrastructures on other planetary bodies without supply from Earth. The group develops processes and technologies, such as methods for additive manufacturing of structures from local mineral raw materials and for utilization of other resources, such as metals and water.
  • Lunar Science: The Moon itself represents a study subject for space sciences, but due to its unique features it is also an ideal location for scientific instruments and experiments such as telescopes. For these purposes, the group develops concepts for high-performance and cost effective science missions. The mission concepts build upon results from ISRU and propulsion research at the Institute of Space Systems.

The activities are integrated into the work of the institute`s other groups and into national and international research projects. That participation allows to take part in the creation of the global space exploration roadmap and the identification of state-of-the art research topics.