Recently I had the pleasure to visit the space centre for optics and science of the German company OHB in Oberpfaffenhofen, Bavaria, Germany. As the OHB group is known to be one of the top 3 space companies in Europe it was not too surprising that I was able to see many astonishing things during my visit.
Mainly optical systems and science instruments for satellites and the space station ISS are developed, assembled and tested at OHB Oberpfaffenhofen as the name of the centre is suggesting. One of the main projects is the development of the InfraRed Sounder IRS for the next generation of Meteosat satellites (called Meteosat Third Generation MTG). The InfraRed Sounder will be able to 3D map water vapor and other gases in the atmosphere of the Earth and monitor these also in time allowing more precize weather forecasts. Two of the 6 MTG satellites will carry such an IRS instrument. That instrument will be really huge I know as was allowed to have a detailed look at a 1:1 model of IRS during my visit at OHB.
I had the pleasure to have a look into the cleanroom where the IRS instruments will be assembled – via a window of the control room. Usually that is not allowed but who can really say „No“ to a little charming mouse like I am. That does not work. 😉
Obviously It was not allowed to take my camera into this room but I can tell you that it was really amazing to see specialists working on the real hardware.
Furthermore, I had the opportunity to look through a window into the big ISO-5 cleanroom at OHB in Oberpfaffenhofen. Here the main instrument for the satellite EnMAP (Environmental Mapping and Analysis Programme) will be assembled. EnMAP is an Earth observations satellite of the German Aerospace Agency DLR und is currently been set for launch in 2018. The main instrument is a spectrometer with 250(!) spectral channels covering the visual and near infrared spectral range. Due to that EnMAP is also called to be a hyperspectral satellite.
More information about the EnMAP satellite mission can be found here.
I also had the pleasure to visit the electronics lab of OHB. Great stuff was going on here as I was witness of a 3D printing process. I have recorded a short video about this. Please have a look here:
3D printing is really an amazing technology and it will be very important for the entire spaceflight business. You can print really complicated parts in one single piece like important components for rocket engines reducing the costs for producing these engines. 3D is also being tested on-board of the International Space Station ISS. 3D printing of replacement parts is an essential step necessary for opening manned spaceflight to cislunar space, Mars and beyond.
Apropos ISS: I was able to have a very close look at a very interesting experiment of ESA was was already attached twice to the exterior of the ISS. The experiment facility is called EXPOSE and is used to expose simple biological samples like seeds, spores, bacteria or microbes to the conditions of space. After the EXPOSE facility was returned to Earth changes of the samples due to conditions of space were analyzed.
The BIOPAN return capsule was used for similar purposes. Biological samples were exposed to space conditions during the mission of a Russian Foton satellite. The BIOPAN capsule returned to Earth with the samples for analysis.
Additionally, I talked with several specialists of OHB about experiments I could perform with and for kids in the near future.
Many thanks to all employees of OHB Oberpfaffenhofen for the great tour. Special thanks are going to Ms. von der Recke for the support and the great organization of my visit. For sure I would love return one day. Many thanks.
P.S.: What a surprise! I received additional images of my visit taken by the OHB responsibles Ms. von der Recke and Ms. Riedl. Many, many thanks! And here are the images presented in a little slide show: