134 G FO launch burn1200      2018 05 21 GFO Launch Live Stream

Left; Launch [Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls] ; Right:Artists Impression of GRACE Follow-On [Credit:NASA]

6 years after project start (and many more after first discussions on the successor to the GRACE mission), the US-German Gravity mission GRACE Follow-On has successfuly launched yesterday 12:49 PST, in perfect weather with a beautiful blue sky, the two Grace Follow-On Satellites launched onboard of a Falcon 9, together with 5 Iridium Satellites.

Everything is looking good. There have be no issue before or during the launch, the satellites deployed as planned and telemetry shows both satellites are healthy. The instruments will be put into operation over the next weeks.

GRACE Follow-On will continue the GRACE success story and flies the first inter-satellite laser interferometer, which may also be seen as a LISA technology pathfinder. For STI, being responsible for the German contribution to the laser ranging interferometer, this is the first laser-optical equipment in space, along with other equipment provided by us.

A video of the launch can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3niFzo5VLI

STI workshare

STI has significantly contributed to GRACE Follow-On, namely we where responsible for:

  • the Gerrman contribution of the laser ranging interferometer (the optical bench, the retroreflector and the instrument baffles)
  • the LRI instrument integration @ STI facitlities in cooperation with JPL, DLR, Airbus DS and AEI
  • the spacecraft primary structures (structural analysis and procurement)
  • the ASTSS tertiary structure (manufactured by CST)
  • the deployable S-Band boom
  • the Coarse Earth-Sun-Sensors (CESS)
  • the satellite MGSE & transport containers

We did this in contract to the Geoforschungszentrum Potsdam (GFZ) for the LRI  (and under the scientific lead of Albert Einstein Institute Hannover - AEI) and in subcontract to Airbus DS for the other contributions. On the US side we had a close cooperation with JPL who where responsible for the mission and provided the US part of the LRI (the laser, the cavity & the phasemeter).

STI is proud to be part of this mission and thankful for the great cooperation of all project partners!

Much more information on GRACE Follow-On can be found here:


On Friday 12 December 2017, the transport of the two GRACE-FO satellites and their launch adapter from IABG to Munich Airport was successfully completed. STI helped to transport the Transport Containers with the Flight Hardware from IABG to Munich Airport Cargo Terminal and supervised the loading of the containers into a Boeing 747. The MGSE designed, manufactured and delivered by STI did an excellent job, the customer (Airbus DS) was very pleased. The Boeing 747 took off at about 10:39 local time and arrived in Los Angeles.

The GRACE Follow-On mission, scheduled for launch in early 2018, will ensure the continuation of the gravity field measurements of GRACE. The mission and satellite development are realized in a US-German cooperation. SpaceTech signed responsible for the analysis and procurement of the satellite primary and secondary structures, a deployable antenna boom, the German contribution of the laser ranging interferometer and satellite MGSE.

2017 12 19 GRACE FO MGSE und Abflug Bild1


2017 12 19 GRACE FO MGSE und Abflug Bild2


2017 10 19 S5P Launch

[Rendered image of the S5P release: the launcher opens for satellite release with the last stage still firing. Source: ESA]

On Friday 13 October 2017, the satellite Sentinel-5 Precursor (S5P) was launched from the Cosmodrome in Plesezk, Russia. SpaceTech has developed and delivered the Deployable Solar Array Panel (DSAP) system for this ESA mission under an Airbus UK contract. The DSAP consists of 3 solar generator panels including the photovoltaic assembly and deployment mechanisms. While stored in the launch vehicle, the solar arrays remain stowed and are deployed once the spacecraft is released from the launcher.

The successful deployment and operation of the DSAP is another example of STI’s smart designs and high reliability. More information on S5P and the interview with STI's Project Manager Thomas Franck can be found here: Video (Source: www.schwaebische.de)


The Sentinel-5 Precursor mission (S5p) is part of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security initiative (GMES), which is a joint undertaking of the European Community and the European Space Agency (ESA). The spacecraft orbits on 824 km height and collects essential data on the atmoshperic chemistry (especially the percentages of tracer gases like carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen oxid etc).


2017 10 05 Besuch Umweltminister Untersteller03

On September 20, 2017, the Federal State Minister for Environment, Franz Untersteller, visited SpaceTech. CEO Wolfgang Pitz and some of STI's project managers received him and his colleague Markus Böhlen of the Green Party. During a guided tour and a short company presentation, the minister got an insight to the success story and the most important scientific satellite missions of the German Space SME.

Franz Untersteller (MdL) zu Besuch bei SpaceTech in Immenstaad

Franz Untersteller, Minister für Umwelt, Klima und Energiewirtschaft der baden-württembergischen Landesregierung, besuchte am Mittwoch, dem 20. September 2017, das mittelständige Raumfahrt-Unternehmen SpaceTech in Immenstaad am Bodensee. In Begleitung seines Parteikollegen Markus Böhlen vom Bündnis 90/ Die Grünen nahm er sich fast 2 Stunden Zeit, um sich über die technologischen Fähigkeiten des Raumfahrt-Mittelständlers zu informieren. Vor Ort wurde er von Geschäftsführer Wolfgang Pitz und Mitgliedern des Führungsteams empfangen. Bei einer Firmenvorstellung konnte der Minister Einblick in die Erfolgsgeschichte sowie in einzelne Vorzeigeprojekte von SpaceTech erlangen. Besonders der Arbeitsfortschritt bei wissenschaftlichen Missionen mit spezieller Relevanz für sein Ressort stießen bei dem Minister auf großes Interesse. So beispielsweise das Projekt ICARUS, welches SpaceTech für das Max-Planck-Institut für Ornithologie mit Förderung des Deutschen Zentrums für Luft und Raumfahrt DLR durchführt. Dabei soll im Februar 2018 eine Antenne auf der Internationalen Raumstation installiert werden, die weltweit Signale von Tiersendern empfängt. Mit den so gewonnenen Informationen können beispielsweise Migrationsbewegungen von Tieren genauer erforscht werden und verbesserte Aussagen über das Tierverhalten sowie über die Ausbreitung von Tierkrankheiten getroffen werden. Weiterhin fanden die Beiträge von SpaceTech zur deutsch-französischen Satellitenmission MERLIN Anklang bei Minister Untersteller. Nach dem Start des Satelliten in 2021 wird MERLIN die Erdatmosphäre in nie dagewesener Auflösung auf die Konzentration des Treibhausgases Methan untersuchen. SpaceTechs Zukunftspläne im Bereich der solaren Energieerzeugung für Satelliten waren ebenfalls ein Thema. Der Hersteller von Weltraum-Solargeneratoren hat mit harter internationaler Konkurrenz zu kämpfen und begegnet dieser Herausforderung mit intelligenten Designs und hoher Automatisierung der Produktion. Der Minister war beeindruckt vom Ideenreichtum und vom Innovationsvermögen des Raumfahrt-Mittelständlers – ein Paradebeispiel für die baden-württembergische Hochtechnologiebranche.

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2017 09 29 JUICE RIME Antenna Test Heiligenberg02

The RIME Antenna, SpaceTech's contribution to the ESA JUICE mission, was tested on a glider airfield in Heiligenberg, not far from SpaceTech premises. RIME (Radar for Icy Moons Exploration) is an instrument which will investigate the geophysical structure of Jupiter's three largest icy moons – Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. The instrument is part of the JUICE satellite (short for JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) which is currently built by Airbus DS and will begin its journey to Jupiter in 2022, arriving there in 2029. Scientific goal of this mission is to search for liquid water below the ice sheets which cover the surfaces of the moons. Liquid water is considered the basis of life in the universe.

The highly sensitive RIME antenna, designed and built by SpaceTech, will enable the RIME Radar to penetrate the surface to a depth of up to 9 kilometers. It is made of ultralight CFRP material and will be folded multiple times to fit under the fairing of the launch vehicle. Once released in space, the antenna will unfold and assume its final length of approximately 16.6 meters. Thanks to SpaceTech’s innovative technological solution for the deployment mechanism, the total antenna mass amounts to less than 2 kg. Low mass is particularly important to save propellant on the long flight to Jupiter.

Before the flight to Jupiter, the antenna performance was now tested thoroughly on ground. The radar characteristics were measured during several helicopter flights, with a JUICE satellite mock-up including RIME Antenna suspended from a rope of 120 meters in lenght. For the measurements the antenna had to be held accurately in position, 150 meters above ground - not easy considering shear winds and the payload behaving like a large pendulum, But the experienced pilots mastered it perfectly and all measurements were completed as planned.

The video of the test campaign can be found in the Airbus Newsroom.

More information about the JUICE mission can be gathered on the ESA web site: http://sci.esa.int/juice/

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