INNOspace Masters 2021: Innovation Comes from Competition

  • The sixth INNOspace Masters conference took place virtually on July 29, 2021 under the motto “Innovations for sustainable infrastructures in space and on earth”.
  • A total of 330 companies, start-ups, universities and research institutions from 23 European countries took part in the competition.
  • The winners include quantum processors for satellite communications, solutions for precision agriculture and a small satellite for the disposal of space debris.

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — At the sixth INNOspace Masters Competition, the German Space Agency looked for innovative solutions at DLR to ensure the unrestricted and reliable availability of satellite-based infrastructures in the digital age. A total of 330 participants from companies, start-ups, universities and research institutions in 23 European countries took part in the competition under the motto “Innovations for sustainable infrastructures in space and on earth.” There were five competition categories from different development and innovation phases to choose from. The winners have now been announced at the INNOspace Masters conference, which took place virtually on July 29, 2021. Initiatives like the INNOspace Masters are important because innovations mainly arise from competition.

In the last sixth round of the INNOspace Masters competition, almost 80 percent of the submissions came from non-aerospace industries. 

“This shows the great potential for space travel to benefit from the know-how and technical innovations of other sectors. At the same time, current challenges in other sectors can be solved with research results and technical developments in space travel,” explains Dr. Walther Pelzer, board member of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and head of the German Space Agency at DLR based in Bonn. “Together we offer the competition participants attractive funding or opportunities for cooperation, from basic research through the start-up phase to integration and market launch.”

Sensor technology for current measurement from the Rosetta space mission wins INNOspace Masters

40 technical experts examined the submissions in a multi-stage process and selected 15 proposals for the final round of the innovation competition. The winners of the competition have now been determined. The winner of the ESA BIC Challenge and the overall winner of the competition is PhySens GmbH from Braunschweig. With digitalization and the energy transition, the importance of measurement technology as the basis for digital system monitoring and process optimization is growing. Existing systems based on current monitoring are associated with a large installation effort and a lack of flexibility. Based on space technology from the ESA Rosetta mission, PhySens GmbH has developed a non-contact, non-invasive and easily retrofittable sensor system for current measurement.

QuVeKS – quantum processors for encrypted communication with satellites

The winner of the challenge from the German Space Agency at DLR is QuVeKS. New quantum technologies of the 21st century promise tap-proof communication, exponentially higher computing power, as well as more compact and more precise sensors. However, the quantum systems researched so far are very application-specific and often not compatible or networkable with one another. 

With the QuVeKS project, a universally applicable quantum processor is being developed at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the CiS Research Institute for Microsensors. This combines the complete architecture from the quantum light source to the detectors in a compact circuit. Similar to a computer chip, the processor can be freely programmed and is therefore suitable for a wide variety of applications. In addition, the data rates can be increased significantly compared to conventional laser systems. One focus is on securing communication with satellites.

DigiFarm – the most precise detection of field boundaries for precision agriculture

Precise data on field boundaries and arable land are the basis for all precision agriculture solutions, in which agricultural areas are cultivated fully automatically. DigiFarm, the winner of the Airbus Challenge, has developed a high-resolution algorithm for images from the two Sentinel-2 satellites of the European Earth observation program Copernicus over the past two years, increasing the image resolution ten times – from ten meters to one meter. In addition, the company has created a model for an artificial intelligence for the automatic detection of field boundaries on a large scale. DigiFarm has already determined field boundaries of over 15 million hectares worldwide and achieved an accuracy of up to 20 percent higher than the previous cadastral maps.

DEBRIS – appropriate disposal of space debris

The constantly growing amount of space debris endangers the space infrastructure and thus systemically relevant services for customers all over the world. DEBRIS, the winner of the OHB Challenge, is supposed to tackle this problem. DEBRIS is a small satellite for active debris removal. It attaches itself to target objects and then uses a towing sail and a fastening mechanism called a tether to remove debris from orbit. From an economic point of view, DEBRIS makes the active disposal of space debris profitable. The most important cost-reducing features are the Rideshare optimized design, in which several payloads can be launched together, commercially available components, and low development and operating costs.

PhySens GmbH – Magnetic Infrastructure Monitoring

The digital monitoring of rail infrastructure is the basis for tomorrow’s train traffic. Existing monitoring systems are based on mechanical or indirect measuring principles. However, these do not provide any direct information about the real position or movement of the infrastructure components and can therefore lead to false reports. Then sections of the route have to be blocked until the technical inspection, which leads to delays. The new system from PhySens GmbH, which won the DB Netz AG Challenge, enables wireless and direct monitoring of rail infrastructure. The system is based on magnetic field measurements. With the help of a uniform, easy-to-install sensor, status data for switches, level crossings or signals can be collected and evaluated in the cloud. Delays can be reduced,

The others Placements can be found on the INNOspace Masters homepage.

About the INNOspace Masters ideas competition

The organizer of the INNOspace Masters is the German Space Agency at DLR on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). The competition is part of the INNOspace initiative, which has been promoting innovations and technology transfers between aerospace and non-aerospace industries since 2013. The competition partners are the ESA Business Incubation Centers (BIC) Bavaria & Northern Germany and ESA BIC Hessen & Baden-Württemberg as well as the industrial partners Airbus, OHB and DB Netz AG. The INNOspace Masters is organized by AZO Application Center Oberpfaffenhofen.