INNOspace Masters 2021/22 – DLR Competition Finds Forward-Looking Ideas for Tomorrow’s Space Travel

INNOspace Masters in Berlin. (Credit: DLR)
  • On July 5, 2022, the winners of this year’s INNOspace Masters competition were announced and awarded at a conference in Berlin.
  • 337 companies, start-ups, universities and research institutions from 28 countries took part in the competition.
  • The next round of the competition will start in early 2023.
  • Focus: space travel, innovation, technology transfer

BERLIN (DLR PR) — On July 5, 2022, the winners of this year’s INNOspace Masters competition were announced by Dr. Peter Gräf, Director of Applications and Science at the German Space Agency at DLR, and Dr. Anna Christmann, Federal Government Coordinator for German Aerospace. Under the motto “Sustainable and Efficient Innovations for Space and Earth”, new ideas and concepts were sought that take up current challenges in space travel and other sectors and offer innovative solutions. The participants could choose from five competition categories – the “Challenges” – which cover different development and innovation phases along the entire innovation chain. Accordingly, there was an overall winner and five other winners – one per competition category.

An innovative technology for shielding against
electromagnetic radiation wins the competition

A total of 337 participants from companies, start-ups, universities and research institutions in 28 countries submitted their project outlines. “The record number of innovative project proposals received for the seventh round of the INNOspace Masters shows that the potential for the transfer of knowledge and technology between space and other terrestrial sectors is enormous,” explained Dr. Anna Christman. From the 153 ideas submitted, 15 were selected for the final round of the innovation competition. Now the winners of the competition have been determined. 

“The use of ultra-lightweight materials to protect against electromagnetic radiation particularly impressed us this year. The “AeroMulE” project idea shows great potential – also for terrestrial applications,” says Dr. Christman.

Great variety of ideas at the INNOspace Masters innovation competition

75 percent of the ideas submitted came from a wide range of industries, including renewable energy, the automotive industry and the information and communication sector. dr Peter Gräf was particularly pleased about this wide range: “The variety of sectors from which the project proposals come shows that the space industry combines a large number of the most modern technologies and concepts. The INNOspace Masters successfully initiates innovations with both spin-in and spin-off projects. This impressively illustrates the importance of the German space industry as a driver of innovation.”

The winning ideas of the INNOspace Masters 2021/22

Overall Winner: AeroMulE – Aerostructure Multifunctional Cover Against Environmental Radiation

A team of scientists from the Institute for Aerospace Technology at the TU Dresden and the Institute for Materials Science at the Christian-Albrecht University in Kiel was able to secure the overall victory. The two universities worked together on innovative materials that shield communication devices from unwanted signals and interference, thereby increasing communication security. The ultra-light shell based on carbon nanotubes is to be used in the field of wireless communication, such as in satellites and satellite constellations, in IoT devices or for technologies in the field of autonomous driving. At the same time, the technology allows for a significant reduction in weight and design complexity.

1st place DLR Challenge: PFDS – Pre-Ignition Fire Detection System

A new concept for detecting fires in space stations and habitats was honored as the winner of the “DLR Challenge”. The solution uses a network of sensors and relies on machine learning to detect fire sources before they ignite. Developed by a research team led by the University of Bremen’s Center for Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM), the idea offers a promising alternative to conventional particle-based smoke detectors, which have proven unreliable under microgravity conditions. Instead, the sensors can detect subtle thermal outgassing from polymers, which are commonly used for electrical or thermal insulation of typical ignition sources (such as electrical conductors, batteries, hot fluid lines). In this way, fires can be detected before they ignite. In this way, human lives can be protected and material losses avoided – both in space and on earth.

1st place ESA BIC Challenge: HERA – Integration of an active and passive thermal management system for electric car batteries into a supporting structure

The winner of the “ESA BIC Challenge”, HERA, is developing a thermal management system to buffer peak loads through latent heat storage in passive components. The proposed solution was developed on the basis of phase change materials (PCM). Researchers at the Institute for Structural Mechanics and Lightweight Construction (SLA) at RWTH Aachen University have developed a new type of structure that combines effective storage of the heat generated in the battery in the PCM with a tailor-made active cooling system. The structure is based on research on triply periodic minimal surface structures (TPMS), which also enables efficient mass-specific mechanical load handling.

1st place Airbus Challenge: Graphene mirrors for lightweight optical systems

Aerospace mirrors must perform under extreme conditions throughout their life cycle. However, this has its price: the components are relatively heavy. Reflective foils would be an alternative to bulky mirrors, but they are fragile and have rough surfaces. SCALE Nanotech, the winner of the “Airbus Challenge”, offers a graphene micromembrane technology as a solution: G-Mirror©, an ultra-lightweight nanofilm that exploits the superior mechanical, optical and thermal properties of the graphene material while providing cost-effective scaling for large and flexible Shapes (flat or curved) allowed. The low masses of graphene reduce payload costs,

1st place OHB Challenge: AVES Reality – Semantic reconstruction of the digital 3D twin

Today’s virtual worlds cannot meet the most important requirements of the industry. For example, to simulate an autonomous vehicle, the current virtual worlds are not sufficient in terms of quality, scope, price and flexibility. For example, Google Earth cannot be used for the simulation because the real world is only visualized but does not behave like the real world. With the help of an artificial intelligence-based solution that captures every place on earth via satellite images and digitally constructs it quickly, AVES Reality creates a virtual copy of the earth – ready for industrial simulations, video games and more. This is how the world is viewed from space instead of capturing and mapping every place on earth too terrestrially.

1st place Mercedes-Benz Challenge: Satellite mobile phone connections anywhere in the world

The winner of the Mercedes-Benz car2space challenge, Lynk Global Inc., offers an innovative global communications solution that shifts the traditional cell tower to small satellites in low Earth orbit. This enables comprehensive and global mobile phone coverage for billions of people. This increases the resilience of cellular networks and alleviates “digital poverty” in remote or widely dispersed communities. Lynk’s constellation provides direct connectivity to 3GPP standard cellular devices on the ground, including cell phones and IoT devices. Lynk Global demonstrated the proof of concept of their technology back in 2021 by connecting thousands of mobile devices in five countries to Lynk’s fifth satellite, Shannon.

A detailed overview of all finalist ideas, including the 2nd and 3rd place ideas for each challenge, is available on the INNOspace Masters website to find.