The INNOspace Masters 2019/20 Awards Clever Ideas for Tomorrow’s Space Travel

The overall winner of the INNOspace Masters 2020. (Credit: DLR)
  • On October 14, 2020, the winners of the INNOspace Masters competition were honored in an online conference.
  • More than 300 companies, start-ups, universities and research institutions in 15 European countries answered the call.
  • The new 2020/21 competition will start under the motto “Innovations for sustainable infrastructures – in space and on earth”.

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — Under the motto “New Ideas between Space and Earth”, the space management of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) searched the fifth INNOspace Masters competition for new ideas and concepts that address current challenges in space travel and other industries and offer innovative solutions. Five competition categories – called “Challenges” – from different development and innovation phases in the value chain were available for the participants to choose from. 

The “DLR Space Management Challenge” focused on the research and development phase, while the industrial partners Airbus and OHB were looking for proposals for solutions that were already ready for the market. DB Netz AG, since this year an additional industrial partner of the competition, focused on innovations from the space industry for the monitoring, inspection and maintenance of the rail infrastructure. The “ESA BIC Start-up Challenge”, which was aimed at the start-up

An Innovative Quantum Memory Wins the Competition

A total of 316 participants from companies, start-ups, universities and research institutions in 15 European countries submitted their project outlines. 

“The fifth round of the INNOspace Masters once again made it clear how great the transfer potential between space travel and other industries is for pioneering innovation projects,” explains Dr. Walther Pelzer, Member of the Board of the DLR Space Administration. 

From all the ideas, 15 proposals were selected for the final round of the innovation competition. The winners of the competition have now been determined. 

“In particular, the development of important components for the widespread use of quantum-based satellite communication has convinced us this year and offers great potential – also for terrestrial applications”, continues Walther Pelzer, who, together with the partners of the competition, awarded the prizes on October 14, 2020. 

Accordingly, the overall winner also comes from this area: A team of scientists from the TU Berlin and the Humboldt University of Berlin is working on a new type of quantum memory for secure satellite communication.

Wide variety of ideas at the INNOspace Masters

But not only contributions from satellite communication were submitted. Proposals from almost all fields of the space sector were presented to the jury and show the wide variety and innovative strength of the sector, explains Thomas Jarzombek (Member of the Bundestag), Federal Government Coordinator for the aerospace industry, who awarded the overall winner of the INNOspace Masters:

“The many innovative Solution proposals from the INNOspace Masters offer great added value for German space travel in two respects. On the one hand, the many spin-in ideas from other industries provide important impetus for space travel, and on the other hand, existing space travel solutions can be used for applications on earth through spin-off projects and be commercialized “.

Due to Corona, Digital Kick-off for the Next Round of the Competition

The current round of the INNOspace Masters competition ended with the award ceremony. At the same time, the next round kicked off at the virtual conference on October 14, 2020: From October 30, 2020 to February 5, 2021, bright minds from business and science will again have the opportunity to submit their ideas, this time under the motto “Innovations for sustainable infrastructures – in space and on earth”. This also includes digital infrastructures. 

How important these are, especially in Corona times, became clear in the current round of the competition. The multi-stage evaluation process, in which the participants presented their ideas to various specialist juries, took place digitally this year. Experience showed that jury meetings from the home office with up to 20 participants allow discussions to select the best ideas. For the upcoming conference and award ceremony in summer 2021, however, the organizers hope to be able to hold face-to-face events again.

The winning ideas of the INNOspace Masters 2019/20

QuMSeC – Quantum Memory for Secure Communication

A team of scientists from the Technical University of Berlin and the Humboldt University of Berlin was able to claim overall victory and winning the “DLR Space Management Challenge”. Both universities are working together on new types of quantum memories for satellite communication, which are intended to set new standards for secure quantum key exchange, even for untrustworthy satellites. In the future, customers and users should benefit from the secure data communication via satellites even without their own satellite infrastructure.

Additive Manufacturing Process for the Metallic Inner Coating of CFRP Fuel Tanks

The winner of the “ESA BIC Challenge”, Additive Space GmbH, is developing a thermal spray process with which metallic coatings can be applied quickly and inexpensively to the interior of the CFRP structure of fuel tanks. The method enables several layers of metals with different material properties to be applied one after the other with the minimum necessary layer thickness. In addition to the spray device, which is mounted, for example, on an industrial robot, no further devices tailored to the geometry of the respective fuel tank are required.

Tikal – Remote Assessment of Remote Traffic Routes

Only 20 percent of the global road network is asphalted, making it particularly susceptible to environmental, weather and vehicle-related damage. As part of the Tikal project, BAREWAYS GmbH, winner of the “Airbus Challenge”, is developing a software system that can determine the current and future road conditions using pattern recognition. 

To this end, a wide variety of data sources such as weather forecasts, digital map information, satellite images, vehicle sensors are collected, calibrated and analyzed with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). This current road condition information is provided to the vehicle navigation system together with other criteria for route planning and optimization.

Freeform Metal Optics for New Space Applications

SPACEOPTIX GmbH, winner of the “OHB Challenge”, develops and manufactures high quality opto-mechanical components and systems from metallic substrates. Compared to alternative materials such as glass or ceramics, these mirrors and mirror systems offer significantly reduced production and assembly costs and, thanks to the use of free-form optical system designs, an excellent ratio between optical image quality, mass and volume. As a Fraunhofer IOF spin-off, the aim of SPACEOPTIX GmbH is the technology transfer from 20 years of applied research in the field of metal optics to an industrial scale.

OCELL – Smart Analyzes of Aerial Photographs

According to Deutsche Bahn, severe storms are increasingly causing millions of euros in damage to tracks and systems as well as train cancellations or delays. The company OCELL GmbH, winner of the “DB Netz AG Challenge”, specializes in AI-driven analyzes of aerial photographs and geodata in order to collect vegetation data with the accuracy of individual trees and to categorize them according to risk classes. The data is collected by a dedicated, decentralized partner network of professional microlight aircraft pilots. On the basis of this knowledge, trees that pose a risk to rail traffic, for example, can be specifically and preventively felled.

You can find the other placements at the INNOspace Masters  Homepage.

About the INNOspace Masters Ideas Competition

The organizer of the INNOspace Masters is the DLR Space Administration 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 GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen.