MSS17 Students try Soyuz docking, taste test algae, and more at IRS

On February 8, 2017, ISU Master’s students had the unique opportunity to visit the University of Stuttgart’s Institute of Space Systems (IRS) in Germany. The day was packed with stimulating back-to-back presentations on various research areas conducted at IRS, and included captivating facility visits.

Dr. Alfred Krabbe introduced students to the SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) joint project with NASA, DLR, USRA and DSI. The SOFIA project comprises of an infrared telescope that is mounted on a Boeing 747-SP airplane, and is used as a mobile, flying observatory for astronomers worldwide.

The following presentations touched on wind tunnels, life support and energy systems, the flying laptop project, cosmic dust, high enthalpy flow diagnostics, and human spaceflight. These were delivered by Dr. Georg Herdrich, Dr. Stefan Belz, Dr. Michael Lengowski, Dr. Ralf Srama, Martin Eberhart, and ESA Astronaut Dr. Reinhold Ewald respectively. KSat, a student group that develops small satellites, also discussed about how their activities have progressed to rocket launches with DLR.

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Edible Chlorella vulgaris sample tablet in front of the photo-bioreactor

Afterwards, students explored the facilities on campus. This encompassed a tour of the electrical propulsion and plasma wind tunnel laboratory; the Soyuz simulator laboratory, where students tested their hand-eye coordination skills by docking the Soyuz to the ISS; and the Life Support Systems and Energy Systems Laboratory. Here, the focal point was an algae photo-bioreactor which flickered and hummed quietly as it converted carbon dioxide to oxygen while also producing edible biomass. Students were treated with high protein samples of the alga Chlorella vulgaris, which according to many, is described as having a “fishy taste and chalky texture”.


Electrical propulsion and plasma wind tunnel laboratory

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MSS17 students after a successful Soyuz docking test

The eye-opening experiences at IRS could not have been possible without the aforementioned presenters, and Director of the Institute, Dr. Stefanos Fasoulas who all hosted quite a space-cial day!

Linda Dao, MSS17