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First part of the journey, across the Südbrücke: Heavy transport with space radar launched from Berkum

First part of the journey, across the Südbrücke : Heavy transport with space radar launched from Berkum

Over five years, the Fraunhofer Institute has developed a new space radar. After a technical defect, transport of the 180-ton heavy device was postponed until Monday evening.

Over five years, the Fraunhofer Institute has developed a new space radar. After a technical defect, transport of the 180-ton heavy device was postponed until Monday evening.During the night to Tuesday, the heavy transport of the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Technology (FHR) rolled over the Südbrücke at walking speed. By now, the Gestra space telescope has arrived at Oberpleis. On the way, numerous onlookers watched as two radar domes (radomes) rolled through Wachtberg in addition to the heavy containers. Especially at crossings the tension was noticeable…

After a five-year construction period, the time had come on Friday morning at around 9.30 am: The Gestra transmitter and receiver units were each loaded onto a heavy-duty transporter. After the transport was originally scheduled for Sunday evening, it had to be postponed slightly due to a technical defect in the hydraulic unit.

It is an art to lift a total of around 180 tons of heavy-duty technology, distributed over two steel containers, sensitively, by heavy-duty crane onto a low loader. All the more so "because the load in the container is distributed differently," explained Helmut Wilden, who is responsible for special projects at the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Technology (FHR) in Berkum: The Wachtberg experts developed the "Gestra" space observation radar on behalf of the space management of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Oberkassel.

The company took over from Dietmar and Marco Floßdorf , who have a resounding name in the industry, "and have been preparing for the deployment for a long time", said son Marco Floßdorf: The first planning had already begun three years ago. There was only one challenge in the implementation: two heavy-duty cranes, 500 tons and 300 tons in weight, had to lift the containers onto the special low-loader at the same time, virtually coordinated with each other; with the transmission unit, and so it all started.

A special suspension was also used because of the differently distributed weight, according to Fraunhofer project manager Wilden. In addition, we used particularly tear-resistant, double-looped plastic loops made of polyester, added logistics expert Flossdorf Junior, with carrying capacity up to 15 tons: "We calculated everything in advance very precisely.

Heavy transport weighs 190 tons

And indeed, everything went like clockwork. After about a quarter of an hour, the transmitter unit was already securely moored on the flatbed trailer without a problem. What then followed was the container with the radar receiver and the two radar domes (radomes), which were also loaded on „our own special vehicles“, said Bernd Segbers, project manager of a Moers specialist company that took over the transport.

The route, which is around 130 kilometres long, leads from Berkum via the L 123, B 9 and the MUK route to the Südbrücke bridge and then in the direction of Westerwald - via routes "where we don't have to dismantle much," said Segbers. Actually, it would only be 50 kilometres of route. But since the heavy transport weighs a total of 190 tons, is 5.50 meters high and 5.30 meters wide, only certain specific roads can be used.

The target is the Bundeswehr training area in Koblenz-Schmidtenhöhe. This is where the radar is to be assembled and put into operation in September, explains Thomas Eversberg, who heads the project at DLR in Oberkassel. The main task of the new radar, he said, was "to detect space debris in an international context": "We are not trying to get rid of the debris, we are trying to see it", he clarified. At the latest since the US film "Gravity", in which US actress Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut whose space shuttle is severely damaged by the debris of a satellite, a wider public has also become aware of the problem.

Gestra" is now "the first step towards describing the situation in space in low orbit, i.e. between 300 and 3000 kilometres orbit height", says Eversberg. Put simply, the aim is to create a kind of route system in which space travel is possible without the risk of collision.

The pressure to act is great: According to the DLR expert, there are now studies, for example from the Technical University of Braunschweig, "according to which we will no longer be able to carry out space travel in the year 2100 if we do nothing now". This means that the development cost of around 40 million Euro for Gestra is money well spent.

Original text: Axel Vogel, Translation: Mareike Graepel