The DFVLR, a Major Experience for Orientation

I worked on my diploma thesis in the institute for X-ray physics at the Ludwig Maximilian University. The head of the institute was Professor Alfred Faessler and the title of my thesis was Analysis of the Kα-and Kβ-X- Ray Emission Spectra of Sulphur and some Sulphur Compounds [1]. In all the disciplines of my examination the results were excellent and now the world seemed open to me.  I had only to decide either between the research work at the university or to offer my knowledge on the free market. I thought to do both, when I joined the DFVLR, the German Research und Test Center for Aerospace in Oberpfaffenhofen, west of Munich. A friend of my family, somewhat older than me, worked at the DFVLR and he described me the DFVLR as an opportunity to make the doctor grade in physics and being paid as a scientist of the Institute. So I joined the Institute  for  Dynamics of Flight Systems of the DFVLR. My first big project was the investigation of a nutation damper, a device which should avoid that spin stabilized satellites will lose its fixed orientation by external disturbing forces [[2] report ESRO TT-152: Theoretical and Experimental Studies of Annular Nutation Dampers].  The initial part of the investigation consisted of the mathematical analysis of the satellite-damper system using the laws of mechanics and fluid mechanics. To check the results and to determine the parameters of the fluid motion (difficult to describe theoretically) we constructed a passive motion simulator. The simulator construction, its driving mechanism and its measurement system was a rather sophisticated experimental device. In principle the simulator table was supported in its center of gravity by a special air bearing. So it represented a near approximation of a force-free satellite. The damper was a circular ring filled with mercury. The damping process was registered by a position measuring device transforming the inclination of the table into the intensity variation of a light source. The combination of theoretical and experimental results allowed to understand how a passive fluid damper could stabilize the position of spinning satellites (determine the influence of the geometrical damper parameters, of the damper fluid and the degree of filling.).When I left the DFVLR end of 1970 this project was almost finished, the English report was still under preparation.

The Institute for Dynamics of Flight Systems had been recently created and was about to determine its management structure. The special feature of this organization process was the strong participation of the scientific staff. So there were many political and not seldom controversial discussions between the different groups of interest. Finally the project of self- organization failed and the Executive Board of the DFVLR appointed the managing director for the institute. So in my memory the DFVLR was a research institute with highly qualified scientists working with a high degree of personal freedom. The work of the project teams was very creative but for some projects the time schedule was rather generous and the project organization was sometimes not very stringent. So with the time I developed some doubts if the research work would be the right work for me and I started considering to try the industry as a career alternative.