Research and technology development

We link natural science closely with the development of new technology and work with both Earth observation and exploration of the universe. 

DTU Space is engaged in the study of the universe, it’s origin, development and structure as well as exploration of our solar system. The work is based on physics and mathematics based on the complex contexts that are part of the creation and development of the universe and the solar system. Among other things, through ESA's Planck mission, we have made new discoveries about the Big Bang, for example we have strengthened the theory that this phenomenon actually took place and that it happened close to 13.8 billion years ago. A figure that DTU Space scientists have contributed to calculate. We have also developed technology for the Planck mission.

We are in particular focusing on:

  • Understanding the large-scale structure of the Universe using major telescopes, for example, ALMA, James Webb Space Telescope, and Euclid through the DAWN centre of excellence and grants from Villum Foundation and Carlsberg Foundation.
  • Observing gravitational waves in the LISA project which is a completely new window to the universe.
  • Compact objects to understand the detailed physics of neutron stars, based on several satellite missions. Research in transients by studying supernovae and hypernovae.
  • Detection and characterization of small exoplanets (sizes between Earth and Neptune). Determine the bulk composition of small exoplanets via precise mass measurements and measuring the composition of their atmospheres. Ultimately pave the way for the first detections of life outside our Solar System.
  • Space Safety threats against planet Earth; life, human technology and infrastructure. Space weather, Near-Earth Objects, Man-made space objects, and Particle radiation. The interaction of the charged particle stream emerging from the Sun with Earth's magnetic field using data from our 20 magnetic measure stations throughout the Kingdom of Denmark.

DTU Space use satellites and drone systems to explore and monitor the Earth's physics and improve the accuracy of satellite-based navigation systems.

Among other things, we do research on measuring parameters important for climate change monitoring, where we use satellites, drones, aircraft, and missions on land and sea to study sea levels in the world's oceans and along the coasts of Denmark and land uplift and melting of ice in the Arctic and Antarctic.

We provide information to create the overview, which will be used to act on, for example, in connection with the green transition in Denmark. We also develop dynamic ice maps using artificial intelligence, which can be used for navigation in the Arctic as the areas covered by sea ice shrinks.

We are also involved in research on the Earth's magnetic field, and we have the scientific leadership of parts of ESA's Swarm mission, which measures the Earth's magnetic field from space. This knowledge is used, among other things, to correct satellite-based navigation (GNSS), such as GPS or the European Galileo, for the influence on the signals from the magnetic field.

We are in particular focusing on:

  • Satellite geodesy. Precise positioning and navigation by applying GNSS technologies to develop reference frames and real-time precise positioning, for example for drones and robots.
  • Exploitation of the European Galileo system and the GNET in Greenland to determine land movements and melting of the ice cap.
  • Measuring gravity from space, aircraft or in-situ to compute geoids for basic mapping purposes and determination of precise satellite orbits.
  • Earth Observation (EO) of key climate parameters including changes in global sea level and land- and sea ice to support the understanding of long term climate trends.
  • Mapping of ice crystal orientation fabrics (COF) for ice sheets using airborne polarimetric radar data to improve the ice flow models used to study climate change.
  • Exploitation of data from the ASIM experiment mounted on the ISS to reveal high-energy processes associated with thunderstorms.
  • DTU Space is responsible for the scientific exploitation of data from ESA's satellite constellation trio Swarm. And DTU Space is the coordinator of the Swarm DISC consortium, which is responsible for the data processing and scientific exploitation.
  • Improvement of our world-leading ‘CHAOS’ geomagnetic reference models.
  • Mapping and understanding the magnetic signature of the Earth’s uppermost part, the crust. Novel drone-based payload systems for crustal mapping at different scales, for example volcanic systems, green transition minerals, subsurface contaminants (UXO) and archaeology projects.
  • High-performance geomagnetic instrumentation.

DTU Space carry out research to develop and produce instruments for international satellites and space probes.

We are responsible for the validation and calibration of instruments by, among other things, conducting airborne campaigns in Greenland and Europe.

DTU Space also develops and builds star tracker camera systems for satellite navigation and other camera-based systems for space exploration, magnetometers for measuring and exploring magnetic fields in space and on Earth (from space and Earth) and radar and radiometer systems for measuring, for example, the thickness of sea ice and ice caps on land.

We have participated in more than 100 space missions. The majority of them have equipment that DTU has fully or partially developed and built. Often we also use the data from the missions for our research, for example, to study sea level in relation to climate research.

Several of the department's projects have given rise to new inventions for use outside the space industry. For example, the institute collaborates with a company to develop a new type of detector to examine women for breast cancer, equipment for detecting oil spills from ships, and drone systems for mine search and archaeological studies.

We are in particular focusing on:

  • Participation in a suite of the largest planetary science missions of our time with enabling technology, instruments, and scientific research. We are invited to be part of these projects based on our continued research effort, novel instrumentation and observation techniques. We are collaborating with ESA and NASA and leading research entities worldwide, for example universities like Caltech, MIT, Yale and Princeton. We participate in NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet, where its magnetosphere, radiation belts and the potential of life on its Moon Europa are being explored. We also participate in NASA's Mars 2020 mission, which landed on Mars in 2021 to search for ancient life signatures. We participate in the EMM to study the nature and evolution of the gossamer atmosphere. And we have provided one of the main instruments for NASA’s Psyche-mission to be launched 2022 to study the metal world of the asteroid Psyche.
  • Formation flight technology developed for ESA, a ‘first’ use on Proba3 ‘Coronagraph’ planned for 2023. A technology expected to redefine the entire space sector in the next decade, enabling novel science, and future crewed missions to the Moon and Mars.
  • Critical instrumentation and related research to a suite of EO missions focused on characterizing the Earth, its biosphere and changes in these, forming the scientific basis of nearly all analyses of phenomena such as environmental changes, resource governance and sustainability.
  • Campaigns using C- and X-band microwave radiometers from DTU Space for the forthcoming Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer mission (CIMR), the main goal of which is sea surface temperature mapping, using algorithms developed for the mitigation of Radio Frequency Interference (RFI).
  • Algorithms contributing to an operational use of Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry (InSAR) in the fields of ice-sheet and glacier velocity mapping, ground deformation related to permafrost variations, landslide monitoring, and deformation affecting urban areas and infrastructure in Denmark.
  • Exploitation of decades of research in focusing X-ray telescopes, which for example will be used in ESA’s flagship mission ATHENA. Refine X-ray detector systems, developed for astrophysical use and patented, that are also being adopted to be used as medical devices, for example for cancer detection.
  • Mission enabling phase-meter for ESA’s future gravitational wave mission LISA.

collaboration and innovation

At DTU Space, we interact extensively with industries, authorities, universities, and space organisations in Denmark and internationally. We focus on collaboration and innovation so our science and technology results can be translated into knowledge and solutions that benefits society and people. We work, for example, with advice on streamlining infrastructure in Greenland and Denmark. We have a centre that supports start-up companies based on space data and space technology. And through international collaborations, we ensure a high level of competencies among our researchers and the graduates from DTU, enabling them to apply their knowledge beyond the space industry.