Our History

DTU Space history dates back to the 1960s. The department today includes research groups originating from DTU and the former Danish Space Research Institute, National Survey and KMS.

DTU Space - the short name for the Space Department/Institute at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) - was established in 2007 from the merger of the independent Danish National Space Center (DNSC) with research groups from DTU.

Today the department is lead by director, engineer and Ph.D., Henning Skriver.

The merger was the result of a government decision to reorganize Danish research institutions by integrating independent governmental laboratories into the university structure. Initially DTU Space had a special role, that no longer exists, as national government adviser in relations to ESA and was hence called 'The National Space Institute (NSI)'.

This decision came two years after another, less extensive reorganization, which had established the Danish National Space Center by merging the Danish Space Research Institute (DSRI) with the geodetic and geodynamic research groups at the National Survey and Cadastre (Kort & Matrikelstyrelsen, KMS), as a consequence of a general National Committee decision to separate the research units from the government agencies.

The DSRI was established 1968 after a few years of approach as an independent research institute following the establishment of the European Space Research Organization (ESRO) 1964, which later became the core of the European Space Agency (ESA). A core mission of the DSRI was to ensure a scientific return on the Danish ESA membership by developing instrumentation for missions in the mandatory science program. Since access to data from missions in the ESA Science Program is contingent on instrument contribution, the instrument development activities of DSRI ensured Danish researchers access to unique scientific data. This is a key national role which DTU Space now carries forward.

Another key national role, which derives from the inclusion of the research groups from the National Survey and KMS, is to provide the research basis for a geodetic reference system for the Kingdom of Denmark (Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands). Hence, a substantial part of the geodetic research activities at DTU Space are related to this task.

To begin with the space activities at DTU were mainly concentrated in two sections at the Electrical Engineering Department of DTU. One section was dealing with research in microwaves and remote sensing starting in the late 1960s. Based on the activities related to sensors, additional research was initiated focusing on data processing, interpretation methods and applications.

The other section dating back to the 1980s specialized in measurements and instruments for space research leading to the instrument and key technological platform for the Danish research satellite Ørsted. This included a camera based star tracker navigation system. This led to further development into magnetic and optical sensors now implemented in several international space missions.

Danish ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen is affiliated with DTU and conducted scientific work for DTU Space during his stay at the International Space Station in 2015.

Examples of recent space projects with DTU Space technology included are NASA's Juno mission, ESA's ASIM-mission, NASA's Mars 2020 mission and the ESA/NASA mission James Webb Space Telescope that was launched 2021.