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Bavarian space travel gains momentum – ifm and 2x “Astro-Alex” are part of it!

Last week the Institute of Materials Science (ifm) participated in two important space events in Bavaria: Firstly, at the international trade fair Airtec in Munich, which focused in particular on the future direction in aerospace. The other was the Bavarian Space Summit in Weßling/Oberpfaffenhofen, where the Bavarian space community met. Alexandra Luft, research group leader for Innovative Textiles at ifm, took part in both events.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst and Alexandra Luft from the Institute of Materials Science at
Hof University of Applied Sciences (ifm); Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Ms. Luft, you were present at the space fair and also participated in the space summit in Weßling. How did the two participations come about?

Alexandra Luft: “After Corona, there seems to be a relaunch of activities in the field of Bavarian space travel. That’s why we registered for the trade fair in Munich. Because of the activities and projects in the field of space travel that have been going on for some time, we were then also invited to the summit in Weßling by the state government. After it had become quieter around the Bavarian project Bavaria One, the space community is now happy that it is starting again. The Bavarian state plans to provide around 50 million euros in the next few years, especially for new satellites. Minister President Söder declared this at the summit. This is an exciting matter for ifm, because our institute has already made a name for itself with the reflector network project in cooperation with the company HPS. We want to build on this.”

A model of the “Columbus” space laboratory from the European
Space Agency ESA; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

How did you perceive the summit?

“For me, it was very good for networking, because there were not only universities but also many company representatives from the space sector. I was also particularly pleased that I was able to meet our partner from the reflector network project again. Dr. Ernst K. Pfeiffer, who is also chairman of the Association of Medium-Sized Space Companies. We are considering how to approach new projects and, of course, we have also been on the lookout for new partners.

Another model – here of the International Space Station ISS; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

We want to continue research in this area and make our contribution to the expansion of Bavarian space activities.”

Did you have the opportunity to talk to either of the astronauts Alexander Gerst or Matthias Maurer?

“Yes, that was quite easy. I had a conversation with Alexander Gerst because he stole my nickname: “Astro-Alex.” He laughed to that and we still had a good conversation.”

Alexandra Luft (ifm) together with Bavaria’s Minister of Economic Affairs Hubert Aiwanger; Photo: StMWi/ Elke Neureuther;

What was the most exciting thing for you at the summit?

“The meeting with Alexander Gerst and Economics Minister Aiwanger. It was already interesting to be so close to the “decisive people” and to be able to exchange ideas with them.”

After all, ifm has already successfully handled a space project. What is coming up soon?

“Currently, our RuRoRa project (linkages for satellites) is still running until mid-2023. Another project option has opened up at the space summit. I met an old acquaintance from the Reflectors project who has a special problem to which we can probably offer a solution. Furthermore, I met Prof. Schilling (former Uni Würzburg – Zentrum für Telematik GmbH) and refreshed with him the cooperation plans, i.e. a common outline in the field of space-debris. Here we have to elaborate the ideas further. In the end, Corona cost us time in the cooperation and the contacts “fell asleep” a bit. But now it’s starting up again and for me personally the event was super-motivating. I had the feeling that the whole space community is now re-sworn.”

Ms. Luft, thank you very much for the interview.

Anne-Christine Habbel

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