How aerospace technology is driving innovation

Publish Date

12 SEP 2019


Kai Beckmann


Velcro strips, cordless power drills and microchips are just a few of the many innovations that space exploration has given rise to. As an innovation-driven technology company, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is therefore proud to be partnering with the European Space Agency (ESA) to help advance...

Velcro strips, cordless power drills and microchips are just a few of the many innovations that space exploration has given rise to. As an innovation-driven technology company, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is therefore proud to be partnering with the European Space Agency (ESA) to help advance aerospace technology. And of course other things as well. 

The technology was intended to help engineers maintain an overview of the numerous individual parts of a rocket. Many other innovative technologies have found their way from space exploration to daily life. For example, cordless power tools such as drills were developed for outer space since there simply aren’t any electric sockets in that environment. And the Velcro strip was originally intended to prevent objects from flying around in zero gravity environments.

The computer industry has also received tremendous impetus from the advances in space research. The development of the navigation computer for the Apollo missions in the 1960s was considered the advent of the modern computer age – despite the fact that today’s conventional smartphones have one thousand times the computing power. However, the so-called Apollo guidance computer was one of the first computers that already had integrated circuits, the heart of today's microchips.

Space exploration has been an engine of technological progress for decades because space missions are highly complex projects that would not be feasible without state-of-the-art technologies. Space exploration is therefore an attractive field for a science and technology company like Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. That’s clearly why we’ve been cooperating with ESA for many years now. Numerous innovative solutions that we’ve developed are now used in outer space, for instance in photovoltaic modules, smart antennas and microchips.

A powerful partnership

Back in May, we extended the collaboration with ESA for a further two years. One of the innovation fields that the collaboration is focusing on is biosensors and bio interfaces, meaning the interface between biology and digital technology. For instance, biosensors can be used to remotely monitor the health of astronauts faster and more precisely during long-term missions in outer space.

A further area of cooperation is clean meat, which could represent a smart nutrition solution for astronauts some day. Specifically, this topic is about the synthetic production of in vitro meat through biotechnology. The partnership with ESA has even allowed our scientists at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany to use the International Space Station (ISS) as research lab for experiments.

Within the scope of the partnership with ESA, we are working on innovative digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, cloud computing, Big Data, and virtual reality. ESA is increasingly making use of smart software, for instance to observe satellites in orbit and to prevent collisions in outer space. This is important because meanwhile 4,500 satellites plus tons of space debris are floating around our universe. AI technologies also hold tremendous potential for Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany when vast data volumes are to be analyzed. Smart sensors for the early identification of abnormalities in the human organism are imaginable. This could make it possible to identify diseases even before they break out.

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