The Team

The Partners in the NEOShield Project

The NEOShield consortium consists of a number of world-leading European research institutes, the most NEO-experienced European space industry, and leading US and Russian space research institutes. The project benefits from a broad combination of scientific/technical expertise and experience, and the management competence of major international players in the space field. The NEOShield project is coordinated by the German Aerospace Center's Institute of Planetary Research.

Click to learn more about any of the Partners, or scroll down to read about them all.

DLR Institute of Planetary Research
Observatoire de Paris
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
The Open University
Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut (EMI)
Queen's University Belfast
Airbus Defence and Space
Deimos Space
SETI Institute Corporation, Carl Sagan Center
Russian Federal Space Agency, Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIImash)
Surrey Space Centre, University Of Surrey

DLR Institute of Planetary ResearchLogo DLR

NEOShield Coordinator.

The DLR Institute of Planetary Research (Institut für Planetenforschung) studies planets, the planets' moons, asteroids and comets, researching their internal structure, formation and evolution. The research programs of the institute are based on both ground and space based remote sensing, as well as in-situ measurements using instruments carried on spacecraft. The institute also undertakes theoretical modelling and laboratory experiments.

The work of the institute covers concept studies, the instrument development and calibration, instrument operation on spacecraft, observations with ground-based and orbiting telescopes, and the acquisition, reduction, analysis, archiving and distribution of scientific data.

DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V., German Aerospace Center) is Germany's national research centre for aeronautics and space. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, transportation and energy is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. As Germany's Space Agency, the German federal government has given DLR responsibility for the forward planning and implementation of the German space programme as well as international representation of Germany's interests.

DLR’s mission comprises:

• Exploration of the Earth and the Solar System.
• Research aimed at protecting the environment.
• Development of environmentally-friendly technologies to promote mobility, communication and security.

DLR operates large-scale research facilities for the center’s own projects and as a service provider for clients and partners. Approximately 6500 people work for DLR; the center has 29 institutes and facilities at 13 locations in Germany. DLR also has offices in Brussels, Paris and Washington, D.C. Approximately 50% of DLR’s budget for in-house research and development work and other internal operations comes from revenues earned by DLR. DLR also administers the space budget of the German government.

Observatoire de ParisLogo OBS

Paris Observatory is a national research centre in astronomy and astrophysics. The Observatory employs approximately 1000 people (750 on permanent positions), comprising one third researchers and two thirds engineers, technicians and administrative personnel. Paris Observatory represents alone one third of astronomy in France; it depends on the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, belongs to the category of ‘Great Establishments’, and has the status of an independent university.

The Observatory is structured in 5 laboratories (GEPI, LESIA, LUTH, LERMA and SYRTE), one scientific unit (Nançay radio astronomy station), and one institute (IMCCE) covering all fields of astronomy and astrophysics.

Two of the observatories institutes are members of the NEOShield Consortium:

1. LESIA (in French)

LESIA’s (Laboratory of Space Studies and Instrumentation in Astrophysics) scientific activities cover four research themes (Planetology, Astronomy, Plasma Physics and Solar Physics). LESIA carries out the design and implementation of scientific instrumentation for space-borne and ground-based observations; the analysis and interpretation of scientific observations; the development of advanced techniques applied to ground-based and space instruments. LESIA also has many assignments within the astrophysics community (service tasks for the community, institutional responsibilities, teaching) and is involved in activities devoted to the dissemination of scientific culture. In January 2010, the laboratory had 255 staff.


The IMCCE (Institut de Mécanique Céleste et de Calcul des Éphémérides, Institute for Celestial Mechanics and Calculation of Ephemerides) is an institute of the Paris Observatory. Researchers are dedicated to the study of the Solar System and planetary systems in the domains of celestial mechanics, astrometry, planetology and mathematics. The work performed at IMCCE has been well recognized for many years, (before 1998, under the name “Bureau des longitudes”). Dynamics and astrometry of small Solar System bodies are a main topic of research at IMCCE. An ephemerides server is on-line at the URL and continuously improved. IMCCE is one of the main participants in the Solar System activities of the Gaia mission. Observing programs of Solar System objects are carried out by the scientific teams.

Centre National de la Recherche ScientifiqueLogo CNRS

The Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Centre for Scientific Research, CNRS) is a government-funded research organization, under the Administrative authority of France's Ministry of Research. CNRS units employ permanent researchers, engineers, technicians, and administrative staff throughout France. The Lagrange laboratory of CNRS is hosted by the Observatory of Côte d'Azur, Nice. The laboratory is involved in the astrophysical exploitation of major astronomical equipment, numerical computation for theoretical developments, simulations of astrophysical objects and the analysis of observational and theoretical data, in planetology, fluid mechanics, plasma and solar physics, and cosmology.

Researchers at the Planetology group of Lagrange are involved in topics such as collisional processes between small bodies, the origin and evolution of planetary systems, and the formation of the Solar System. The group has developed an internationally acclaimed model of the Solar System, known as the “Nice Model”, which provides a scenario reproducing consistently the early phases of our Solar System.

The Open University Logo OU

The Open University (OU) is the UK’s largest University with over 250,000 students and is the only university dedicated to distance learning. In addition to the main campus at Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, the OU has 13 regional centres in the UK and employs 4,700 academic, support and administrative staff as well as over 7000 tutors.

The OU’s Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute (PSSRI) is probably the largest research group in the UK in its field which spans the cosmo-chemical, physical and bio-geochemical nature of the Solar System, with over 80 staff including 10 academics, ~35 research staff and ~25 research students. It houses an extensive suite of first class laboratory facilities. The analytical facilities include NanoSIMS, FIB-SEM, isotope mass spectrometers, GCMS, laser Raman microprobe UV/optical/IR spectroscopy. Other facilities include the Hypervelocity Impact Laboratory (2MV electrostatic accelerator and all-angle Light Gas Gun) and planetary environment simulation facilities. PSSRI is an integral part of the Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research, established in 2004 to enable and encourage interdisciplinary research.

Logo EMIFraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut (EMI) 

Fraunhofer is Europe's largest application-oriented private non-profit research organization. Fraunhofer comprises 60 institutes in Germany and runs international research centres and offices in Europe, USA, and Asia. Fraunhofer EMI, located in and around Freiburg, carries out research in the fields of defence, space, security and mobility. Investigations carried out at EMI include the physical and technical aspects of high-speed mechanical and fluid-dynamic processes, including experimental and numerical analyses of shock waves in solids, fluids, and gases, flow and combustion processes, impact and penetration processes at speeds ranging from 10 to 10,000 m/s, and the response of materials and structures to shock loads. With about 300 employees, EMI operates large test facilities in its three sites Freiburg, Efringen-Kirchen and Kandern. EMI specializes also in computational physics and high-speed measurement techniques and instrumentation.

Queen's University BelfastLogo QUB

Queen's University Belfast (QUB) is the largest research institute within Northern Ireland and is a member of the Russell Group of top-20 UK research-led Universities. The Astrophysics Research Centre in the School of Mathematics and Physics at QUB is committed to pursuing leading-edge research programmes in the observation and modelling of astronomical objects. The Centre concentrates on the study of the local universe and continues to re-align its activities to take account of the rapid improvements in astronomical facilities. This is reflected in their extensive use of front-rank European and international observing facilities. Additionally the Centre is providing purpose built astronomical instrumentation to address currently important astronomical research themes.

From 2005 - 2007 the Centre operated the UK Astrometry and Photometry Programme for NEOs in order to improve our knowledge of the NEO impact threat. The programme provided astrometry and orbit refinement for over 200 NEOs with highly uncertain orbits or with a non-zero impact probability. The Centre currently runs research programmes to determine the composition of NEOs through multi-colour photometry and spectroscopy, to aid in their physical characterization and assist theoreticians to disentangle the possible sources of NEOs. They are currently part of an ESO large programme to study and refine NEO spin rates and evolution. Previous relevant scientific investigations by Centre staff include:

• Spectroscopy of impact debris from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9
• Compositional studies of distant primitive asteroids
• Spectroscopy of the first predicted Earth-impactor, 2008 TC3
• Measurement of cometary rotation rates leading to bulk density constraints
• Imaging of the first observed asteroid-asteroid collision.

Airbus Defence and Space
Logo Airbus DS

Airbus Defence and Space (Airbus DS, former Astrium) is the number one space company in Europe and the third in the world, with 18,000 employees worldwide, mainly in France, Germany, the UK, Spain, and the Netherlands.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of the multinational Airbus Group, Airbus DS is a truly global space industry leader with extensive prime contractorship experience and an international reputation for excellence across all sectors of the space business – launch vehicles, manned space activities and orbital systems, satellite systems, payloads and equipment, and a wide portfolio of space-based services.

The long-standing expertise of several of Airbus DS’ different sites will be central to the NEOShield project – Friedrichshafen and Bremen (Germany), Toulouse and Les Mureaux (France), and Stevenage (UK). Airbus DS has extensive experience of managing and collaborating in multinational space projects, for both institutional and private-sector customers. Missions related to NEOs and other bodies is an area of special expertise. Airbus DS is prime contractor for all planetary missions so far implemented by the European Space Agency (ESA), notably Europe’s comet lander mission Rosetta, and Mars Express, Venus Express, BepiColombo, Ulysses, SOHO. A number of NEO-related studies were conducted by Airbus DS under national or European contracts (APIES, ASR, ISHTAR, ASTEX, Marco Polo, Proba-IP).

In particular, Airbus DS carried out the Don Quijote mission Phase A study, which is directly relevant to the subject of this project. In an international competition on mission concepts to Apophis sponsored by the American Planetary Society, Airbus DS was awarded both second (in a team with Deimos) and third places. Internal R&D has been invested in topics such as the 'gravity tractor' concept, the Yarkovsky effect, landing on Ceres, surface sampling, orbits around NEOs, and modelling of gravity fields. In the critical technology field of guidance, navigation and control (GNC), Airbus DS has unrivalled competences in autonomous planetary rendezvous/landing and docking – for example, the company designs and builds the European ATV cargo freighter which performs completely autonomous docking with the International Space Station.


Logo Deimos Deimos Space

Deimos Space is a private independent company active since 2001, covering different engineering fields (aerospace, defence, telecommunications, energy) and with more than 500 employees. The Aerospace and Defence branch of the Company, with more than 300 employees, has been since its conception the key to the success of the Group, having worked for EC, ESA and the major key players in the Space Sector in Europe. Deimos Space is integrated into the ELECNOR group, one of the largest industrial groups in Spain with a turnover of 900 M€.

The Aerospace Engineering Business Unit, which would be in charge of the activities within this initiative, is composed of more than 50 engineers with remarkable and demonstrated experience in the areas of interest for this project: Space Mission Analysis, Space Mission Design, spacecraft GNC (“guidance, navigation and control”), Navigation and Flight Dynamics. In fact, Deimos has been involved in many Pre-Phase A, Phase-A and Phase B activities (Don Quijote, BepiColombo, Rosetta, ExoMars, Solar Orbiter, Proba-3, Proba-IP, Marco Polo, Euclid, etc.).


SETI Institute Corporation, Carl Sagan CenterLogo CSC

The Carl Sagan Center (CSC), a division of the non-profit SETI Institute located in Mountain View California, focuses on a wide set of disciplines ranging from observing and modeling the precursors of life in the depths of outer space to studies of Earth, where we are attempting to learn more about how life began and how its many diverse forms have survived and evolved. Appropriate to the sweeping scope of this research, CSC has many partners in its work including NASA, the National Science Foundation, and major universities. Close contacts are maintained between CSC and the neighbouring NASA-Ames Research Center, with which CSC staff collaborate on a number of projects.

CSC scientists generate their own funding through outside grants, usually from NASA or the National Science Foundation. The institute's excellent management and demonstrated ability to minimize overheads thereby maximizing funds available to conduct the actual research has helped the Institute build a strong reputation as an efficient home for researchers. Scientists in the SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe explores these and other fundamental questions through a research program consisting of more than 30 externally funded, peer-reviewed projects.

Logo TsNIImashRussian Federal Space Agency, Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIImash)

TsNIImash (Tsentralny Nauchno-Issledovatelskiy Institut Mashinostroeniya, Russian Federal Space Agency, Central Research Institute of Machine Building) is the leading Research Institute of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos. TsNIImash is responsible for system level analysis of space projects, the development of the Russian space program, integrated analysis of space technologies, standardization and unification of space systems, space vehicle strength and structure analysis, flight navigation and control, etc. Almost all Russian space vehicles and launchers have been subject to thorough examination and intensively tested experimentally in TsNIImash facilities. TsNIIMash conducts multidisciplinary research in support of the new directions of the national space program, integrating proposals of the country's rocket and space industry and academia. TsNIImash possesses twenty years experience in international cooperation, in particular with European organizations such as ESA, ESTEC, CNES, Airbus Defence and Space, Dassault, etc.

TsNIIMash leads a programme of NEO-related research together with the country’s industry, academia and universities. Issues related to early warning in the case of a 100 m-class NEO collision have been investigated. The Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Astronomy is a close collaborator in this field. The Russian space industry possesses a significant amount of experience in designing prototype deflection missions, including NPO Lavochkin’s Apophis and Makeev Design Bureau’s Kaissa/Kapkan. There is also a strong research team dealing with blast deflection issues. Having an active part in the country’s manned spaceflight program, TsNIIMash has unique experience of studying the re-entry of descent modules and break-up of spacecraft in the atmosphere, gaining crucial knowledge applicable to the behaviour of an NEO during passage through the atmosphere.

Surrey Space Centre, University Of Surrey
Logo SSC

The Surrey Space Centre, under the faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering within the University of Surrey, is a fully integrated mix of world class academic research teams whose aim is to underpin the technical development of the small space industry. The Surrey Space Centre develops new innovative technologies which are exploited by the burgeoning small satellite industry, including the University of Surrey's commercial company Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL). The academic programme provides enhanced capabilities for satellites whilst maintaining a low cost platform and exploits the latest in off-the-shelf technologies. The history of the Surrey Space Centre dates back to the early 1980s. In 1981 a group of academic and research staff working in what was then the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Surrey were responsible for the design and manufacture of UoSAT-1, a 50 kg micro-satellite conceived and built in less than 30 months at a cost of less than 0.5M pounds. The success of this mission led to a second microsatellite, UoSAT-2, being built and launched in 1984. Having contributed to the design and launch of 26 spacecraft SSC has a strong practical perspective in space research.

Over the last two decades the Space Centre has established a reputation for the development of innovative systems and demonstrated a number of firsts in the area of small satellite use and of developing novel space mission concepts, such as satellite de-orbiting, earth observation with small satellite constellations and asteroid deflection just to name some. Surrey is currently working on satellite de-orbiting space missions funded by industry and the EU (FP7) as well as on gravity tractor concepts for asteroid deflection. The wide knowledge base SSC can call upon makes it a world leader in developing innovative solutions for small satellites and new space concepts/systems.


University of Bern

The Physics Institute of the University of Bern in Switzerland is a NEOShield Project Advisor. The space division of the institute conducts research into the history, origin and early evolution of planetary systems.  Their expertise in the numerical modelling of impacts will be beneficial for the project, in particular for the impact experiments and simulations aimed at characterising the deflection efficiency of an asteroid following impact by a kinetic impactor.