Precise measurement of Jupiter's moons: HENSOLDT Optronics wins Lothar Späth Award for "GALA" space instrument

(From left to right): Laudator Prof. Dr Walter Rosenthal (President of the University of Jena) presents the third prize of the Lothar Späth Award to Kai Weidlich, Stefan Risse, Henry Wegert and Henrik von Lukowicz. HENSOLDT Optronics and the Fraunhofer Institute IOF receive the prize for the development of metal-optical precision instruments for satellite-based observation and communication. Photo: Lothar Späth Award Foundation/Klaus Hepp

As part of ESA's "JUICE" mission, the GALA altimeter instrument will fly to three of Jupiter's moons. Photo: Nicolas Herrbach –

Oberkochen/Stuttgart, Germany, 23 November 2021 – HENSOLDT Optronics has won the third prize of the Lothar Späth Award 2021 for the laser altimeter "GALA" (Ganymede Laser Altimeter), which will be on board the European space mission "JUICE" to Jupiter in 2023. The business prize of the foundation of the same name is awarded for pioneering innovations from the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Thuringia. Kai Weidlich, GALA Programme Manager, accepted the award on behalf of HENSOLDT at the headquarters of the Landesbank Baden-Württemberg in Stuttgart. Henry Wegert (system engineer) and Boris Trefzger (structure analyst) also received the award.

From the innovation partner, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena, Dr-Ing. Stefan Risse (Head of Department Precision Optical Components and Systems), Henrik von Lukowicz (System Engineer), Dr Johannes Hartung (Developer Freeform Optics) were awarded. HENSOLDT Optronics and the Fraunhofer IOF have been cooperating very closely for about five years, with step-by-step innovative developments being launched in overarching consortia with other partners such as TESAT, ZEISS and SPACEOPTIX.

Based on this expertise, an optical receiving telescope was developed for the Ganymede Laser Altimeter (GALA), which fulfils extreme environmental requirements such as those posed by temperature changes, high temperature gradients, ultra-high vacuum and extreme cosmic radiation exposure. "GALA is one of eleven scientific instruments of ESA's JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer) mission, which aims to explore Jupiter's icy moons. Of particular interest is the moon Ganymede, which resembles Earth due to its atmosphere, magnetic field and water resources. The laser altimeter will measure the surface topography of Jupiter's moon with a resolution of about 15 cm. To do this, it requires a high-precision laser receiving unit, developed by Fraunhofer IOF together with HENSOLDT Optronics, which can pick up laser pulses that are scattered back to the satellite from the moon's surface 500 km away.

The Lothar Späth Award is aimed at cooperative, outstanding innovations in products, processes and services in Baden-Württemberg and Thuringia. It honours the people from science and industry behind the innovations. In this way, the Lothar Spaeth Award 2018 underlines for the first time the importance of partnership-based, future-oriented thinking and action for Germany's leading position in the world. In the spirit of Prof. Dr. h. c. Lothar Späth (former Minister President of Baden-Württemberg from 1978 to 1991), the award recognises and promotes special developments for the benefit of society. The jury members of the award include former Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the former Minister President of the State of Baden-Württemberg and former EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

With the Lothar Späth Award 2021, HENSOLDT once again demonstrates its innovative strength and its ability to develop cutting-edge technology on the Ostalb.


HENSOLDT is a German champion in the defence industry with a leading market position in Europe and global reach. Headquartered in Taufkirchen near Munich/Germany, the company develops sensor solutions for defence and security applications. As a technology leader, HENSOLDT also continuously expands its Cyber portfolio and develops new products to combat a wide range of threats based on innovative approaches to data management, robotics and cybersecurity. With more than 5,600 employees, HENSOLDT generated revenue of EUR 1.2 billion in 2020. HENSOLDT is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and member of the SDAX index.

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