Michael Frühauf

About Me

I am a PhD candidate and Academic staff of the Chair of Astronautics at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), doing research on near-Earth objects. Before, I was a Young Graduate Trainee of the European Space Agency (ESA) at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt and worked in the Planetary Defence Office (OPS-SP). I graduated to master of science in astrophysics at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich (LMU), where I wrote my master's thesis about 'Feasibility of Near-Earth Object Deflection by Breakthrough Starshot Technology' at the University Observatory Munich (USM). As part of my thesis I attended the 4-week scientific programme of the Munich Institute of Astro- and Particle Physics (MIAPP) about 'Near-Earth objects: Properties, detection, resources, impacts and defending Earth'. During my studies, I did an exchange to the University of Helsinki (UH) and attended a summer school about 'Natural space risks' at the Paris Observatory (OBSPM) and 'Plasma physics and fusion research' at the Max-Planck Institute for Plasmaphysics (IPP). As undergraduate degree I did the bachelor of science in physics at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich (LMU) with a thesis about 'self-gravitating accretion discs', written at the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA). Before, I did an apprenticeship to technical draftsman and worked at the company HUBER SE.

In my spare time as a student, I used to work at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) with the Scientific Workgroup for Rocketry and Space Flight (WARR) on the MOVE-II CubeSat and MOVE-ON high altitude balloon projects. I like to do web- and graphic design, photography and playing ukulele. I am enthusiastic about all aspects of planetary science (geology, meteorology, glaciology, climatology, etc.), exobiology and space exploration.


Asteroid Impact Our Solar System consists of numerous asteroids and comets, many of them crossing Earth's orbit. Those objects are called near-Earth objects (NEOs) and a population of about 20,500 bodies larger than 100 m is estimated. Depending on the size, the damage ranges from local major damage up to a global disaster with mass extinction. Right now, no NEO is known within rout of collision, yet due to continuous observation of the night sky this could change quickly. The chance of an impact seems low, but we know from Earth history, that there have been catastrophic impacts before. Moreover, there is no need of hundreds of impacts. Just one single event can erase human civilization.

Research & Work

Near-Earth object population model

Technical Universty of Munich 2021‒present

Former Projects

Meerkat Asteroid Guard

European Space Agency 2018‒2020

Image Credit: Michael Frühauf
Meerkat Asteroid Guard (short Meerkat) is ESA's imminent impactor warning service. It is a fully automatized system running 24/7, taking observational data of newly discovered near-Earth objects from the Minor Planet Center's NEO Confirmation Page and computing preliminary orbits to check their hazard potential for Earth in near real time. Meerkat is based on the Systematic Ranging orbit determination technique. In addition, it provides ephemeris and detection probabilities of the analyzed objects for various stations to provide observers with all imformation required to schedule optimal follow-up observations.

Flyeye telescope

European Space Agency 2018‒2020

Image Credit: ESA
As part of the global effort to hunt out risky celestial objects such as asteroids and comets, ESA is developing an automated telescope for nightly sky surveys. This telescope is the first in a future network that would completely scan the sky and automatically identify possible new near-Earth objects, or NEOs, for follow up and later checking by human researchers. The telescope, nicknamed 'Flyeye', splits the image into 16 smaller subimages to expand the field of view, similar to the technique exploited by a fly’s compound eye. Such fly-eyed survey telescopes provide a very large field of view: 6.7° x 6.7° or about 45 square degrees. 6.7° is about 13 times the diameter of the Moon as seen from the Earth (roughly 0.5 degrees).
Text Credit: ESA

New concepts of near-Earth object deflection

University Observatory Munich 2017‒2018

Breakthrough Starshot
Image Credit: Breakthrough Initiative
My Master’s thesis treats the near-Earth object deflection by the Breakthrough Starshot technology, where low-mass chip-satellites with lightsails are accelerated to 20% speed of light and transfer their linear momentum to the near-Earth objects by an impact. We want to figure out, if this future technology might be a reliable solution for planetary defense, especially for the threat by asteroids. Most publications about Breakthrough Starshot concentrate on interstellar traveling, though the aspect of near-Earth object deflection was never studied before. On the other hand, there is no satisfying near-Earth object deflection method developed yet, which can reliably handle km-sized impactors with a short lead time and also no smaller object has ever been deflected until now.


Lead author

Frühauf, M., Micheli, M., Oliviero, D. & Koschny, D. (2021, April 26–30). Meerkat Asteroid Guard imminent impactor warning service of the European Space Agency [Poster session]. 7th IAA Planetary Defense Conference, Vienna, Austria.
[Download Poster, Download Abstract]

Frühauf, M. (2020). SMPAG Meeting February 2020: Mapping of threat scenarios to mission types. European Space Agency.
[Download Report]

Frühauf, M., Micheli, M., Santana-Ros, T., Jehn, R., Koschny, D. & Ramírez Torralba, O. (2019). A systematic ranging technique for follow-ups of NEOs detected with the Flyeye telescope. In T. Flohrer, R. Jehn & F. Schmitz (Eds.), 1st NEO and Debris Detection Conference. ESA Space Safety Programme Office.
[Download Paper]

Frühauf, M. (2018). Feasibility of Near-Earth Object Deflection by Breakthrough Starshot Technology [Unpublished master's thesis]. Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich
[Download Thesis]


Ramírez Torralba, O., Jehn, R., Koschny, D., Frühauf, M., Jehn, L. S. & Praus, A. (2019). Simulation of sky surveys with the Flyeye telescope. In T. Flohrer, R. Jehn & F. Schmitz (Eds.), 1st NEO and Debris Detection Conference. ESA Space Safety Programme Office.
[Download Paper]

Other Projects


at Technical Universty of Munich 2015‒2018

MOVE-II CubeSat MOVE-II (Munich Orbital Verification Experiment) is a one unit CubeSat, a tiny satellite with dimensions of 10x10x10cm and an a maximum weight of 1.33kg. The Satellite is developed in cooperation between the Chair of Astronautics (LRT) and the Scientific Workgroup for Rocketry and Space Flight (WARR), by about 60 Bachelor and Master students in their free time.We are developing, implementing and verifying a so-called satellite bus, meaning all parts of the satellite required to run the payload. This includes communications, on-board data handling, the attitude control system, the power supply system, the structure and the thermal control system. The satellite bus can be used in future for multi-unit CubeSats with larger payloads. Besides, the performance and degradation of a new generation of solar cells, which have never been in outer space before, is investigated by our satellite as a scientific payload. It will be launched by a Falcon-9 rocket in summer 2018 into low earth orbit (LEO). The mission is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi), following a decision of the German Bundestag, via the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with funding grant number 50 RM 1509.
I worked as thermal design engineer during the development phase and I was supporting the PR-team with web- and graphic design and social media posts.
[External Webite]

MOVE-ON high altitude balloon

at Technical University of Munich 2017‒2018

MOVE-ON high altitude balloon MOVE-ON is a high altitude balloon project of the Technical University of Munich, where the technology is regularly improved and launched in interation steps. It is developed by about 20 Bachelor and Master students of the Scientific Workgroup for Rocketry and Space Flight (WARR) in their free time, supported by the Chair of Astronautics (LRT). High altitude balloons are used the measure atmospheric properties and to verify space technology in near-space conditions. MOVE-ON consists of a gondola with payload, radar reflector, parachute and a helium balloon. It reaches the stratosphere (~35 km), where it observes environmental conditions, takes pictures and videos, tests new space soft- and hardware, measures payload data (different payloads for different iterations), and sends the data life back to the ground station at Garching.
I worked as payload engineer for the camera team and the PR-team.
[External Website]


Selected Graphics

Some selected graphics I created for projects, posters, websites etc.

Selected Photos

Some selected photos, taken with a digital single-lens reflex camera, a 23.5 cm Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope and a 40 cm newton telescope.

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