Development engineer and university professor

Eveline Gottzein was born on 30 September 1931 in Leipzig. Her parents were the engineer Bruno Gottzein and his wife Charlotte. Already at the age of 13, she was interested in technology, wanted to be a glider pilot and, with her father’s support, built model airplanes. After completing her secondary education in 1949 in the GDR, she was refused entrance to the university because of her bourgeois family background. She completed vocational training to become an electrician at the radio and telecommunications plant in Leipzig. There, she worked with feedback amplifiers and had her first encounter with control technology – something that was to fascinate her throughout her entire life.

Late admission to studies in the GDR

Because of her diligence and talent, she was ultimately permitted to begin studying electrical engineering at the Technical University of Dresden. From 1952 to 1957, she studied first electrical engineering, then mathematics and physics after earning her intermediate diploma. She developed an electronic system for the simulation of complex industrial processes: The “model for synthesis and analysis (MOSYAN)” was one of the attractions at the 1957 Leipzig Spring Trade Fair. After completing her studies, Gottzein fled to the West. From 1957 to 1959, she continued studying applied mathematics and control technology at the Technical University of Darmstadt, graduating with a Diplom in mathematics. For a time, she worked as an application engineer at Electronic Associates Inc. in the European Simulation Center in Brussels.

Development engineer at MBB

In 1959, Gottzein became a development engineer at Bölkow Entwicklungen KG (later Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm GmbH). She established the department for control and simulation in what would later become the aeronautics division, heading the department until her retirement in 1993. Gottzein was substantially involved in Franco-German collaboration in aerospace and technology through her collaboration on the “Roland” defense system against low-flying aircraft of the “Europa Rocket” and on the first Franco-German communications satellites. She was deeply impressed by the personality of the company’s director Ludwig Bölkow, as she found his professional expertise, willingness to assume responsibility, and work ethic exemplary. Ludwig Bölkow gave Gottzein and her young colleagues free reign, releasing undreamt-of creative forces.

Simulation on the basis of mathematical models

In the hybrid simulation center for complex technical systems, the most modern in Europe at that time, the entire simulation of the controlled phase was carried out on the basis of mathematical models, at the time still converted into electronic models, to calculate system-level behavior, as well as to determine and coordinate guidance laws and flight controllers. Gottzein supplemented her knowledge of reactor and flight simulation in a hybrid computing center of the US company Electronic Associates in Belgium and England, laying the foundation for successfully joining Bölkow KG.

All truly great inventions were first intuitively conjectured, then logically corroborated.1

Building on the DLR’s experience in developing the Franco-German communications satellite Symphony, she established the engineering process for the development and qualification of Attitude and Orbit Control Systems (AOCS) of satellites, first systematically applied for the communications satellites of the INTELSAT V series and later transferred with great success to all the company’s communications satellites. For the TV Sat series (TV-Sat1 & 2; TDF1 & 2; Tele-X), Gottzein led the transition from analogue to digital AOCS implementation. The satellites were triaxially stabilized in all AOCS modes, both in the operational and in the transfer phases. Compared with the spin stabilization then customary, this was a great step forward.

Load-bearing and guidance systems for high-speed magnetic levitation trains

Gottzein was also responsible for the design, development and testing of load-bearing and guidance systems for high-speed maglev trains. This included system modelling and simulation, hardware and software development, integration and high-speed tests. On 6 May 1971 the “Magnetmobil,” the world’s first MBB demonstrator vehicle, was presented in Ottobrunn near Munich. In the place of wheels and rails of traditional railway came a non-contact electromagnetic, almost wear-free load-bearing, guidance, and drive system. The vehicle was powered by a short stator linear motor and transported six to eight passengers at a maximum speed of 90 km/h. Load-bearing and guidance systems were contour- and platform-based. The crossover frequency between the two modes was adjusted to optimize driving comfort and power consumption. Experiences from the development of the grade control system of the “Cormorant” anti-ship rocket system, one that flies just a few meters above sea level (type Sea Skimmer), were integrated into the concept, in which Gottzein was personally involved.

“Component Measuring System” (KOMET)

The “component measuring system” (KOMET) was first deployed in 1975 for testing high-speed maglev trains and components for highest speeds of more than 400 km/h. Its success is based on lab tests that Gottzein conducted with a rotational testing station developed for the purpose to investigate the behavior of magnets at high speeds and optimize their configuration on the vehicle. Until this time, “experts” claimed that the drop in loading capacity at speeds of over 180 km/h as a result of eddy currents in the track was too large. With the rotational testing station, it was possible to improve the configuration of magnets to ensure minimal drop in loading capacity.

“That’s not possible” was a sentence that the dedicated engineer and scientist often heard but always challenged. In her work, she was always able to rely on favorably disposed, competent and committed employees and partners. In 1979, the first full-fledged MBB high-speed maglev train TRANSRAPID 05 was put into operation at the International Transport Exhibition (IVA) in Hamburg. With the help of the electromagnetic control system, the magnetic forces were laid out in such a way that a space of ca. 10 mm was maintained between the support magnets and the ferromagnetic stator packs. Fork sensors were deployed to check the distance. The distance from the vehicle floor to the track was ca. 15 cm.

Doctorate at the TUM on the “magneto wheel concept”

The load-bearing and guidance system was based on the patented “magneto wheel concept,” which Gottzein developed in her dissertation entitled “The magneto wheel as an autonomous functional unit of modular load-bearing and guide systems for maglev trains.” She attained her doctorate in engineering from the Technical University of Munich in 1983 during her employment. The “magneto wheel concept” is characterized by hierarchy and decentralization through to autonomous basic modules at the first level to support a high degree of functional redundancy. This key characteristic guarantees vehicle safety at all speeds: One of eight load-bearing and guidance modules can fail without compromising performance. The concept was adopted for the improved test vehicle TRANSRAPID 06, which reached a top speed of 412.6 km/h on the test track in the Emsland region in 1988. However, the Transrapid technology did not find any commercial users in Germany. In Shanghai, China, a Transrapid track has successfully operated as an airport link since 31 December 31 2002.

I was fascinated by the opportunities and determined to seize them to the greatest extend possible.

Scientific advisor to Airbus GmbH

Eveline Gottzein worked as a scientific advisor to Airbus GmbH in the development of a GPS receiver tailored to commercial space vehicle applications. The single-board L1 receiver is based on software correlation and is either integrated into the avionic system or functions as a stand-alone receiver. What is special about the concept is that the receiver, suitable for use in space, is also deployable for navigation at high altitudes above the trajectories of the GPS constellation, using the “spill-over” of electromagnetic radiation. The receiver has been successfully tested in space on a geostationary communication satellite, i.e. at a height of approx. 36,000 km. The navigational precision is better than 100 meters. The even more powerful successor uses both GPS and Galileo signals and is already carrying out flight tests in space. Eveline Gottzein also advised on the development of a position and course sensor on the basis of enhanced image processing with active pixel detector technology. The sensor and the results of the flight tests were presented at the “4th ESA Round Table on Micro/Nano Technologies for Space”.

Honorary professor at the University of Stuttgart

In addition to her professional activity, Gottzein has been an assistant lecturer since 1989 at the University of Stuttgart in the field of “Control problems in space travel”; in 1996, she was appointed honorary professor for aerospace engineering. Since 2005, she has been teaching in the European Space Master Graduate Program “Space Dynamics and Controls,” part of its Erasmus Mundus program. After her retirement in 1993, she began advising Deutsche Aerospace AG, later Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG, (EADS) Astrium GmbH, now the Airbus Defense and Space division of the Airbus Group. Gottzein was granted five patents in the fields of magnetic levitation and aerospace technology. In addition to her dissertation, she has numerous publications on the altitude and orbit control of satellites and carrier vehicles, load-bearing and guidance systems of maglev trains, and satellite navigation in space, in particular, of spacecraft at high altitudes.

Awarded the Werner von Siemens Ring

In 1993, she was awarded the Werner von Siemens Ring – thus far the only woman to receive it – for her achievements in the development of control systems for high-speed maglev trains, satellites and other spacecraft. In 1996 she was awarded the Bavarian Order of Merit, in 1998 the Bavarian Order of Maximilian for Science and Art, and in 2000 the Grand Cross of the German Order of Merit. In 2007, Gottzein became a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and in the following year was appointed Fellow of the International Federation Automatic Control (IFAC). In 2011, she was appointed a TUM Distinguished Affiliated Professor by the Technical University of Munich.

1. quoted in Martin Morlock: Verschiebung. Der Spiegel, Jan. 17, 1966, p. 89 (last access Sept. 28, 2017).

“I am tough and I never give up.” You can also read the interview with Professor Eveline Gottzein in the KontakTUM 1/2018.