Unlocking history with detailed X-ray images
Last year, we examined the Me 163 Messerschmitt rocket-powered interceptor from the collection of the Deutsches Museum, using XXL computed tomography. This was a special project in many respects: Besides being a highly unusual specimen of incalculable value, the aircraft was much larger than any of the objects previously imaged using this technology. The curatorial team for aviation history at the Deutsches Museum hopes the scan will provide fresh insights into the history of the machine.
The »Kraftei« – as the unusually shaped rocket-powered interceptor plane was often nicknamed in aviation circles – reached our facility in a custom-built steel frame. Before we could perform the scan, the wings had to be removed. Four scan sequences were needed to fully tomograph the interceptor plane and its wings – by far the most demanding project since the system went into operation in 2013.
The detailed X-ray image data has enabled the curatorial team to distinguish original components from replacement parts installed in the aircraft over time, for example. Previously hidden areas, such as those behind welded plates inside the aircraft, can now also be examined in minute detail. However, the curators will not just use the CT data for research purposes – visitors to the Deutsches Museum’s new 2020 aeronautics exhibition will be able to explore the interceptor plane using a virtual and augmented reality system.