The European Space Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany, has served as Europe’s gateway to space for half a century. In 2017, the centre celebrated its 50th anniversary, highlighting a rich history of achievement in space.
This timeline provides a tour through that rich history, which encompasses 78 spacecraft (as of Dec 2017), ranging from telecom, weather, Earth observation and climate monitoring satellites to spacecraft studying the Sun and peering deep into our Universe.
Exploring our Solar System, ESOC has flown missions to the Moon, Mars and Venus, as well as three epoch-making triumphs: Giotto’s flyby of Halley’s Comet in 1986, the Huygens landing on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005 and Rosetta’s delivery of Philae to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in 2014 – humanity’s first landing on a comet.
This timeline covers the centre’s antecedence in Darmstadt in the 1960s, the pioneering events of the early decades, the steady growth of mission operations activity in the 1980s and 1990s, and the crucial milestones of the recent years.
Note links below to access separate pages for each decade.
This timeline was developed by the ESOC Communication Office with the indispensable assistance of volunteers working at the mission control centre.
Sincere thanks to Aybike Demirsan, Karlie Yeung, Adam Vigneron, Lisa Guilpain, Daniel Scuka, Thomas Godard, Carlo Ghisi, Giulia Federico, Constanze Kramer and Alexandre Payez as well as numerous colleagues who provided fact-checking.
Note that credit for all images/media not otherwise indicated is to ESA. Some of the videos may take time to load. Spot an error? Have a suggestion? Send us a note via firstname.lastname@example.org.
For much more detail than we can ever stuff into a timeline, don't miss the delightful ESOC history book, "How to Survive in Space," downloadable as a two-part eBook.
We hope you enjoy this timeline!