Workshop on managing knowledge forms a KM 'Community of Practice'

30 March 2009

On 18 February 2009, ESA's Operations directorate hosted the first ESA Workshop on Managing Knowledge in Spacecraft Operations. Over 80 participants from the Agency and its industrial partners demonstrated the strong level of interest in the growing knowledge management field.

Knowledge management (KM) is a new and growing area of practise that aims to help organisations increase effectiveness by identifying, capturing and sharing professional insights, experiences and expertise.

A good KM system can help organisations build and maintain 'corporate knowledge', which can be lost through retirements, personal transfers, changes in work teams, changes in contractor teams and other unavoidable evolutions in distributed, team-based projects.

Capturing knowledge crucial for space operations

In the area of spacecraft operations, capturing knowledge and experience is particularly important. ESA's Rosetta mission, for example, was launched in 2004 and is on a ten-year cruise to rendezvous with Comet 67-P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014.

By then, many of the original software developers who worked on the spacecraft and its mission control system will have moved on to other projects, transferred to other jobs, switched companies or even retired.

KM has become increasingly strategic for maintaining and strengthening the Agency's leading role in spacecraft operations.

"ESA's Directorate of Operations and Infrastructure has been involved in knowledge management since the start of the Rosetta mission, in 1999. Since then, KM has become increasingly strategic for maintaining and strengthening the Agency's leading role in spacecraft operations and ground systems infrastructure," says Robert Mugellesi-Dow, team leader for the KM initiative at ESOC, the European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany.

The workshop presentations, including invited speakers, gave an insight into the KM systems and processes used within the spacecraft operations teams at ESA and those employed by companies that support ESA via direct provision of contracted services.

Knowledge Management 'Community of Practice'

One of the key results of the Workshop was a strong consensus to establish a 'Community of Practice' centred on the Agency's ESOC establishment and the spacecraft operations domain.

"We expect that we can work with interested partners in the future to enhance the sharing of best practises, latest trends, success formulae and tools and processes, providing better efficiencies both inside and outside ESA," said Mugellesi-Dow.

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