ESOC hosts visit from UK science minister
The UK Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Ian Pearson, visited ESA's Operations Centre today in the first-ever such visit from a British minister.
Mr Pearson held discussions with ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain; he was also updated on current and future European space activities and on the strong participation of UK industry in ESA programmes.
He was guided on a tour of ESOC's satellite control facilities and was briefed on ESOC's roles by Gaele Winters, Director of Operations for ESA and ESOC Head of Establishment. He also met with UK national staff and industrial contractors working on site.
The tour included visits to individual mission control rooms and to the Main Control Room, from where over 57 missions have been successfully operated; ESOC is also ESA's centre of excellence for ground systems engineering and systems development.
"UK science and industry have played a strong part in the success of ESA missions and constitute a solid and competitive basis for a stronger role in future ESA activities," said J-J. Dordain.
2008 sees intense activities for ESA
The visit comes at a time of intense activity for Europe in space.
The scheduled 7 February launch of ESA's Columbus laboratory on board Space Shuttle Atlantis will be followed just days later by the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), 'Jules Verne,' which will be lofted to the International Space Station on board an Ariane 5 launcher from ESA's Spaceport in Kourou.
The two ESA missions will be controlled on behalf of ESA by DLR and CNES, the German and French space agencies; ESA mission directors and operations experts have been dispatched from ESOC to the ATV and Columbus control centres in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, and Toulouse, France.
Several other ESA missions are scheduled for launch in 2008, including GIOVE-B, GOCE and Herschel-Planck.
ESOC: Europe's 'Gateway to Space'
In 2007, ESOC celebrated 40 years of operations success and expertise. The centre is particularly known for its capabilities in managing the critical launch and early operations phase for ESA and partner agency missions.
In the past decades, ESOC has also been instrumental in recovering seven missions that were injected into incorrect orbits due to launcher under performance.
ESOC also serves as the European control centre for the Agency's ESTRACK network of ground tracking stations, a global system with nine core stations located in Europe, Australia and South America, as well as partner stations in Africa and above the Arctic Circle.