ATV Control Centre

Fermat Building houses the ATV Control Centre

The main function of the Automated Transfer Vehicle Control Centre (ATV-CC) is to operate Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV).

In the elegant, modern 'Fermat Building' of the Toulouse space centre, the French space agency CNES, under a contract signed with ESA in 2003, developed and operates, a complex space control centre specialised in handling ATV missions in orbit.

Under the authority of ESA, ATV-CC is responsible for the preparation and validation of the monitoring and control tools used by the 30 mission control staff during the flight. The Control Centre is also responsible for carrying out the programmed mission plans and, if needed, to implement any changes.

ATV-CC Flight Control Room

Additionally the Centre is in charge of the orbitography, the localisation of ATV and monitoring its approach to the International Space Station. This is a challenging task, requiring a very high degree of technical skill.

Among the different flight control and piloting capabilities, ATV-CC also directs the undocking of ATV from the International Space Station. The Control Centre can command an operation to keep ATV in the vicinity of the International Space Station for up to eight weeks and, if needed, even perform a re-docking.

An ATV mission requires complex interactions and shared responsibilities between space organisations dispersed throughout the world.

Team at work in the ATV Control Centre

ATV-CC works with the Guiana Space Centre, in charge of launch and deployment of ATVs. For rendezvous, docking and departure, ATV-CC works in close coordination with the Mission Control Centres in Moscow and Houston.

All ATV ground control commands are issued from Toulouse. For example, in case of a major malfunction during the rendezvous, ATV-CC, as well as the Space Station crew, can initiate the Collision Avoidance Manoeuvre to move the 20-tonne spaceship away from the Station before attempting another rendezvous the next day.

To allow continuous coordination with the other control centres and to remain in constant contact with ATV during a mission ATV-CC relies on the the Interconnection Ground Subnetwork, which is based at the German Space Operations Centre, at Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany. ATV-CC is directly linked to the Columbus Control Centre, which also plays the role of the central node of the communications network with ESA's partners.

Last update: 4 June 2013

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