User Support and Operations Centres (USOCs)

ESA's Columbus Control Centre

From the outset of the ISS Programme, a decentralised scheme for the utilisation of European payloads on board the ISS was envisaged. USOCs located in various participating countries act as the link between the user community and ESA's Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, NASA's Payload Operations Integration Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Russian Mission Control Centre in Moscow.

During the pre-launch phase, the USOCs were concerned with activities such as ground model operations, experiment-procedure development, payload and experiment optimisation and calibration, and support to crew training activities.

During the inorbit payload operations, the USOCs receive facility and experiment data and perform, in coordination with the Columbus Control Centre, the operations of the payloads for which they are responsible.

The USOCs are also responsible for the interaction with the scientists in disseminating experiment data to them, and receiving and processing requests for experiment scheduling and direct commanding.

Levels of responsibility

Biolab is designed to support biological experiments

Depending on the scope of the task assigned to a USOC, it can assume three basic levels of responsibility. The first level is to operate as an Experiment Support Centre, supporting users from the country in which the USOC is situated, in preparing and conducting an experiment.

The second level is to operate as a Facility Support Centre (FSC) supporting particular functions of an Agency-provided multi-user facility. The third level is to operate as a Facility Responsible Centre (FRC) with full responsibility for the operation of a complete payload facility.

For the Columbus facilities the relevant USOCs are as follows:

Biolab: The Facility Responsible Centre for Biolab is at the Microgravity User Support Centre (MUSC) in Cologne, Germany. BIOTESC in Zurich, Switzerland, acts as the Facility Support Centre.

Erasmus building - ESTEC
View of the Erasmus building at ESTEC

European Drawer Rack: The Erasmus USOC at ESTEC, ESA's establishment in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, is the Facility Responsible Centre for the European Drawer rack, with the Belgian USOC in Brussels and the Dutch Utilisation centre in Emmeloord acting as Facility Support Centres.

European Physiology Modules: The Facility Responsible Centre for the European Physiology Modules is at CADMOS (Centre d'Aide au Développement des activités en Micro-pesanteur et des Opérations Spatiales) in Toulouse, France. DAMEC in Odense, Denmark, acts as the Facility Support Centre.

Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL)
Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL)

Fluid Science Laboratory: The Facility Responsible Centre for the Fluid Science Laboratory is at the Microgravity Advanced Research and Support (MARS) Centre in Naples, Italy. MARS is supported by the E-USOC in Madrid, Spain, which is the Facility Support Centre for Fluid Science Laboratory Operations.

For the unpressurised external payloads, the Facility Responsible Centres are based at ESA's Erasmus USOC for EuTEF, at the Belgian USOC for SOLAR, and at CADMOS for ACES.

Last update: 23 July 2008

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