Europe's ISS control centres
Two ground control centres are responsible for controlling and operating the European contribution to the ISS Programme. These are the Columbus Control Centre (Col-CC) and the Automated Transfer Vehicle Control Centre (ATV-CC).
The task of Col-CC is to control and operate the Columbus laboratory and coordinate European experiments (payload) operations, while the ATV-CC's task is to control and operate the ATVs.
Those working at the European ground control centres are engineers and technicians, trained in accordance with the ESA/ISS certification guidelines, to become flight controllers. They are trained specifically to operate either Columbus or ATV and are fully conversant with the ISS environment. The head of the flight control team is the Flight Director.
The majority of the Columbus and ATV systems are operated automatically. Control centres monitor the correct performance of the planned operations and, in the case of changes or any malfunctions, prepare and integrate the necessary updates.
Maintenance activities are carried out on board Columbus by the on-orbit crew and monitored by the control centre and the respective payload centre.
Both centres have two control rooms: one for realtime operation control and one for preparation activities, such as the training of controllers, simulations, etc. The second control room also acts as a backup for the first control room. As these two control rooms are located close to each other, there is always a backup control centre, which can take over operations in case of a major disaster such as fire.
Columbus Control Centre
The Columbus Control Centre (Col-CC) is located at the German Space Operations Centre of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich, in Germany. This centre is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Col-CC controls and operates the Columbus laboratory and is in close contact with the Mission Control Centre in Houston, USA, which has overall responsibility for the ISS, together with the Mission Control Centre in Moscow, Russia. In addition, Col-CC coordinates operations with the ISS Payload Operations and Integration Centre at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, USA, which is responsible for operating European experiments.
All the ground services for Columbus are provided by Col-CC. This includes communication services (voice, video and data) to the sites where ISS users are located, to the ATV Control Centre, to the European Astronaut Centre (EAC), to industrial support sites and to the ESA management site at ESA's research and technology centre, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
ATV Control Centre
This centre, located in Toulouse, France, on the premises of the French space agency, CNES, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the active and docked mission phases. ATV-CC is responsible for operating Europe's ATV and interfaces with the Mission Control Centres in Moscow and Houston, as well as with the Columbus Control Centre.
User Support and Operation Centres (USOCs) are based in national centres distributed throughout Europe. These centres are responsible for the use and implementation of European payloads on board the ISS.
On behalf of users and under ESA management, the USOCs conduct the tasks needed to prepare and operate the facilities for experiments on board the ISS. The USOCs act as the link between the user and the ISS, and are the focal point for the preparation and operation of ESA payloads.
For more information about the User Support and Operation Centres (USOCs), please visit the USOCs page.
Last update: 29 September 2009