KM objectives and FAQ

Deputy Flight Operations Director A. Rudolph (L) & Flight Operations Director J. Dodsworth (R) in Main Control Room

As a general requirement, a good KM process should be built upon and utilise existing capabilities and resources whenever possible - such as education & training programs, collaborative tools, document management systems, lessons-learnt archives, etc. - and deliver an integrated suite of processes and tools that are intuitive and easy to use.

ESA Operations team KM objectives

ESA spacecraft operations is a knowledge-intensive domain where team members have specialised skills, knowledge and expertise and thus knowledge management (KM) is critical for the successful completion of the goals under their responsibility.

KM within the operations team has following objectives:

  • Identify and capture core knowledge across missions and generations
    This prime objective aims to secure core knowledge: the gathered experiences - including lessons learnt, best practises, &etc. - of the operations domain and to make this information available to all generations within ESA's operations community (comprising the Agency, its contractors, industrial partners, academia and others) so that the proper knowledge is available at the appropriate place and time. This objective also aims to prevent the loss of accumulated know-how.

  • Facilitate knowledge and operational experience sharing
    The second objective is to facilitate knowledge sharing so as to increase collaboration between team members and to improve the effectiveness and performance the directorate and its partners. Making core knowledge resources available will support re-deployment of specialists and experts in other technical domains according to changing needs and will reduce newcomer integration time while reducing training costs.

  • Improve community process
    The third objective is to contribute to the operations-centric community by fostering a network of external KM partners. With this objective, operations KM also supports the evolution of the Agency by promoting new working methodologies.

KM at ESA operations also strives to foster full community involvement in the exchange of KM best practises and success stories.

KM Frequently asked questions

FAQ on the topic of KM within ESA's Operations Directorate.

Q. What is KM?

KM is about putting in place processes, methodologies and tools to help team members develop and share knowledge in ways that will measurably improve the organisation's performance.

Ultimately, this means establishing an environment that helps us obtain the information necessary to make better decisions. KM means, for example, giving a spacecraft operations engineer access to the history of satellite design decisions - or allowing project managers to quickly identify the right experts for a new team.

In this sense, 'knowledge' is not the end, but rather the means for further action: what we try to do is to use and share the available knowledge to become better at what we do.

Q. How does KM work, practically speaking?

Our KM process aims to create a sort of corporate encyclopedia, to which anyone can contribute and review and continuously improve so as to create an ESOC-based reference of best practises. This encyclopedia will take the advantages of cutting-edge IT resources, advanced techniques for capture and search and the best training tools.

Q. What processes are involved in KM?

Increased efficiency & risk reduction for operations are the two main drivers of KM for ESA Operations. KM exists as a single process with the following subprocesses:

  • Knowledge Management

    • Ensure that the subprocesses and supporting services work together to achieve the knowledge management objectives
    • Monitor progress and establish targets
    • Support services operations, security and metrics collection

  • Organise

    • Build up the organisation required, providing building blocks for storing knowledge and standardising the way knowledge is described to make knowledge easier to find and retrieve
    • Establish incentives for contributions to and reuse of knowledge and clarification of rules for knowledge access
    • Provide support environments and tools for enabling work teams

  • Capture

    • Help people articulate their knowledge into a form that is storable and useful to others
    • Identify and create knowledge sources
    • Provide mechanisms for connecting people, including expert directories, forums and communities of practise

  • Preserve

    • Consolidate knowledge from multiple sources into a single repository
    • Select and refine knowledge to increase usability for others
    • Deploy core meta data, data categorisation standards and taxonomies
    • Provide traceability research for information retrieval

  • Distribute
    • Facilitate team members' access to knowledge and educational packages
    • Provide training for using and contributing to the Knowledge Base

Q. Who does KM?

KM as a process can be implemented by anyone according to needs and requirements. At home, for instance, we all make lists and notes. However, to understand these notes, an internal set of rules must be defined. The role of the KM Core Team at ESA is to create a common understanding of what KM means for the spacecraft operations team and to provide a standard platform where all relevant information can be easily retrieved and understood by all members of the extended community. 

Q. How can my company/organisation get involved?

As with most ESA projects, details of the KM process within the operations team and results will be communicated to the public, right here in these pages. This will help European industry benefit from our methodology and lessons learnt.


Roberta Mugellesi-Dow, KM Core Team Coordinator
ESA/ESOC, Darmstadt
Tel. +49-6151-90-2683
Roberta.Mugellesi.Dow [@]

Last update: 21 July 2009

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