Past missions

ESOC's Main Control Room in the 1960s

In September 1967, the European Space Operations Centre was formally inaugurated in Darmstadt, Germany, to provide satellite control for the European Space Research Organisation, today known as ESA.

By May 1968, ESOC was already conducting its first operations, controlling ESRO-2B, a scientific research satellite and the first in a long series of successful missions operated from ESOC for ESRO, and later ESA. Since then, ESOC has successfully operated over 59 missions.

This section provides an overview of past highlight missions that have been controlled from ESOC and other locations by ESA's Operations team.

Editor's note: These articles are provided as a historical archive only. They are no longer updated and may contain outdated information or refer to activities that no longer take place.

Cassini-Huygens

Artists's impression of Huygens on Titan
The Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn is one of the most ambitious planetary exploration missions ever mounted. After arrival at Saturn in July 2004, ESA's Huygens probe was released from Cassini and descended via parachute to touch-down on Titan, one of the solar system's most enigmatic moons, on 14 January 2005.
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SMART-1

SMART-1 is travelling to the Moon using a new solar-electric propulsion system

SMART-1 was ESA’s first Moon mission. In addition to investigating the Moon and studying chemical elements in the lunar surface, the spacecraft successfully demonstrated the use of advanced ion propulsion for navigation and a number of innovative mission control techniques.

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Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-1)

Automated Transfer Vehicle

ESA's ongoing series of Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) spacecraft make regular flights to the ISS, delivering equipment, spare parts, food, air and water to the permanent crew onboard Station. It also peforms reboosts for the ISS. ATV-1, Jules Verne, docked with the ISS on 4 April 2008 and reentered Earth's atmosphere on 29 September 2008.

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Ulysses

Ulysses, artist’s impression
Ulysses was the first mission to study the environment of space above and below the poles of the Sun. Ulysses was tracked by NASA's Deep Space Network and a joint ESA/NASA team at NASA/JPL ran operations and data management.
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Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2)

ISS as seen from Soyuz TMA-20
The International Space Station with ATV-2 and Endeavour

ESA's ongoing series of Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) spacecraft make regular flights to the ISS, delivering equipment, spare parts, food, air and water to the permanent crew on board Station. It also performs reboosts for the ISS. ATV-2, Johannes Kepler, docked with the ISS on 24 February 2011 and re-entered Earth's atmosphere on 21 June 2011.

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ERS-2

ERS-2 satellite

ERS-2 was ESA's second Earth Observation mission. The satellite carried seven instruments including the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment and was launched in April 1995, four years after ERS-1, the first European Remote Sensing satellite. The missions paved the way for the development of many new Earth observation techniques.

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Envisat

Envisat - artist's impression

Launched in 2002, Envisat is the largest Earth observation spacecraft ever built. Operations are managed from ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) by a dedicated team of engineers, controllers and support personnel. Envisat data are relayed to Earth via the Artemis satellite.

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Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3)

ATV-3 approaches Space Station
ATV-3 approaches Space Station

ESA's ongoing series of Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) spacecraft make regular flights to the ISS, delivering equipment, spare parts, food, air and water to the permanent crew on board Station. It also performs reboosts for the ISS. ATV-3, Edoardo Amaldi, launched from Kourou on 23 March 2012, docked with the ISS on 28 March and conducted a destructive re-entry on 3 October 2012.

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Herschel

Herschel in space, close up on its mirror
Herschel in space, close up on its mirror

Launched in 2009, Herschel was the largest space telescope of its kind; its 3.5 m-diameter mirror collected long-wavelength infrared radiation from some of the coolest and most distant objects in the Universe. Herschel made over 35 000 scientific observations, amassing more than 25 000 hours’ worth of science data from about 600 observing programmes.

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Planck

Planck is Europe's first mission to study the Cosmic Microwave Background, the relic radiation from the Big Bang, which occurred about 14 thousand million years ago. 

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GOCE

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE; pronounced ‘go-chay’) measured Earth's gravity field and modelled the geoid with extremely high accuracy. 

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