Tracking Europe’s family of launchers from Gabon
As Europe lofts more rockets, ESA’s network of tracking stations used to follow their progress has never been more important.
Today, ESA renewed its agreement with the Gabonese Republic to use the Libreville tracking station in Gabon, off the west coast of Africa.
Three different launch vehicles operate from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. ESA’s downrange telemetry station network is an essential part of every mission and feeds back information about the conditions on board the launcher, its performance, trajectory and the injection of the satellites into space. This is crucial information for engineers, customers and flight specialists.
This agreement allows ESA to use the Libreville tracking station for Ariane, Vega and Soyuz, reflects developments in the legal and regulatory framework in telecommunications in Gabon and includes the cooperation between ESA and the Gabonese Republic in space applications, exchange of expertise and training.
The Gabonese Agency for Space Studies and Observations (AGEOS) will coordinate the implementation of this agreement.
ESA’s cooperation with Gabon in tracking and telemetry services dates back to 1986 with the installation of the Libreville downrange station in N’Koltang for Ariane launches, which is operated by France’s CNES space agency on behalf of ESA.
The network of tracking stations was initially set up along the equator to serve the needs of Ariane’s main trajectory – the path to geostationary transfer orbit. At this ideal location near the equator, the launcher remains visible during the critical phases of the mission as it climbs eastwards from Kourou.
The network includes stations in Galliot (French Guiana), Natal (Brazil), Ascension Island (UK) in the South Atlantic Ocean, Libreville (Gabon) and Malindi (Kenya).
Gabon’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dieudonné Nzengue, and ESA’s Director of Launchers, Gaele Winters, signed the agreement during a ceremony held today in Libreville.
This agreement reflects a strong will and common interest to reinforce and boost cooperation in the peaceful uses of space particularly in remote sensing for environmental monitoring and the corresponding data processing, Earth observation applications projects, specialised training and sharing of information.