ESA title
Columbus Control Centre
Science & Exploration

Columbus Control Centre, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany

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ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

ESA's Columbus Control Centre, known by its call-sign Col-CC, supports the European Columbus space laboratory. It is located at the German Aerospace Center DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich, Germany.

The Control Centre is the direct link to Columbus in orbit. The centre's main functions are to command and control the European space laboratory Columbus’ systems, to coordinate operations of European payloads on the International Space Station and to operate the European ground communications network.

The Centre’s operations teams provide support seven days a week 24 hours a day. The centre has two control rooms: one for operations and one for preparations, such as training controllers and simulations.

Command and control of systems

ESA flight directors at Col-CC
ESA flight directors at Col-CC

The Columbus Control Centre makes sure that astronauts work safely in Europe’s space laboratory module and that the payload facilities function properly by commanding and controlling the module’s systems.

They monitor and configure from Oberpfaffenhofen the life support systems that maintain air quality, the power to experiment facilities, and the systems that remove heat from experiments.

Monitor and control experiment facilities


All astronauts inside Columbus are monitored and coordinated by the Columbus Control Centre.

The centre also is responsible for safety under the overall authority of Space Station Mission Control in Houston, Texas.

The Columbus Control Centre reacts to changes during a mission, coordinating decisions and establishing priorities.

Astronaut involvement with a research project in Columbus can range from continuously monitoring an experiment to ‘simply’ installing and removing an experiment that then runs automatically. All autonomous systems and experiments in the Columbus laboratory are monitored and coordinated by the Columbus Control Centre.

A network operations centre

Columbus Control Centre
Columbus Control Centre

All data from Columbus is routed through the Columbus Control Centre. Engineering data is archived at Col-CC whereas scientific and facility data is distributed to User Support and Operations Centres for processing and archiving.

The User Support and Operations Centres are based at national centres distributed throughout Europe and are responsible for specific operations of an ESA experiment in the Columbus laboratory. At these centres scientists can monitor and interact with their experiments.

The Columbus Control Centre distributes data to the User Support and Operations Centres and receives information from them. The information is used to generate mission plans and timelines for the flight controllers and astronauts.

The Columbus Control Centre is also linked to the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, which is responsible for ESA astronaut medical support, monitoring, and safety during missions.

Linked to international partners

Mission Control, Houston
Mission Control, Houston

The Columbus laboratory hosts non-European experiments in space. Any decisions taken by the Columbus Control Centre are coordinated with the International Space Station’s partners.

The Columbus Control Centre is connected to the Space Station Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, USAI, the Huntsville Operations Support Center in Alabama, USA, and to the Mission Control Centre in Moscow, Russia.

Lastly the Columbus Control Centre operates the ground network that provides communication services such as voice, video and data, to its partner sites.

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