German state secretary in first visit to ESA Operations Centre
Mr Peter Hintze, Parliamentary Secretary of State in Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, visited ESA's Operations Centre today for a briefing on current European space activities.
Hintze held discussions with ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and Gaele Winters, ESA's director for operations, and was briefed on the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC)'s role within ESA and on highlights of the Agency's expanding cooperation with partner European space agencies.
Manfred Warhaut, Mission Operations Manager, guided the guests on a tour of the Establishment, from where 13 spacecraft are currently operated, including Mars Express, Venus Express, and Envisat, one of the world's top platforms for data on climate change and the environment.
German ESA astronaut Reinhold Ewald, Columbus Mission Operations Manager, also provided up-to-date details on preparations for the scheduled year-end launch of Europe's Columbus science laboratory to the International Space Station (ISS).
Visit to Main Control Room
"ESOC is a strong asset for Germany. We are proud that ESA's space operations centre is located here in Darmstadt. Its historically grown expertise is very valuable, and must be supported into the future as well," said State Secretary Hintze.
Deepening cooperation between ESA, DLR and CNES
The visit highlights the increasing tempo of ESA space operations activities this year and next.
Around the time that Columbus - Europe's cornerstone contribution to the international station - is delivered to the ISS, ESA will also be in final preparation to fly the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), 'Jules Verne', to the Space Station.
The two ESA missions will be controlled on behalf of ESA by DLR and CNES, the German and French space agencies; direct support and know-how is being provided by ESA operations experts, several of whom have been dispatched to partner control centres in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, and Toulouse, France.
ESOC: Europe's 'Gateway to Space'
This year, ESOC celebrates its 40th anniversary; in the past four decades, 55 ESA missions and 57 non-ESA missions have been successfully supported from Darmstadt. The centre's ground control experts have even recovered seven missions that were injected into incorrect orbits due to launcher under performance.
ESOC also serves as the European control centre for the Agency's ESTRACK network of ground tracking stations, a global system with eight core stations located in Europe, Australia and South America, as well as partner stations in Africa and above the Arctic Circle.