ESA title
The International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE)

The past

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ESAC was founded in 2004 on the Villafranca site, which officially opened in 1978 as VILSPA, one of ESA's original satellite tracking stations.

VILSPA, operated remotely from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, has been responsible for providing telemetry, tracking and command support to ESA as well as non-ESA satellites. The ESA satellites have included: the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), Marecs, the first- and second-generation Meteosats, Hipparcos, ERS-1 and 2, and the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO).


The Infrared Space Observatory
The Infrared Space Observatory

The station has also hosted the Science Operations Centres (SOC) of IUE – which operated for more than 17 years and became the most prolific astronomical satellite yet launched – and ISO, ESA’s first infrared observatory, which made more than 30 000 scientific observations.

Milestones in the history of the Villafranca satellite tracking station

1974 ESRO Council decision to establish VILSPA
1978 Official opening of the Station Launches of IUE (Moc & Soc at VILSPA) Support during the following 19 years
1978 Launch of OTS-2. Support during the following 13 years
1979 Installation of a GOES station and participation in NOAA Global Weather Experiment
1981 Launch of Marecs-A
1983 Launch of ECS-1
1984 Launch of Marecs-B2
1984 Launch of ECS-2
1987 Launch of ECS-4
1988 Launch of ECS-5
1989 Support to Meteosat (MOP-1), Olympus and Hipparcos
1990 Support to Giotto (comunicaciones NASA/ESOC)
1990 Support to Italsat-1
1991 Support to ERS-1 and MOP-2
1993 Support to MOP-3
1995 Launch of ISO (MOC and SOC at VILSPA)
1996 Support to Italsat-2
1998 Support during recovery of SOHO
1999 Launch of XMM-Newton (SOC at VILSPA)
2000 Launch of Cluster
2001 Support to EUTELSAT-W3
2002 LEOP support to Envisat, EUMESAT MSG-1 and Integral
2003 Launch of SMART-1 involving station upgrading to support X- and Ka- band transmission/reception
2003 Support to TC-1 (Double-star programme)
2003 Support to BIRD of the DLR (German Space Agency)
2004 Support to TC-2 (Double-star programme)
2005 LEOP support to EUMESAT MSG-2
2005 Cebreros Antenna Validation with satellites Mars Express, SMART-1 and Rosetta
2005 Launch of Venus Express and support by Cebreros on a routine basis

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