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Where missions come alive

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Step inside ESA's Main Control Room at the Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany
Photo credit: ESA/J. Mai

As Europe's centre of excellence for satellite operation, ESOC is home to the engineering teams that control spacecraft in orbit, manage our global tracking station network, and design and build the systems on the ground that support missions in space. Since 1967, more than 70 satellites belonging to ESA and its partners have been successfully flown from Darmstadt, Germany.

European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany

  • At any one time, ESOC operates over a dozen satellites, with multiple new missions in planning and others under study
  • Teams design and build mission ‘ground segments’ – the hardware and systems on Earth that enable engineers to control satellites in space and receive and distribute precious data to scientists
  • Just after lift-off, during the critical Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP), ESOC engineers assume control of a new spacecraft, working around the clock to activate crucial on-board systems and ensure the spacecraft’s health in the extreme environment of space
  • Flight operations teams maintain real-time contact with missions near Earth, orbiting at the Sun-Earth Lagrange points or voyaging deep in our Solar System
  • ESOC’s mission analysis team plans and selects the best possible orbits, launch trajectories and launch windows while experts in flight dynamics calculate the real-time position, speed and attitude of satellites in space.
Operations engineer
Operations engineer
  • ESOC is responsible for the Agency’s worldwide Estrack ground station network, which can track all types of missions and routinely supports spacecraft operated by NASA and other agencies
  • In past decades, ESOC experts have recovered numerous satellites that experienced launcher problems or technical failures in orbit
  • Daily operations from specialised control rooms continue 24 hrs/day, year-round during a satellite’s life, until mission completion and safe disposal in a ‘graveyard’ or re-entry orbit
  • ESOC is an internationally recognized centre of excellence for space debris studies and services, space situational awareness, ground system engineering, software systems, the design and development of tracking stations and satellite navigation
  • ESOC works in cooperation with other agencies and international bodies to define technical standards, share cutting-edge tools and techniques and support European industrial development and competitiveness
ESOC: Where missions come alive
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ESOC brochure

Download our brochure: "Where Missions Come Alive" (PDF).

Access information on individual mission operations via our Operations website.

Follow real-time updates via @esaoperations in Twitter.

Read ESA's Rocket Science blog.

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