Note: In 2017, operating responsibility for Villafranca station was transferred to European industry. This article will no longer be updated and is made available for historical purposes only.
The 15m ground tracking station located at ESAC currently support ESA's Cluster, Integral and XMM-Newton missions. It has also been used with the ATV-series and the International Space Station.
The coordinates of the VIL-2 15-metre antenna are +40° 26' 33.23", -03° 57' 05.70". The antenna is sited at an elevation of 664.80 metres with respect to the WGS-84 reference ellipsoid, a mathematically-defined reference surface that approximates the Earth's geoid surface.
ESA's European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) lies in the Guadarrama Valley, 30 kilometres west of Madrid, Spain, in an area of evergreen oaks and poplars, surrounded by antennas and a castle dating from the 15th century.
Facilities & technologyVillafranca hosts the following antennas:
- VIL-1: 15m-diameter dish antenna with reception and transmission in S-band and including an autotrack capability, a ranging system, a frequency and timing system, a monitoring and control system, and a communications system.
Note: The VIL-1 antenna is currently mothballed and waiting to be used as part of the Cooperation for Education in Science and Astronomy Research (CESAR) programme - an outreach programme providing hands-on experience in radio astronomy and space science to students at European universities.
- VIL-2: 15m-diameter dish antenna with reception and transmission in S-band and including an autotrack capability, a ranging system, a frequency and timing system, a monitoring and control system, and a communications system
The station has a frequency and timing system, a monitoring and control system and communications are enabled via the ESA Operations Network (OPSNET). The site is equipped with a no-break power plant.
The station is operated remotely from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, and has been responsible for providing telemetry, tracking and command support to ESA as well as non-ESA satellites.
Villafranca station has supported numerous ESA satellites, including the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), Marecs, the first- and second- generation Meteosats, Hipparcos, ERS-1 and 2, the Infared Space Observatory (ISO) and SMART-1 - ESA's mission to the Moon.
In addition to hosting Villafranca station, the ESAC establishment hosts a number of important ESA activities, including the Science Operations Centres (SOC) for XMM Newton, Integral, Herschel and Gaia, and the Spanish Laboratory for Space Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics (LAEFF).
Access & contact
The ESOC point of contact is:
Head of Ground Facilities Operations Div. (OPS-ON)
The local station contact is:
ESA Cebreros & Villafranca TT&C Stations Manager
Mr Lionel Hernandez
lionel.hernandez [@] esa.int
The postal address of the station is:
European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC)
Camino bajo del Castillo, s/n
Urbanizacion Villafranca del Castillo
Villanueva de la Cañada
28692 Madrid, Spain
ESAC switchboard: +34-918-131-100(3)