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Science & Exploration

N° 25–1999: ESA opens user centre for the International Space Station

23 June 1999

On Monday 28 June, the European Space Agency (ESA) will open the International Space Station User Centre at ESA's technology and research establishment ESTEC in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. The Dutch State-Secretary of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, Monique de Vries, together with ESA Director General Antonio Rodota' will inaugurate the facility, a resource centre for those interested in conducting research on board the European elements of the International Space Station.

Scientists, engineers and businesses considering using the Space Station will be able to learn about the facilities available onboard, receive information on access conditions and discuss with ESA experts the procedure for developing an experiment. First-time and potential users from the non-space sector as well as those from the traditional space research community will be able to become familiar with Space Station hardware and in particular with a full-size, functional model of the Columbus laboratory, Europe's main contribution to the Space Station. Interactive, 3D virtual-reality simulations will enable them to explore both the interior and exterior of the entire Space Station.

The Space Station is now becoming a reality - two elements are already in orbit, a third element is set to join them this November, and the first astronauts are scheduled to move into the Station in March 2000. The first experiments on the Space Station will begin in the second half of 2000 and exploitation will continue throughout the life of the Space Station, until at least 2014. It is expected that several hundred experiments per year will be carried out in Europe's Columbus laboratory alone.

The new ESA facility will also enable the public and media to share in the Space Station as the centre will become the communications hub between the European public and the astronauts on the Space Station. ESA has installed narrowcasting techniques (visioconferencing and Internet visiophone) and a television and multimedia studio (satellite transmission of video images and Internet streaming) in the centre.

Broadcasters will be able to conduct interviews with ESA specialists from the television studio or broadcast live via satellite. In addition, ESA will offer broadcasters a daily menu of satellite news items, including interviews down-the-line and archive material of relevance to the day, at 15:00 local time every working day. Ariane launches from Kourou and launches of Space Station elements from Cape Canaveral and Baikonur and inflight events with crews onboard the Space Station will also be broadcast live via the centre.

Media are invited to attend the official inauguration of the User Centre on 28 June from 10:30 to 12:30. A visit of ESTEC's unique satellite testing facilities will follow the ceremony. The satellites XMM observatory, which will be launched in December of this year, and Artemis, set for launch in early 2000, and the Envisat payload module are currently undergoing testing and will be on view.

For further information and accreditation, contact the ESTEC Public Relations office:
Tel: +31 71 565 3006,
Fax: +31 71 565 5728.

For information on the International Space Station, see:

Opening of the International Space Station User Centre
ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands Monday 28 June

Programme for media

9:30-10:30 Accreditation at ESTEC's Erasmus building (reserved parking near building)

10:30-11:15 Opening speeches by Dutch State-Secretary of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, Monique de Vries and ESA Director General Antonio Rodota'

11:15-11:30 Opening ceremony in Erasmus highbay

11:30-12:00 Tour of new User Centre and TV studio

12:00-12:30 Interview opportunities

12:30-14:00 Buffet lunch

14:30-16:00 Tour of ESTEC test centre with the flight units of XMM, Artemis and Envisat undergoing testing