Friday 8th October: ESOC

ESOC (European Space Operation Centre) is where ESA operates its space craft and ground stations.

The first stop was the control room for Mars Express and Venus Express. One of the Space Operations Engineers explained the systems and procedures. VEGA was involved in the development of the control system and training of the spacecraft operators so this time I recognised what I was seeing on the screens.

It is always good to meet people who are passionate about their job but when your job is to control a spacecraft orbiting Mars it shouldn’t be hard to maintain the passion. Thomas was also pretty keen to see our Mission Control and Mars surface so an exchange visit was discussed.

Our next visit was the engineering model of the Rosetta spacecraft. Rosetta was launched on the 2nd March 2004. It will be the first spacecraft to undertake the long term exploration of a comet at close quarters. An engineering model is an exact duplicate of the spacecraft which allows engineers to test systems and new procedures on the ground before implementing them in space.

From Rosetta we toured all the various control rooms. ESA has many space missions being controlled from ESOC at any one time. As well as spacecraft operations rooms there is a ground station operation room where ESA’s ground stations around the world are controlled, including the ground station at New Norcia near Perth in Australia.

The final stop was the launch control room. Looking at the very long list of ESA launches I could only imagine the roller coaster of emotion that had been experienced in this room.

This was an excellent way to end my training at VEGA. I would like to thank Christian for being such an excellent teacher as well as a fantastic tour guide. Now the real work begins!