Space | 18. June 2010 | posted by Michael Schmidhuber | 2 Comments

Mission Control Center in Baikonur up and running

Now it is time for me to report for you as well. I am the representative of the German Space Operations Center, GSOC, in Oberpfaffenhofen, and it is my job to ensure timely transmission of critical information during the launch. I flew from Munich on Monday and have been here for a couple of days now. There is already quite a bit to see and do. We saw the next batch of crew leaving for the ISS boarding buses to the launch site. Hermann Berg has already written about the Soyuz launch and the latest activities with TanDEM-X. My first assignment was yesterday, when the Mission Control Center (MCC) was put into operation.

This is a term we usually use for the Control Center in Oberpfaffenhofen. In this project it is used twice, unfortunately, but it doesn’t make sense to change it. That’s why we call this place ‘MCC Baikonur’. We’ve divided up our assigned space and put in the telephones, fax machines and Internet connections. I drew up a layout and prepared a test plan. The room has two windows looking out towards the launch silo, but we are 7.8 kilometres away from it. Nevertheless, the flatness of the landscape allows a clear view. I will bring my video camera and put it on a tripod.

Blick zum Startplatz

Top picture: Michael Schmidhuber at his workplace. Above: The view of the launch pad. Images: DLR. 

After that, I was able to visit the integration hall. Unfortunately, the satellite has already departed, but the huge assembly hall with the scaffolding is still very impressive. Once the lines were set up, we started the connection test. I called my colleagues at GSOC with the various phones, had them call me back, and sent sample pages to the fax machines. The numbers from here to Germany are of a 16-digit format. There is also a dial-up connection to the voice intercom system at GSOC. With this connection, everyone in the control room can hear a phone call that comes into the intercom system. Using this line, a translator repeats the Russian countdown and launch sequence in English. Following this successful test, we drove back to the hotel. There, I wrote a test report. Today it was 40 degrees Centigrade! We can cope, thanks to the air conditioning.

Today, things become serious again. The launch rehearsal will be held in the afternoon, where we will go through the entire process of the launch in real time. More on that tomorrow.


About the author

Michael Schmidhuber is based at DLR’s German Space Operations Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, within DLR Space Operations and Astronaut Training. The DLR 'agent', responsible for a good rapport between GSOC and Baikonur, he is currently blogging straight from the launch site. to authorpage


2 Comments | RSS-Feed Comments
20. June 2010 at 15:00

Do the Russian controllers actually provide a full count-down? I've noticed in the past with other Russian launches that there has been no CD - it appears as though someone simply pushes a button... thanks for a great blog and best wishes for a successful launch!

Michael Schmidhuber
22. June 2010 at 09:56

You are right, it is not a backward counting for PR purposes as we know it from french or american launches. An announcer reads from a script where critical times and events are indicated. Some points require answers by the subsystem experts. I was displaying a large software countdown clock on my laptop for our own track-keeping. You can see this counter and an excerpt from the script if you switch to the german version of the blog, where I also have a few more blog entries.