The ground station established in 1968 at Weilheim by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is the communications link between Earth and satellites in orbit. With its help, it is possible to create a communications link with a satellite when it flies over that allows data to pass either way.
The first component of Europe's 'Data Highway in Space' has been launched. The initial node of the European Data Relay System (EDRS), carried on board the Eutelsat commercial telecommunications satellite Eutelsat 9B, took off en-route to geostationary orbit – 36,000 kilometres above Earth – on 29 January 2016 at 23:20 CET from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Although it is a simple gesture of greeting, it nevertheless remains an extraordinary moment; a handshake between an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) and researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).
Although only about 400 kilometres separate the Kontur-2 joystick and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) ROKVISS robot, the remote control operations that took place on 18 August 2015 were truly special: Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, flying aboard the International Space Station (ISS) over Earth at 28,000 kilometres per hour, controlled the robot on the ground while in microgravity. The connection between space and Earth is not one-directional – the ROKVISS (Robotic Components Verification on the ISS) sends data back to the joystick when contact forces occur on the ground. At 16:37 CEST (ISS orbit 3775), the metal fingers of the robot moved for the first time – controlled remotely from space. “At that moment, Kononenko not only saw what was happening using a camera, but, through the joystick, felt exactly what was happening with the robot in our laboratory,” says Jordi Artigas from the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics. In autumn 2015 the first ‘tele-handshake’ will be performed between the ISS and Earth with this technology, when the DLR Robot ‘Space Justin’ remotely shakes hands with someone on Earth from space – with force feedback.
A special passenger was on board during the launch of ESA's fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), 'Albert Einstein', on 5 June 2013 at 23:52 CEST – the STEREX experiment, funded by the DLR Space Administration and the European Space Agency (ESA).