View of the Columbus Control Center
The Columbus Control Centre (Col-CC) is located within the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich. It was built on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) and opened in October 2004. The ultramodern facility is responsible for communcations between the astronauts and the ground crew of 75 scientists and engineers who supervise all European activities on the International Space Station (ISS).
Completed in April 2005, it passed its first challenge with flying colours - the Italian Eneide mission including the ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori. Everything worked as planned on this human space flight. The interaction of the operation crew in Oberpfaffenhofen with the control centres in the USA, Russia, Italy and the Netherlands also went perfectly.
From July 2006 onwards, the Columbus Control Centre supervised all activities of the Astrolab mission with the German ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter. Reiter spent seven months on the station and was the first European on a long-term mission to the ISS. In close co-operation with the European Astronaut Centre and DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, among many other tasks monitored the state of health of the astronauts. Also the ground crew in Oberpfaffenhofen coordinates the onboard experiments - for example an experiment for protein crystallisation, which may help with the development of side-effect free medicines.
Staff at the Columbus Control Center
From 2008 Col-CC started to supervise the ISS-based tasks of the unmanned European space transporter ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle). The ATV transfers items such as food, water, fuel and oxygen supplies and also new scientific experiments to the space station. Additionally, the Columbus Control Centre makes the communication infrastructure available to control centres in Toulouse, Houston and Moscow during the ATV mission while it is in orbit.
The Columbus Control Centre has also started to control the Columbus Laboratory. Col-CC has taken responsibility for the European space laboratory as well as the coordination of the scientific programme.
A fully-functioning Columbus Control Centre is planned for the entire Columbus operating phase of 15 years. The construction of Col-CC was financed by ESA, the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and the Free State of Bavaria. The operation of the centre is financed by the European ISS member states.