The European Space Agency (ESA) and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have made an agreement to pool their expertise in space operations. The European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt and the German Space Operations Centre (GSOC) in Obepfaffenhofen near Munich have agreed to exploit shared know-how in the fields of mission operations and ground-based infrastructure, jointly developing new concepts, technologies and procedures. The cooperation agreement was signed on 18 December 2018 at DLR’s research facility in Oberpfaffenhofen during an Interoperability Plenary meeting, which brought together representatives from 12 space agencies worldwide.
"We look forward to working with ESA to lay the groundwork for a European network of control centres," says Hansjörg Dittus, DLR Executive Board member responsible for space research and technology. Felix Huber, Director of DLR's Space Operations and Astronaut Training facility adds, "The German Space Operations Centre can contribute its expertise in the preparation and execution of crewed and uncrewed missions, further strengthening Germany's position as a space nation in Europe."
"Public space infrastructure should be used as effectively as possible. ESA therefore endeavours to establish a European network of competence centres. Close cooperation between ESOC and GSOC, as well as subsequent cooperation with other agencies and organisations, should strengthen Europe's position as a partner and competitor in the world market," explains Rolf Densing, ESA’s Director of Operations and Head of ESOC.
The newly announced cooperation between ESOC and GSOC covers five areas: ground control systems, ground stations, space security and on-orbit servicing, post-International Space Station activities and crewed spaceflight, as well as general cooperation. With respect to the development of 'ground segments' – the hardware, software and networks on ground used to operate and spacecraft in orbit – both control centres are already working on software for joint mission operations, the so-called European Ground Systems Common Core (EGS-CC). Further planning includes a project to develop and set up a network of optical ground stations that will enable data transmission by laser. This will enable, for example, quantum keys to be transmitted to support secure communication in the future.
The German Space Operations Center has more than 50 years of experience and boasts more than 70 missions. This includes, in particular, human spaceflight with the operation of the Columbus Control Centre. The experts from Oberpfaffenhofen have therefore developed numerous technologies and methods for working in the control room. In the cooperation, GSOC and ESOC will now pool their expertise and further develop the infrastructure and operation of scientific and institutional space missions to address future challenges.