European Space Operations Centre

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The European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) is responsible for controlling ESA satellites and space probes. The centre is located in Darmstadt, Germany. It is Mission Control for most of the space projects of the ESA. ESOC also houses the Ground Facilities Control Centre (GFCC) that is responsible for remote operation of the ESTRACK network of Ground Stations and antennas.

Currently ESOC is operating the following spacecraft: ERS-2, XMM-Newton, the four Cluster spacecraft, Envisat, INTEGRAL, Mars Express, Rosetta, Venus Express, GOCE, Herschel, Planck, and Cryosat-2

Recent high-profile missions that were controlled from ESOC include SMART-1 and Huygens.

Projects under preparation include: LISA Pathfinder, ADM-Aeolus, SWARM, the Sentinel series and Gaia.

Recently controlled through LEOP, and then handed over to EUMETSAT was MetOp-A.

This centre is also responsible for the development of the technology infrastructure it requires to support existing and planned missions. Arguably[weasel words] its most important technology asset is the Space Control and Operations Software (SCOS 2000), an adaptable software infrastructure for monitoring and controlling the various spacecraft.


Space science data handling has two aspects. Firstly, it requires the setting up of a network of tracking and telemetry stations which can receive signals from spacecraft (ESTRACK). This network comprised four stations situated in the following locations:

  • Redu (Belgium)
  • Fairbanks (Alaska)
  • Svalbard (Norway)
  • Falkland Islands

Secondly, it requires a central facility which edits and processes the information from the tracking network. The facilities at the centre, initially labelled ESDAC (European Space Data Acquisition Centre), were essentially a large mainframe computer or computers, which was made available both to its in-house staff and to visiting scientists and fellows who wished to use them to analyse and study the recovered data. ESDAC was later renamed ESOC, the European Space Operations Centre. ESOC is located in Darmstadt (Germany). After the Bannier Report it gained overall executive authority for spacecraft operation. ESOC's director also became responsible for ESRANGE and for ESTRACK.

European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany-main gate.

European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, 1/2 scale mockup of XMM-Newton satellite.

European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, entrance.

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