Team of teams

Team of teams


08/09/2014 2:46 pm


Ruben Solaz


The Galileo operations team, joined by Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations Thomas Reiter and experts from European industry, seen in the Main Control Room at ESA’s Space Operations Centre, 28 August 2014.

For months prior to each Galileo satellite launch, a joint team of European mission operations experts from ESA and France’s CNES space agency train intensively for the critical launch and early orbit phase.

The team is highly integrated, with individual experts contributing to all the usual functional areas – including satellite operations, ground stations and flight dynamics – based on expertise and regardless of their Agency affiliation, making this a unique and truly European team.

On 22 August, the most recent pair of Galileo satellites, numbers 5 and 6, were released into a lower and elliptical orbit instead of the expected circular orbit.

The launch anomaly presented a sudden and unexpected – though not untrained for – challenge to the joint team at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.

Working around the clock, the team characterised the actual orbits of the two, established full communications, diagnosed satellite problems (due to each having an undeployed solar panel), devised and followed an entirely new procedure for deployment, brought their systems into full operation and achieved a safe and fully controlled flight mode.

“I am extremely proud of the entire Mission Control Team and the way they handled a dramatic and very critical situation resulting from multiple, independent anomalies,” says Paolo Ferri, ESA’s Head of Mission Operations.

“The team managed to maintain control of the satellites under extremely difficult conditions, rapidly stabilised them and determined the actual orbit within three hours of separation from the launcher. Another successful mission recovery achievement, which contributes strongly to the tradition of almost 50 years of mission operations excellence at ESOC.”

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