Minister visits space facility

The UK Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Ian Pearson, visited ESA’s Operations Centre (ESOC) to discuss the participation of UK industry in ESA programmes.

The tour included visits to individual mission control rooms and to the Main Control Room, from where over 57 missions have been successfully operated. ESOC is also ESA’s centre of excellence for ground systems engineering and systems development.

‘UK science and industry have played a strong part in the success of ESA missions and constitute a solid and competitive basis for a stronger role in future ESA activities,’ said ESA director general Jean-Jacques Dordain.

The visit comes at a time of intense activity for Europe in space. ESA’s Columbus laboratory on board Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to launch on 7 February, followed days later by the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), ‘Jules Verne,’ which will be lofted to the International Space Station on board an Ariane 5 launcher from ESA’s Spaceport in Kourou.

Several other ESA missions are scheduled for launch in 2008, including GIOVE-B, GOCE and Herschel-Planck.