Home Back New search Date Min Max Aeronautics Automotive Corporate Cybersecurity Defense and Security Financial Healthcare Industry Intelligent Transportation Systems Digital Public Services Services Space Blog Space Vampir, Stratos and the Legacy of Yuri Gagarin at GSOC 14/04/2020 Print Share Fifty-nine years ago the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik, was launched into the Earth's orbit, thus bringing about the era of space exploration. Soviet Air Forces pilot and cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth on April 12, 1961. That date went on to become the International Day of Human Space Flight. Since then, several significant technical milestones have been achieved: humans on the moon, rovers on distant planets, planetary probes landing on asteroids. Another significant milestone, both technically and politically, was the development of the International Space Station (ISS). GMV personnel have been directly involved in ISS operations, participating in the operations of the Columbus Module, the science laboratory contributed by the European Space Agency (ESA). The module was launched aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis on February 7, 2008, and is controlled from the Columbus Control Center (Col-CC), located at the German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich. Since then, engineers of different teams at Col-CC have been providing their expertise to ensure the best and most secure working conditions for the European astronauts, and to support them in the execution of a myriad of scientific experiments. The Columbus Flight Control Team (FCT) works around the clock, monitoring and controlling the onboard thermal, environmental, computing, and power supply systems. The FCT works closely with International Partner flight teams, such as the Flight Control Teams at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Russian Mission Control Center in Korolev, near Moscow. The flight planners coordinate onboard experiments with the European research centers, ensuring that all activities receive sufficient resources onboard the ISS and at the appropriate centers on the ground. The Ground Control Team (GCT) is responsible for operating the European ground segment, the wide area network (WAN) connecting all European Control, Operations, and Support Centers to one another and to the International Partners in the United States, Russia, and Canada. Working together with teams of network, voice, video, and data engineers, the GCT ensures the timely provision of telemetry, telecommand, video, and voice services to all European user centers and partners. The first thing that many have mentioned when joining the Columbus/ISS project is its enormous cultural diversity. Just about every country in the European Union, and many outside of the EU, is represented, whether in the melting pot we call Col-CC, at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany, or at the User and Engineering Support Centers scattered throughout Europe. It is this aspect, along with the technological and organizational challenges we face every day, that makes involvement in this project so gratifying. The second thing that hits us when we begin reading the technical documentation, or even when talking shop over coffee, is the immense amount of acronyms used. It seems that nothing is referred to by name, but instead by its initials. So a lot of our talk is of DaSS, MCS, MCE, and PDSS. But sometimes we’re able to be a bit more creative with the naming of places and things. For example, at Col-CC, our video engineers (one of them from Romania, the country of Dracula) work out of the VAMPIR (Video and Media Processing and Imagery Room). And the Columbus Flight Controller is called STRATOS (Safeguarding Thermal Resources Avionics Telecommunications Operations Systems). Admittedly some may be a bit far-fetched, but it does make for a much more vibrant alphabet soup. Public perception of human spaceflight is, naturally, predominated by visions of astronauts floating weightless through their spacecraft. What one doesn’t see is the extraordinary amount of planning of flight and ground resources required to make this happen. Resources, such as power and data bandwidth, and especially crew duty time, onboard the ISS are limited. But the scientists all want their experiments to run, maintenance tasks need to be performed, equipment needs upgrading, and, of course, media and politicians are always looking for opportunities to talk with the crew members. The international planning teams on the ground, including at Col-CC, start working a year or more in advance, evaluating and prioritizing the needs and desires of all stakeholders, resulting in a rough draft of the plan. The plan is continually revised, becoming more detailed with time. Final details are even made to the plan as late as one day prior to execution. Once the planning has been finalized, it’s up to the operations teams to put them into action. In the vast majority of cases, activities are executed according to plan. However, Murphy’s Law (“whatever can go wrong, will”), is sometimes lurking right around the corner. There is a reason that Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote that “the best-laid plans of mice and men, often go awry.” We in the Columbus/ISS program are not immune to this phenomenon. As an example, one of the highest visibility and time-critical activities performed onboard the ISS is the so-called PAO (Public Affairs Office) event. This is a live audio/video call-up to the crew, often from a public venue, that absolutely has to happen on time. Well, as luck would have it recently, Murphy indeed decided to rear his ugly head about 10 minutes before the scheduled start of the event. Flight controllers had everything set up onboard; ground controllers had everything ready to go on the ground. And then? Nothing! No video! We were in danger of missing out on the event! Situations like this call for calm, cool efficiency. Once the report came over the voice loop that we were receiving no video, flight and ground controllers quickly begin verifying their systems. Are the routing systems up and running? Is data flowing? Is there a fallback option? In this case, the malfunction was quickly identified on remote equipment of ours at MSFC, but, unfortunately, it couldn’t be recovered in time. By the time this was reported, a backup solution had already been identified, and was quickly put into action. The event happened as planned, with the participants at the event site not even aware that, just a few minutes before, everything was in jeopardy. There are countless examples in the course of human spaceflight, in which planning, training, and expert knowledge are counted on, where teamwork and cooperation are essential to achieving results. This was true on April 12, 1961, and it is true today. The excitement that Yuri and his team certainly experienced back then is experienced by our teams on a daily basis, in our own little corner of the human spaceflight endeavor. Authors: Ilinca Ioanid and Daniel Burdulis Print Share Comments Your name Subject Comment About text formats Restricted HTML Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang target> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id> Lines and paragraphs break automatically. Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.