Specialists at the ground stations make use of sophisticated software when it comes to monitoring and controlling satellites as well as space probes in space. The wizard of the most up-to-date ESA-software is called SCOS-2000. It is presently replacing older versions at the European Space Operations Centre ESOC in Darmstadt. On April 24th and 25th the second SCOS-2000 workshop will be held in Darmstadt, where participants can exchange information on latest developments and share experiences.

March 1st, 2002: In the main control room of ESOC in Darmstadt, specialists are working with utmost concentration. Technical experts have just taken over control of ESA’s Envisat from the launch personnel in Kourou. Now they are preparing the spacecraft for its tasks in orbit and are activating its onboard systems step-by-step. Data and graphics have begun to appear on the screens. Particulary important details are shown on huge displays at the front of the room.

All this is made possible by SCOS-2000, the most up-to-date software for controlling and monitoring satellites. For Envisat it is still used in conjunction with its predecessor SCOS-1. Thus the well-structured display of all technical parameter is guaranteed. Besides, it coordinates all activities to ensure smooth operations onboard a satellite.
Interfaces are provided to link other systems necessary for control, such as the flight dynamic system.

SCOS-2000 is not only suitable for use during the launch- and mission phase. The software has also proved to be very useful at much earlier stages, when testing satellites and simulating future operation in space. This is time- as well as cost-saving when preparing and carrying out a mission.

Software Engineering at ESOC
The complexity of tasks involved in commissioning a spacecraft requires complex computer networks with sophisticated software. Because of the specific requirements many programmes have been written at the ESOC itself and then developed into fully-fledged software products in cooperation with specialised companies. An example for this is the above-mentioned SCOS-2000, state-of-the-art Spacecraft Operations System of ESA at the moment.

On the basis of 25 years of experience with programmes such as SCOS-1 or MSCC, engineers in Darmstadt have developed the new software. It is being used on powerful workstations within a computer network, but could also be installed on a stand-alone workstation for smaller projects. The software package consists of various components that can be used and configured on demand. In order to fulfill the latest requirements all engineers involved continue to develop and improve the software. Since it had first been in service as space probe monitor during the SOHO mission to the sun in 1995, a variety of new functions have been added to the programme.

Second Workshop for Sharing Experiences
On April 24th and 25th developers and users of SCOS-2000 are going to meet in ESOC in Darmstadt for their second workshop to negotiate further cooperation. New products around the SCOS-2000 package will be presented and their application in future ESA missions – Integral and Rosetta in particular – will be discussed.

The software, however, has not only been in use inside ESA itself. Aerospace industry, space agencies and space organizations interested in the programme can acquire licenses for free and use the package for their own purposes. The Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), for example, has equipped its new infrastructure for monitoring national satellite missions with SCOS-2000. Companies, such as the European aerospace group Astrium have also expressed their interest in the programme. Astrium makes use of the software to check satellite hardware during the assembly and test phases.

Apart from offering first-hand information about the latest developments in all these subject areas, the workshop is first and foremost a unique opportunity for sharing ideas and experiences.