ESA and NASA extend ties with major new cross-support agreement

April 2, 2007

On 21 March ESA and NASA signed an agreement in Washington, DC, extending the two agencies' long-standing cooperation in the areas of satellite tracking, spacecraft navigation and mission operations.

The agencies' new "Network and Operations Cross-support" agreement covers the ongoing provision to each other of services for missions where no specific Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is in place, typically due to the short-term nature or limited scope of the support.
This type of support has been provided in the past, but was limited only to the sharing of ground tracking stations and had to be arranged for each mission separately through a Letter of Agreement (LoA), which was a long process.

Agreement covers tracking, navigation and systems sharing

The new agreement was signed in Washington, DC, by William H. Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations, and Gaele Winters, ESA Director for Operations and Infrastructure.

The agreement constitutes a major milestone in the long-standing cooperative relations between ESA and NASA, and covers cross-support in the following areas:

Bi-directional Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT&C) services

Space Navigation, including services such as determining spacecraft trajectories and Very Long Baseline Interferometer (VLBI) services Mission Operations and Ground Data Systems services "The agreement means ESA and NASA can provide each other network support and space operations services more quickly, and this is becoming very significant. The sharing of resources is a sensible and efficient way to achieve enhanced space science value in an era of tight budgets," said Dr Manfred Warhaut, Head of ESA's Mission Operations Department.

Enhanced effectiveness, reduced risk for both agencies

In particular, the bi-directional sharing of TT&C services will enhance effectiveness and reduce risk for both agencies.

This interoperability will benefit both by providing immediate back-up in case a mission's prime ground station is not available due, for example, to local weather interference or earthquakes, by ensuring additional station support during critical mission phases such as launch, orbit entry or manoeuvres, and by expanding station resources when ground tracking coverage might otherwise be missed.

Very Long Baseline Interferometry refers to accurately locating spacecraft using highly sophisticated signal processing techniques and is achieved using Delta DOR (Delta Differential One-Way Ranging) technology, used by both NASA and ESA. Since 2005, ESA has installed Delta DOR receivers at both of the Agency's 35-metre antenna deep-space stations, DS1 in New Norcia, Australia, and DS2 in Cebreros, Spain.

The first application of the new agreement is foreseen during the critical Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) for NASA's upcoming Dawn and Phoenix missions. ESA will furnish support via the Agency's Perth and Kourou 15-metre antenna stations.

ESA's tracking stations network - ESTRACK - is a worldwide system of ground stations providing links between satellites in orbit and the Agency's Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany. The core ESTRACK network comprises 11 terminals sited at eight stations in five countries.

Source: European Space Agency

Explore further: Next two Galileo satellites reach Europe's Spaceport

Related Stories

Space plants on way back to earth

December 18, 2014

Farming in deep space is explored in the recent movie "Interstellar," but a University of Mississippi biologist's research program appears to be bringing the sci-fi scenario closer to reality.

Crude oil cargo for ESA's first flight with China

December 12, 2014

ESA is finalising its first experiment on a Chinese space mission: small containers of crude oil will help to improve our understanding of oil reservoirs buried kilometres underground.

Steering ESA satellites clear of space debris

October 30, 2014

Improved collision warnings for its Earth observation missions means ESA controllers can now take more efficient evasive action when satellites are threatened by space junk.

Copernicus operations secured until 2021

October 30, 2014

In a landmark agreement for Europe's Copernicus programme, the European Commission and ESA have signed an Agreement of over €3 billion to manage and implement the Copernicus 'space component' between 2014 and 2021.

Recommended for you

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

Exoplanets 20/20: Looking back to the future

July 31, 2015

Geoff Marcy remembers the hair standing up on the back of his neck. Paul Butler remembers being dead tired. The two men had just made history: the first confirmation of a planet orbiting another star.

Earth flyby of 'space peanut' captured in new video

July 31, 2015

NASA scientists have used two giant, Earth-based radio telescopes to bounce radar signals off a passing asteroid and produce images of the peanut-shaped body as it approached close to Earth this past weekend.

Binary star system precisely timed with pulsar's gamma-rays

July 31, 2015

Pulsars are rapidly rotating compact remnants born in the explosions of massive stars. They can be observed through their lighthouse-like beams of radio waves and gamma-rays. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.