Tales from the Bridge – Flying Spacecraft for Real!
Join the mission control team from the European Space Agency during FedCon on a journey into the real world of space operations. While it might not (yet!) be the bridge of a starship, some of Europe’s most exciting science missions are flown from right here in Germany. Come to learn the fun and interesting stories of life flying a fleet of spacecraft that explore everything from our own planet out to the far reaches of our solar system and see how much it is (and isn’t!) like science fiction.
During this one hour presentation you’ll get a window on the science fact behind four different parts of the European Space Agency’s flight operations:
How to brake a spacecraft – aerobraking ExoMars
ExoMars is Europe’s latest Mars mission and it has just arrived in its final orbit around Mars. Over the last 18 months it has been dipping into the Martian atmosphere – surfing the thin gasses to slow down and reach its new home. ExoMars operations engineers Armelle Hubault and Chris White will tell you about this “aerobraking” process, the trials and tribulations and the most important thing – how not to crash!
Controlling zombie satellites – Cluster after 18 years
The four satellites of the Cluster mission are some of the European Space Agency’s oldest flying spacecraft. At 18 years old they are long past their design lifetime of just 2 years. With units wearing out, even the batteries are no longer functional causing the mission to power down completely whenever it passes behind the Earth. Cluster operations engineer Aybike Demirsan will tell you all about how mission control keeps these “zombie” spacecraft flying despite all the odds.
Brain surgery at Mars – reprogramming Mars Express
We all know the pain of installing updates on our computers, but how do you do that when the computer is flying around a different planet with software written in an obsolete language by people who have long since retired?! ESA’s venerable Mars Express mission needs just this to be done. Mars Express operations engineer Simon Wood will describe how and why ESA’s mission control team are “hacking” our own Mars mission to give it new life for the years to come.
Debris on the starboard bow – dodging space junk
Flying around our own planet is dangerous business – we’re surrounded by a swarm of more than 750000 objects, each travelling fast enough to destroy a satellite in an instant. Without a deflector array or shields to help us, the only way to do it is to dodge out of the way! Earth Observation operations engineer Thomas Ormston will tell you how we keep our satellites safe, how big the problem of space debris really is (it’s scarier than the movie Gravity!) and what we can do for the future.