With the docking of Columbus to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2008, the operation and utilisation phase began. In the framework of ESA’s Exploitation Programme Airbus Defence and Space is leading an industrial consortium responsible for operations and utilisation of the European ISS elements.
The exploitation programme is worth €2.6 billion and is to be run until 2013. The contract covers the preparation of European missions, production and launches of ATV as well as the training of the European astronauts. It also covers mission control and operation of all the European ISS elements. The first ATV, ‘Jules Verne’, was part of the preceding development contract. In March 2011, ESA Member States participating in the ISS exploitation programme decided to uphold the ISS partners’ objective of extending their involvement in the ISS cooperation until the end of 2020.
Scientists will be able to control and monitor their in-orbit experiments from their home laboratory on the ground. Control and user centres all over the world will provide the necessary databases as well as communications infrastructure. Airbus Defence and Space was responsible for the equipment and software development of these centres.