Wednesday, October 7, 2009

MCC - Modern


Tour of MCH, part II. The Mission Control Center in Houston manages all manned space flights of NASA, including space shuttles and the American portions of the International Space Station.

ISS Mission Control
Looking down into ISS Mission Control

The "Apollo room" featured yesterday was last used operationally in 1995. Since then, MCH has expanded beyond overseeing missions “one at a time.”

Building 30 at Johnson Space Center now houses a newer MCC for Space Shuttles, the ISS Flight Control Room, Life Sciences Control to oversee experiments, Training Flight Control for practice simulations, and an Exploration Planning Operations Center used to test new concepts for operations beyond low Earth orbit.

When there is a shuttle in the air, this flight control room for STS missions is staffed by about 20 controllers. With a permanent human presence aboard the ISS, control teams of technicians and engineers are on duty 24x7, 365 days a year!

Space Shuttle Mission Control
Space Shuttle Mission Control

These "front rooms" with theatre-like viewing areas, are supported by dozens more experts working in various areas located around the perimeter of the main control rooms. They all work together to monitor spacecraft systems, crew health and activities, and also run constant checks to ensure each system is running optimally, and all operations proceed according to the flight plans.

Like astronauts, when there is no active mission, they work through simulations, developing the skills needed to maintain increasingly complex missions and respond to any unexpected events.

NASA Mission Control Center
There is a fantastic interactive flash site that shows all the controller positions in Houston’s ISS and Shuttle MCCs, and also check out the picture gallery to see the real rooms up close! (Photos of modern MCC are at the very end of the gallery, after the Apollo era stuff).

Other major Mission Control Centers include:

Pasadena, California = The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) manages all NASAs unmanned spacecraft.

Krasnoznamensk, Russia = Titov Main Test and Space Systems Control Centre outside Moscow houses 8 control rooms that over see Soyuz flights, ISS and satellite operations.

Tsukuba, Japan = JEM Control and the HTV Control at the Tsukuba Space Center manages satellite operations, activities aboard JAXA's Kibo ISS laboratory and the resupply flights of the H-II Transfer Vehicle.

Darmstadt, Germany = European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) oversees ESAs satellites and space probes.

Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany = Columbus Control Center (Col-CC) at the German Aerospace Center is the mission control center for the European Columbus research laboratory on the ISS.

Saint-Hubert, Quebec, Canada = Mobile Servicing System (MSS) Control supports Canadarm robotics operations.