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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2015, Article ID 308031, 7 pages
Research Article

Space-to-Ground Communication for Columbus: A Quantitative Analysis

1Columbus Control Center, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Oberpfaffenhofen, 82234 Wessling, Germany
2European Astronaut Center, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Linder Höhe, 51147 Köln, Germany

Received 13 March 2015; Revised 25 June 2015; Accepted 7 July 2015

Academic Editor: Pang-Chia Chen

Copyright © 2015 Thomas Uhlig et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) are only the most visible part of a much larger team engaged around the clock in the performance of science and technical activities in space. The bulk of such team is scattered around the globe in five major Mission Control Centers (MCCs), as well as in a number of smaller payload operations centres. Communication between the crew in space and the flight controllers at those locations is an essential element and one of the key drivers to efficient space operations. Such communication can be carried out in different forms, depending on available technical assets and the selected operational approach for the activity at hand. This paper focuses on operational voice communication and provides a quantitative overview of the balance achieved in the Columbus program between collaborative space/ground operations and autonomous on-board activity execution. An interpretation of the current situation is provided, together with a description of potential future approaches for deep space exploration missions.