Exosat control room in Darmstadt 1983

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In 1983,ESA’s operations centre concentrated on flying Exosat, Europe’s first X-ray observatory satellite of the first on board computer
Saturday, May 27th, 2017

Exosat dedicated control room in Darmstadt 1983(copyright ESA,CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

ESOC (European Space Operations Centre) is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Thirty-four years ago, on 26 May 1983, ESA’s Exosat satellite was launched by a Thor-Delta rocket from Vandenburg Airforce Base, California, USA, and was taken over by mission controllers at ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany.

Designed to observe and detect high-energy sources, Exosat was the first ESA mission to study the Universe at X-ray wavelengths, and one of the first uncrewed satellites to feature an on-board computer.

By placing the satellite in an elliptical orbit, mission teams were able to operate the instruments for 76 hours of each revolution.

In its three-year life, the mission observed a wide variety of objects, including active galactic nuclei, X-ray binary systems, supernova remnants and clusters of galaxies.

According to ESA press on May 25 , the results that Exosat obtained were very useful to scientists, and led to several new discoveries. The most important of these was probably the discovery of quasi-periodic oscillations in low-mass X-ray binary stars and X-ray pulsars, a phenomenon unknown before Exosat. All the data that Exosat retrieved are still available for study, and are still leading to new discoveries.