The International Space Station Control Center
Missions rarely come more critical than International Space Station (ISS) control. So, as the projectors at The Columbus Control Center – responsible for the European module of the ISS – became increasingly problematic towards end of life, vital succession decisions had to be made by Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), the German aeronautics and space research center and national space agency. Digital Projection outshone the competition at tender, providing the ‘best specification for the price’ with four star-quality E-Vision Laser 8500 laser projectors, one providing redundancy.
The E-Vision Laser 8500 projector delivers a stunning 8,500 lumens from a stable solid-state light source. Not only does it offer an exceptionally bright illumination source capable of over 20,000 hours of illumination, the solid-state system bypasses regular and expensive lamp replacement cycles, negating the need for critical, downtime-consuming, bulb replacement procedures.
This vital operational feature for continuous run-time, combined with the ‘Fit and Forget’ directive developed for the single chip E-Vision Laser 8500 projector, ensures only minimal maintenance is required throughout the lifetime of the display. Digital Projection’s E-Vision Laser 8500 is perfectly suited to a diverse range of professional venues, including high-pressure 24/7 environments such as mission-critical control centres.
Jeremy Pierce Mayer, Video engineer, GMV-INSYEN AG, under contract to DLR, and lead project manager for the projector replacement, explains, “Digital projection was our desired supplier and internal financial department analysis countenanced the choice. Laser projectors had been decided upon early in the tendering process. With our control room projectors on for 24 hours a day when active, we tend to go through bulbs frequently and whilst quick, each bulb replacement is an interruption to the Columbus Control Center. Furthermore, my experience with Digital Projection from their entertainment industry product lines is never to have seen critical failure.”
Digital Projection’s reputation for reliability is a salient component of its projector design, placing it ahead of the competition. The Columbus Control Center (Col-CC) works closely with NASA, RosCosmos and other private and public partners to support ISS activities. It is located within the German Space Operations Center (GSOC). Responsible for all DLR satellite missions, DLR contains multiple research institutes, focusing on such matters a radar, radio, robotics and earth observation.
The Columbus Control Center is comprised of three interchangeable control rooms and the Columbus flight team performs 24/7 operations, utilising one room for real-time operations, one as a standby to the operational, and one for simulation and/or upgrade activities. Within the operational control room, screens are partitioned into three independent segments, each displaying unique and text-rich content. Projectors are remotely controlled via a larger management system, which also allows for the monitoring and control of other Col-CC subsystems.
The projector installation, initially configured by Mayer, was installed by GSOC’s facilities team. The high-tempo operations environment of the control centre predisposed the participating installation teams towards highly effective communication lines which allowed any issues such as network configurations or any other obstacle, to be resolved at speed. As such, Mayer states, “The installation was smooth. The projectors were initially installed while the control room was in operations. After the initial installation and configuration which took approximately four hours, further refinement to the configuration was done remotely, relying upon our control room CCTV system.”
Executed without hitch, the installation was not, however, without its own surprises. Due to the text-rich content in the Columbus Control-Center warping effects have previously been shied away from due to the geometry of the screens. However, as Mayer confirms, “The warping options on the EV-8500 exceeded my expectations. The Digital Projection warping engine had no problems aliasing the text, so we’ve been able to incorporate it and the final output looks great.” Speaking for the whole flight team, he continues, “In fact, the first reaction to the activated projectors by the team – though I’m paraphrasing – went very much along the lines of ‘...WOW! That’s bright!’”
The Col-CC’s initial research and the close working relationship forged with Digital Projection, Mayer claims, reassured us. “Digital Projection had furnished a demonstration projector, which we used to confirm all choices. We had a pretty good idea of what we were going to receive. The projectors have met our expectations.”
Now that the Columbus Control-Center has been swapped out of operations the final projector configuration has taken place, and though Mayer claims it’s ‘still a little early to say’, he is steadfast in his assurance that the team are, “…happy not to have to switch bulbs out every few months,” adding, “Our analysis found that the initial costs incurred in the purchase of the projectors would be quickly offset by our general bulb costs.”
Picture credits: Christian Ehrhardt, DLR, CC-BY 3.0