The European Ground System Architecture Workshop (ESAW) is a biannual event organised by the European Space Agency (ESA) that takes place in Darmstadt, Germany. The event takes place at ESOC, the European Space Operations Centre, lately catching the media's eye due to exciting events on the Rosetta/Phillae mission.
Our four-member delegation went to Darmstadt to get a feel for space industry trends, ESA activities and current challenges, meet some of the people behind the organisations and in particular and to present our own technology: a ground system simulation framework and Blink, our satellite data acquisition software.
For the most part, the conference was intense: we were in the company of world-renowned organisations like ESA (EU), NASA (US), SES (LU), DLR (DE) and Eutelsat (EU), as well as ASI (FR), CNES (FR), Kratos (US), GMV (ES), Deimos (PT), Immedia (ES), Siemens (DE), Atos (FR), Terma (NL) and even Cosylab from Slovenia (always nice to meet a neighbour in such company!), among others. About 50 presentations were held in rapid-fire mode, leaving people sitting on the edges of their seats from the opening discussion to the final Q&A.
As lectures unfolded, several key industry trends crystallised, including development of high level, comprehensive mission support platforms and frameworks, standardisation, centralisation, reuse and (no surprise here) virtualisation and the role of dev-ops. All that and a lot more of what had been presented could relatively easily be summarised as one driving idea - cost reduction. While it's no exception to hear ESA and NASA talk about billion Euro figures, organisations large and small obviously feel significant pressure to do more with less - a tricky thing to do in an industry as extremely conservative as the space industry.
We are quite happy with our trip. We met interesting people doing interesting work, some of which might turn out to be future partners or customers, we witnessed interest in our own ground system simulation and satellite data acquisition technology, got a lot of encouraging comments, useful feedback and ideas on where to go from here.
The atmosphere at the conference was friendly, charged and positive (no pun intended), with palpable general excitement about being among space technology experts from the EU and all over the world, at one of the key nerve centres of European space technology. The guided tour of ESOC facilities and conference dinner after the first day were great opportunities to enjoy the mixture of cultures and languages that comprise the European space programme and give the event a nice final touch.
Time to follow up on what we've learned and the contacts that we've made!