About the Facility

The Mission Operations Center (MOC) is the command center for operational spacecraft, and APL can operate several missions at any given time. The Multi-Mission MOC performs operations that span the whole mission, from before launch until the final signal is received from the spacecraft at the end of the mission. Many tests and mission simulations are performed before a spacecraft launches to "check out" the MOC, the spacecraft and the ground system that will operate certain functions autonomously. During a launch, the MOC is fully staffed, with each person having engineering responsibilities during the first contact with the spacecraft to ensure a successful mission start. From there, operations may be run with or without staff. On a routine day when staff are around, the MOC team ensures the spacecraft is safe and healthy. The staff implement requirements from the science team, any engineering needs and navigation operations while also verifying and uplinking commands to ensure the spacecraft performs its mission, including major mission milestones like the New Horizons flyby of Pluto and getting MESSENGER in orbit around Mercury. The team also downloads science data and housekeeping telemetry to evaluate the health and safety of the spacecraft and ensure it continues operating successfully. For unattended operations, contact with the spacecraft is managed autonomously by the ground system which will trigger alerts when attention or intervention is necessary by remote staff. This strategy has offered significant savings compared with around-the-clock staffed operations and has proven to be equally reliable.