The Opportunity

Headquartered in the German city of Darmstadt, EUMETSAT (European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) is the European operational satellite agency for monitoring weather, climate and the environment from space. As a user-governed satellite operation organization formed in 1986, EUMETSAT’s primary objective is to be the leading user-driven operational agency in Europe and a trusted global partner for weather and Earth system monitoring from space. The data produced from EUMETSAT’s satellites are vital to weather forecasting and make a significant contribution to the monitoring of the environment and climate change.

There are two control rooms—GEO and LEO—located on adjacent floors of EUMETSAT’s Darmstadt headquarters in which staff monitor this incoming data around the clock. A few years ago, EUMETSAT turned to longtime AV partner SWiCA Conference Technology to upgrade EUMETSAT’s GEO Mission Control Center with up-to-date media technology with IP-based signal distribution and AMX control solutions to improve operational processes. Following this successful renovation, SWiCA was awarded the EUMETSAT installation and collaborated with AV supplier Audio Pro Heilbronn Elektroakustik GmbH to completely redesign the LEO Mission Control Center’s control and monitoring systems.

The Solution

SWiCA installed a range of AMX touch panels, controllers & AVoIP end points and AVoIP solutions to maintain consistency and communication in both control rooms. The finished LEO Mission Control Center won the 2022 AVard (German AV Award) for “Best Control Room and Security Integration.”

The control center is divided into six oval-shaped work islands that serve as remote command centers dedicated to individual satellite programs. Each work island is equipped with 20 computer screens, four loudspeakers, six gooseneck microphones and two AMX Modero Series touch panels for controlling. SWiCA utilized AMX N1000 Series encoders and decoders to design a custom switching solution that allows operators to control each five different computers with a keyboard-and-mouse set either with a single or dual monitor setup.

The linchpin of the IP-based signal distribution in the LEO Mission Control Center is the SVSI product family from AMX, with which SWiCA has had good experience in various projects since 2012, according to Markus Schürmann. An AMX Netlinx NX3200 serves as the primary controller in the LEO MCC, while two NX1200 are assigned to each oval, which spreads the workload and ensures that an entire oval does not fail in the event of a defect. As the web-based control center of the SVSI system, the AMX video controller N8002 provides a single point of control for the AMX video devices and a web UI for manual switching. The video controller detects and manages all devices connected within the system. The N8002 is operated in hot standby mode with a second device of the same type, providing redundancy for always-on control.

The AMX solutions installed in the LEO Mission Control Center a part of an impressive infrastructure that will be able to support operation expansions, even as EUMETSAT continues to grow its resources and plans to launch new satellites as early as 2025.

The Impact

“Everyone is happy with the newly designed LEO MCC,” Jörg Schmittroth, System Operation Engineer. “Many workplace design ideas that we developed with the GEO MCC have proven themselves in daily practice and have therefore also been implemented in the newly designed LEO MCC. SWiCA deserves a lot of praise for completing the project on time, despite unusually challenging circumstances. When new people come to work with us, they are always very enthusiastic about the environment in which they can work.”

“With regard to the selection of components, it was important to ensure compatibility with the products installed in the GEO MCC," said Markus Schürmann, Owner / Operator, SWiCA Conference Technology. “This simplifies the stocking or ordering of spare parts and ensures that the same high quality is available everywhere. The SVSI system from AMX has already proven itself in the GEO MCC. The ultra-low latency from the N1000 series was key and the resolution is sufficient for all tasks. SVSI allows independent multicasting of audio, video and USB signals, and the management of SVSI is really very sophisticated.”

“In both the GEO MCC and now the LEO MCC, we have more options than we currently need—we’re ahead of our time,” said Jörg Schmittroth. "Coordination meetings are already taking place to consider what the control center should look like in a few years. We deliberately designed the LEO MCC in such a way that we can easily arrange future tasks. Thanks to a sophisticated concept, desired signals from the data center can be flexibly assigned, memorized and recalled to the ovals.”