E-USOC (Spanish User Support and Operations Centre) is a centre of Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) specialized in Research and Development (R&D) activities in the fields of space science and technology. On behalf of ESA (European Space Agency), the centre offers the necessary assistance for the preparation, execution and post-flight analysis of space experiments to the Spanish scientific community.
E-USOC is the point of contact for the Spanish user teams developing experiments which require microgravity environment, such as the International Space Station, Space Shuttle missions, Parabolic Flights and so on. It is also the point of contact for European Users carrying out space experiments involving the payloads which E-USOC is responsible for. For instance, experiments concerning the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) onboard the International Space Station (ISS).
E-USOC also provides information and promotes activities in the field of space sciences and fluid mechanics, giving technical and operation support to researchers and investigation groups which want to carry out experiments in microgravity environments or in any field of research related to space science.
E-USOC is the Spanish point of contact for the utilisation of the Low Gravity Platforms which ESA is sponsor of. These platforms are:
Drop Towers. Drop towers and drop tubes are ground based research facilities with wich up to ten seconds of free-fall conditions can be achieved. These are multiprurpose facilities which enable autonomous experiment packages to be submitted to true free-fall conditions.
Parabolic Flights. Parabolic flights are aircraft flights conducted for a specific mission profile using specially configured aeroplanes. These aircrafts axecute a series of manoeuvers, called parabolas, each providing up to 20 seconds of reduced gravity, during which scientists are able to perform experiments and obtain data that would otherwise not be possible on Earth.
Sounding Rockets. These have been used for scientific research in the late 1950s and were originally implementeted in Meteorological and Upper Atmosphere studies. ESA has been using this type of platform to carry out low gravity experimentation since 1982.
Foton Retrievable Capsules. These are unmanned, retrievable capsules, derived from the design of the 1960's Soviet Vostok manned spacecraft and the Zenit military reconnaissance satellite.