NASA and other international space agencies will be able to better support robotic and future human missions into the cosmos with the completion and full operation of a new 34-metre antenna dish at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC).
The project, managed and operated by CSIRO, is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network and completes a six and half year $120 million investment by the organisation.
The new antenna, Deep Space Station 36 (DSS36), is the second of two new 34-metre antennas constructed at Tidbinbilla in Canberra. The first of the two new antennas, Deep Space Station 35, commenced operations on 1 October 2014.
“This investment and the current space tracking operations at CDSCC highlights the close relationship that NASA has had with Australia through CSIRO and the bright future our two countries will share in space tacking for a very long time,” Minister Hunt said.
“CSIRO and NASA scientists have been working side by side since 1965 and this provides an important opportunity to collaborate, share expertise and knowledge which benefits both countries.”
The station is expecting to handle an increasing number of deep space missions in the coming decades, including NASA’s future plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.
Assistant Minister Craig Laundy MP, representatives from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the US Embassy, industry partners, CSIRO and local school students were today present to officially mark the milestone with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“The new antennas will play an important part in NASA’s ‘Journey to Mars’ by providing two-way communication capacity for human and robotic missions, enabling science, tracking and command data to be sent back and forth from Earth,” Assistant Minister Laundy said.
“As well as supporting more deep space missions to Mars, the station’s future is also likely to include tracking missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa and supporting a move towards a return to human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit in the next decade.”
CSIRO manages CDSCC on behalf of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as part of the Deep Space Network.
“CSIRO has partnered with NASA for 50 years, from capturing man’s first steps on the moon to the first images of Pluto,” said Dr Larry Marshall, CSIRO Chief Executive.
“Our enduring global collaboration exemplifies two pillars of Strategy 2020, built on the bedrock of science excellence driving innovation to unlock the wonders of space exploration.”
In 1965, CDSCC helped to receive the first close-up pictures of the surface of Mars, taken by the Mariner 4 spacecraft. Since then, it has been involved in hundreds of missions, including the Apollo missions to the Moon, and the historic Voyager missions to the outer planets and beyond.
In August 2012 it carried the signals confirming the landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars, and in 2015 it received some of the first images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft.
Construction of the two new antennas together represented a significant investment in Australia, of which 40 per cent went to local industry to complete civil, electrical, HVAC, electronic, integration and calibration works.