Spacecraft trackers

Artist impression of one of the two new antennas at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex Image source: CSIRO; image published under CC BY 3.0

Deep Space Station 36 (DSS36), the second of two new 34-metre antennas at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC), has been launched - two years after its twin dish, the Deep Space Station 35, commenced operations in 2014.

The launch completes a six year project, which was funded by the US and NASA in Australia at a total cost of $120 million.

The two new dishes are now set to play an important part in NASA’s ‘Journey to Mars’ by providing two-way communication capacity for human and robotic missions.

According to CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall, the antennas will usher in a new era of space exploration at Tidbinbilla, near Canberra.

As its twin dish, DSS36 has a (Beam Wave Guide) design with its transmission and receiving equipment located in an underground structure, the base pedestal of the dish. The dish will be capable of transmitting across S- and Ka-band radio frequencies for deep space communication to interplanetary robotic spacecraft.

The two antennas will expand the capabilities of the CDSCC, which is managed and operated by the CSIRO as part of NASA's Deep Space Network. The upgraded CDSCC is one of three stations of the Network, with the other two being located near Madrid and in California.

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