Deep-Space Network Antennas Broaden NASA Communications

TO REPLACE THE LARGE, aging antennas that currently enable communications with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) interplanetary flight missions, the agency has birthed a plan that includes two 34-m (112-ft.-wide) antennas. These beam waveguide antennas will be built by General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies under a $40.7-million contract from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The antennas will be part of NASA's modernization and transformation plan to continue both scientific studies of the Earth and the exploration of distant bodies in the solar system.

The large antennas house sensitive receiver electronics and control systems in a room that is inside of the antenna's ground-based pedestal, rather than in the center of the dish or reflector. This design makes it easier for technicians to maintain the equipment and implement technology upgrades. Construction, integration, and testing for the two new antennas designated Deep Space Stations 35 and 36are scheduled for completion by 2014 and 2016, respectively.

Originally designed by NASA's JPL and built by General Dynamics, the antennas enable the Deep Space Network (DSN) to communicate with existing flight missions. Examples include the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spitzer Space telescope, Saturn explorer Cassini, and support for future NASA space missions. NASA's DSN is an international collection of antennas that support NASA's spacecraft missions as well as radar and radio observatories that explore the solar system and universe.

General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies has already built nine 34-m antennas for NASA's Deep Space Network. There are three DSN facilitiesgeographically situated 120 deg. apartin California, Spain, and Australia. This strategic placement enables constant observation and communication as the Earth rotates, making the Deep Space Network one of the largest and most sensitive scientific telecommunications systems in the world. The new antennas will be located at the DSN facility in Canberra, Australia.

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