New Deep Space Antenna for Western Australia
The Australian Space Agency and European Space Agency have announced the construction of a new deep space antenna in Western Australia.
The latest in deep space communication technology is coming to Western Australia in a new project from the Australian Space Agency and European Space Agency (ESA). The two agencies have announced the construction of a 35-meter deep space antenna at ESA’s station at New Norcia, 140-kilometres north of Perth. The new antenna will complement the existing ESA deep space antenna on-site, which is operated by CSIRO as part of long term cooperative efforts between ESA and Australia.
“We are happy to announce the latest addition to ESA’s state-of-the-art deep space communication network and this important next step in our relationship with the Australian Space Agency,” said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.
“ESA’s network is crucial infrastructure that helps enable cooperation and cross-support with missions flown by partners like NASA, JAXA and other agencies, and this boosts science return and efficiency for all involved.”
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The new 620-tonne antenna will be built using the latest features of deep space communications technologies, including a super-cooled ‘antenna feed’. The data return of the feed will be increased by up to 40 percent through cryogenic cooling it to around -263 Celsius. The antenna is set to be so sensitive that it can detect signals far weaker than that of a mobile phone on the surface of Mars.
Australia will be heavily involved in the construction of the antenna, with a significant portion of ESA’s €45 million budget for the antenna to be spent in Australia with a number of Australian companies. The budget will cover antenna procurement and construction, as well as upgrades to station buildings and services.
The new antenna is part of a long-term cooperation between ESA and Australia. This partnership provides both parties significant economic, technological, and scientific benefits whilst setting the foundations for future collaborations in areas such as space communication, space situational awareness and mission operations.
“The new antenna is not only positive progress in the Agency and ESA’s cooperative relationship, but also an important contributor to the local economy which will help grow Australia’s civil space industry,” said Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo.
The search for the site of the new antenna began late 2019, and construction of the antenna is set to be complete by 2024. Operations will begin in the second half of that year.