2 mins read 17 Jun 2021

Astrophiz 128 - Richard Stephenson - Talking with Spacecraft

Astrophiz 128 - Richard Stephenson - Talking with Spacecraft


This is an amazing interview where we hear first-hand how distant spacecraft are controlled from Earth.

Richard Stephenson is the Operations Supervisor at the CDSCC, The Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex at Tidbinbilla, jointly run by NASA and Australia’s CSIRO.

Richard explains how he can lock onto and send commands to Voyager2 about 20Billion kilometres away, using the newly refurbished transmitter on the 70m DSS-43 dish, and can then capture the telemetry data that V2 sends back to earth, by controlling an array of 4 Tidbinbilla dishes.

Then Richard gives us the inside story about sending commands out to the New Horizons Pluto Mission about 7billion kilometres away.

Also in this stunning episode:
- VPN command systems.
- How spacecraft have virtual channels and labelled telemetry so science data can be automatically sent to project primary investigators.
- How data from all the missions converging on Mars can be acquired and packaged to it’s required destination.
- How the recent vision from the Ingenuity Helicopter ended up on your computer or smartphone screen.
- How two antenna dishes can talk with all the Mars missions from NASA/ESA and Emirates at the same time.
- How NASA coordinates all the DSN dishes at Canberra, at Goldstone and at Madrid using ‘Follow the Sun’
- How signals from the Solar Polar Probe (aka the Parker Solar Probe) are captured via eccentric orbits which counteract the huge radio noise emitted from our sun.
- How the ingenious use of Software Defined Radio and 'HackRS’ allows us to deal with the increased radio traffic coming from fleets of CubeSats and eavesdrop on the Voyager Missions at the crossed the Heliopause.

and …. How new progress is being made with RF-Optical-Hybrid systems to deal with growing data loads coming from spacecraft.

Lasers-in-Space …. what’s not to love!

Thanks, Richard …. you paint fantastic pictures for us as you describe so clearly how we talk with spacecraft!


An astronomy podcast about Astrophysics, Astrophotography, Space Science and Particle Physics. Listen to a different special guest each fortnight, plus 'What's Up Doc' with Dr. Ian 'Astroblog' Musgrave & the latest Astro news.

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