In April 2013, Deep Space Station 43 marks its 40th anniversary of space communications operations. Photo: CDSCC


Deep Space Station 43 - Taking Canberra from the Bush to the Stars

40th anniversary of DSS43's official opening - Saturday, 13th April, 2013
Thursday 28 February 2013

On the 13th of April 1973, then Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, took a 45-minute drive from (Old) Parliament House in Canberra and out to the beautiful bushland setting of the Tidbinbilla valley.

Clustered in the rolling valleys and farmland surrounded by grazing sheep and cattle were the giant white antenna dishes of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC). Dominating the valley was the newly completed, massive 64-metre wide, dish-like antenna called Deep Space Station 43 (DSS43).

Gough Whitlam was there to officially open the new dish that had taken three years to construct. As wide as the Parkes Radio Telescope but taller and heavier, DSS43 could not only receive radio signals but also transmit. Designed to send commands to spacecraft exploring distant planets and receive their data, process and relay it back to scientists all over the world.

Surrounded by dignataries and station staff, and standing alongside the NASA Administrator, James Fletcher, Prime Minister Whitlam officially threw the switch that ushered in a new era in space exploration for Australia and the world - taking Canberra from the bush to the stars.

40th Anniversary Celebrations
On Saturday 13th April 2013, DSS43 will mark 40 years of service and deep space operations.

To mark this milestone, the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex will host a day featuring a photo exhibition, talks and presentations on the antenna and a series of booked tours to the antenna which will be available to the public.

Details on the anniversary event and how to book for tours appear at right >>

Always improving for the future
DSS43 was originally constructed as a 64-metre dish. It was expanded to its present 70-metre diameter in the late 1980s to accommodate the Voyager missions. At this size, DSS43 is the largest steerable antenna dish in the Southern Hemisphere.

Over the years, as technology changed in transmitter and receiver systems, the antenna has been upgraded several times to provide even greater sensitivity and range of capabilities.

DSS43 is the largest steerable antenna dish in the southern hemisphere. Photo: CDSCC

In November 2012, work commenced on replacing the concrete which supports the antenna’s rotating structure. This concrete sits underneath a metal plate that runs the entire circumference of the antenna pedestal and keeps the 4,000 tonne moving structure horizontal, to better than hair-width tolerances.

During a total 6-month downtime for the antenna, there will also be upgrades to some of its electrical systems and there’ll even be the chance to repaint the main dish surface.

On completion, DSS43 will re-enter deep space communication service in great shape and looking good for maybe another few decades of exploring the solar system and beyond.

The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is managed in Australia by the CSIRO on behalf of NASA's Deep Space Network. It is one of three stations worldwide, the others located near Madrid (Spain) and Goldstone, California (USA).

Celebrating a Milestone
Deep Space Station 43 (DSS43) was officially opened at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) on 13th April, 1973.

To mark this milestone, CDSCC will be holding two free events: an invited VIP ceremony, and separate public tours.

For the public - tours

Guided tours to DSS43 are being offered by bookings only. Groups of 30 persons at a time will be given a close up look at the largest antenna dish in the southern hemisphere.

Each tour will be 30 minutes, depart on the hour and half hour between 1pm - 4.30pm. Tours are only being provided on the anniversary day - Saturday, 13th April, 2013.

Pre-bookings are required by phone or email. A session will be allocated and cannot be transferred. Places not filled by persons not attending their tour session will be filled by a standy-by group. All tours and timeslots will be filled on a first come, first served basis.

To book, call the Public Relations office, Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm on:
Tel: 02 6201 7838 or 7873
or email the PR Office with your contact details.

Important note on tours
Access onto the grounds of CDSCC will require walking approx. 250 metres downhill and the same uphill, on the return journey.

Persons with mobility issues or known medical conditions must be aware of this and be capable of walking the distance or provide their own mobility unit eg: wheelchair. They must inform PR staff on making their tour booking of any issues in this regard.

All persons must wear adequate enclosed footwear and sensible attire. Hats and sunglasses are recommended.

All persons on tours must must stay with the group and follow all instructions from their guides at all times.

Other activities
In the CDSCC Visitor Centre, members of the public can enjoy the regular exhibits and theatre programs.

A special photo exhibit on DSS43, plus in Centre talks and presentations will take place throughout the day.

These activities are open to everyone and do not require bookings.

VIP event
Invited guests only will attend a special ceremony on the grounds adjacent to DSS43 on the same spot where the original opening ceremony took place (weather permitting).

A short program of guests speakers and a retrospective on the antenna's history will take place.

The event will be starting promptly at 10.30am and finishing at 11.30am. It will be followed by refreshments at an onsite location.

The VIP event is open to members of the ex-space tracking community and current CDSCC staff (plus one guest). Please contact the CDSCC PR Office via phone or email. To be included on the invitation list, please provide details of your former tracking station location, the period you worked there and your role.

Tel: 02 6201 7838/7873 or email.

Members of the media interested in covering the event, should contact:
Glen Nagle, CDSCC PR Manager
Tel: 02 6201 7838 (bh) or via email.

Other CDSCC Stories
Nov 2011 - Tweetup Party
April 2012 -
NASA Boss Visits CDSCC
Aug 2012 -
MSL Curiosity Landing
Jan 2013 -
DSS35 Webcams
April 2013 -
DSS43 40th Anniversary
Aug 2013 -
2013 Space Open Day
Sept 2013 -
DSS35 Construction
Nov 2013 - DSS36 Construction

Webmaster: Glen Nagle
Public Relations Office: Glen Nagle / Leanne George