tracking station is located in the beautiful Tidbinbilla farming
valley outside of Canberra, Australia
Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) features a
number of 'big dish' antennas that are required daily to receive
data from; and transmit commands to; a wide variety of spacecraft.
Deep Space Stations
The antennas are known as Deep Space Stations (DSS) and are identified
by a number. Each location around the world has it own set of
similar antennas: In the United States, antennas are numbered
in the 10s and 20s series; in Australia antennas are in the 30s
and 40s and in Spain the 50s and 60s. This is a simple shorthand
way to easily identify an antenna at each site.
currently has four active antennas:
There are also several antennas that have either been dismantled
or decommissioned at the Complex over the years. The original
antenna on site - DSS42 - was dismantled in December 2000, and
DSS33 (an 11-metre antenna) was decommissioned in February 2002
and in 2009 dismantled and transported to Norway to start a new
role in atmospheric research. A 5-metre dish that was used to
support an Earth-orbiting space telescope is now decommissioned
is still on site but no longer in use.
recent retirement was the closure of Deep Space Station 45. After
30 years of service, the HEF (High Efficiency) antenna was decommissioned
in November 2016. DSS45 makes way for the newer generation of
34 metre, beam waveguide dishes that will be the type of antennas
that the Deep Space Network will use going forward.
One Small Step
One other dish - the first you come by as you enter the station
- is Deep Space Station 46 (DSS46). This 26-metre antenna was
originally located at the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station
between 1967 and 1981. It was moved to CDSCC as part of a consolidation
of tracking station sites in Canberra.
is most famous for being the antenna which received and relayed
to the world the first historic TV images of astronaut Neil Armstrong
setting foot on the Moon in July 1969.
tracked hundreds of missions - both manned and robotic - DSS46
was retired from service in November 2009 and now remains at
CDSCC as celebrated and recognised historic monument.
Lending a Helping
To assist in the busy period in spaceflight at the end of 2003,
early 2004, the Complex incorporated the 64-metre dish at Parkes
in central New South Wales. This antenna was upgraded by NASA
through the Canberra Complex with new receivers and equipment
capable of handling transmissions received from robotic spacecraft.
wide radio telescope is one of the world's best and most active
facilities for radio astronomy. When its research time permits,
Parkes can act as a spare 'ear' for CDSCC at times of high scheduled
activity. When it is being used for this purpose it is designated
role of the antennas can be broken into four key areas; Telemetry,
Tracking, Control and Monitor.
The purpose of the Telemetry System is to provide the capability
to acquire, process, decode and distribute deep space probe and
Earth orbiter telemetry data. Telemetry data consists of science
and engineering information modulated on radio signals transmitted
from the spacecraft. The Telemetry System performs three main
functions: Telemetry data acquisition, telemetry data conditioning
and transmission to projects and telemetry system validation.
The purpose of the Tracking System is to provide two-way communication
between Earth based equipment and spacecraft, to make measurements
that will allow the state vector (position and velocity) of spacecraft
to be determined.
The purpose of the Command System is to provide the means by
which a Project controls the activities of its spacecraft. Control
information (Command Data), provided by the Project, is modulated
on the RF carrier and transmitted to a spacecraft by a DSN station.
The Command System functions as a transfer medium between the
Project Control Centre and its spacecraft.
The purpose of the Monitor and Control System is two-fold: to
provide real time monitor data to projects which reflect the
status of project support by DSN systems, and to provide monitor
and control capabilities to operators of DSN systems' components.
Antennas for the Future
has determined that to meet the ongoing demand for deep space
communication services, it needs a number of new Deep Space Station
antennas at its three Deep Space Network sites. The first of
these came online in October 2014 with the second under construction
at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex and due to come
online in the late-2016 timeframe.