Malargüe Tracking Station Inauguration Set For Tuesday
December 15, 2012

New ESA Deep Space Tracking Station To Be Inaugurated Tuesday

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redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The official inauguration of a new European Space Agency (ESA) tracking station capable of monitoring missions traveling hundreds of millions of miles into our Solar System is set for Tuesday.

The facility, which is located in approximately 745 miles west of Buenos Aires in the city of Malargüe, Argentina, features a nearly 115 foot diameter, 610 metric ton antenna that can receive scientific data from current and future missions that venture into deep space.

The new station is the third and final deep-space antenna (DSA) station constructed by the ESA as part of the ESTRACK tracking station network, joining DSA 1, which is located in New Norcia, Australia, and DSA 2, which is headquartered in Cebreros, Spain.

Together, the trio of facilities will provide "360° circumferential coverage for deep-space probes including, today, Mars Express, Venus Express, Rosetta, Herschel and Planck, and, in the future, Gaia, BepiColombo, ExoMars, Solar Orbiter and Juice," the agency said in a statement on Friday.

"Malargüe station receives X- and Ka-band radio signals, significantly boosting its ability to receive large amounts of data from very far away," explained Roberto Maddè, the ESA's station project manager.

"It´s a marvelous piece of engineering, and years of design and development work at the Agency will come to fruition next week," he added. "We were helped a lot by our Argentinean partners in the making of the station and this collaboration shows how good is the relationship between ESA and CONAE (the organization overseeing Argentina's national space program)."

The Argentinean station is capable of tracking missions traveling to both Mars and Venus, as well as conduct radio science experiments and allow scientists both in its host country and throughout Europe to study matter through which space-to-ground communication signals travel, the ESA said. Use of the station will be shared with CONAE scientists as part of an agreement under which Malargüe will host DSA 3 for the next five decades.

"A 20 kW amplifier enables transmission of telecommands hundreds of millions of kilometers into space, while low-noise amplifiers cooled to —258ºC enable receipt of ultra-weak signals from beyond Jupiter," the ESA noted. "To compare: the smartphone in your pocket transmits using a puny battery at about 125 milliwatts. This is millions of times more powerful than the signals that Malargüe can receive."