New Deep Space Antenna Comes Online
ESA — ESA’s new deep space radio antenna in Cebreros (ÃƒÂvila, Spain) will be officially inaugurated on 28 September. The new 35-metre antenna is ESA’s second facility devoted to communications with spacecraft on interplanetary missions or placed in very distant orbits. Cebreros’ first task will be that of tracking ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft, due for launch in October.
Up until three years ago, for missions requiring such a facility, ESA had to rely on NASA’s Deep Space Network. ESA’s science programme for the next decade includes many deep space missions, and independent access to deep space was identified as a necessity. In 2002, ESA’s first deep space antenna, located in New Norcia (Australia), began operations.
The official opening ceremony for this new ESA facility will take place at the Cebreros ground station. ESA’s Director of operations, Gaele Winters, and ESA Director of Science, David Southwood, will be present. A press briefing will be held at 11:30.
Media representatives wishing to attend are requested to fill in the attached reply form and send it back to the ESA/ESAC Communication Office.
Cebreros was chosen as the site on which to build ESA’s second deep space antenna for several reasons. Since this antenna had to be positioned 120 degrees East or West of the antenna in Australia, an ideal location would have been ESA’s European Centre for Space Astronomy, located in Villafranca (Madrid).
However, active urban development in the ESAC surroundings could have caused interference. The Cebreros location, which already hosted an old NASA station not in use anymore, is equally good and is away from densely-populated areas.
The Cebreros dish is 35 metres in diameter. The entire structure is 40 metres high and weighs about 630 tons. It has been completed in almost two years by an industrial consortium led by the Canadian company SED Systems.
Spanish firms Esteyco and Necso built the antenna tower infrastructure, and LV Salamanca was responsible for the building refurbishment. The total cost of the new station amounts to &eur;30 million, &eur;22million of which covers the antenna.
The Cebreros antenna incorporates state-of-the-art technology which provides some advantages compared to the New Norcia facility. For instance, the Cebreros data acquisition capacity is higher, due to the fact that it will receive signals in the Ka band (31.8 – 32.3 GHz). Cebreros also has a higher pointing accuracy, with a maximum error of 6.0 milligrade degrees.
In normal conditions, the antenna will be remotely operated from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.
The Cebreros antenna will begin operations in October with the launch of ESA’s mission to Venus, Venus Express. Other interplanetary spacecraft, such as comet-chaser Rosetta, Mercury mission BepiColombo and space telescopes Herschel/ Planck and Gaia will be tracked by the new Cebreros antenna in the near future.
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