BACKGROUNDWhen you hear "European Space Agency Deep Space Tracking Station," it's understandable that the first thing you think of is that it's somewhere in Europe. While there is a station located in Europe, the ESA actually has two other deep space antennas equally spaced around the world as part of their Estrack network. Estrack is a global system of ground stations providing links between satellites in orbit and ESOC, the European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany.
Deep Space Antenna 1 (DSA 1) is located in New Norcia, Western Australia. It was commissioned in 2002 and was the first antenna in ESA's Deep Space Network, which was designed to give the ESA an independent capability to communicate and control deep space missions. It is a huge 35m diameter parabolic dish, with the capability to communicate beyond Mars. The first signals received by this station were from the NASA Stardust mission in June 2002.
DSA 2 is located 77 kms west of Madrid, Spain, at a place called Cebreros. Like DSA 1, the dish in Spain is a 35m diameter. It is separated from DSA 1 by 120 degrees of longitude, and was first commissioned in 2005
DSA 3 is another 120 degrees around the globe, at Malargüe, Argentina. It began operation in 2012.
The three Deep Space Antennas complement the NASA Deep Space Network, giving a combined total of 6 stations. Three in the Northern Hemisphere, and 3 in the Southern Hemisphere.
Estrack have a number of other resources in Western Australia. Up until 2015, there was a station located on the outskirts of the state capital - Perth. This was used to communicate to satellites in Low Earth Orbit, as well as other spacecraft during their Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP). This station was recently decommissioned, with the functionality taken over by a new 4.5m dish out at New Norcia - 120km away. Which is the reason for this blog post!!! ( Finally....)
Only a few weeks ago, I saw that ESA had put word out via their @social4space Twitter account, that they were going to host an event on 10th and 11th Feb for the inauguration of the new 4.5M dish. It would be a behind the scenes look at one of the few space related facilities here in Australia, and it's in my backyard (not literally!) The event was by invitation only, and people with social media "credentials" could apply to be selected for the event. Now if any of you are as much of a space nerd as I am, then this is one opportunity that wasn't going to be missed! I completed the application process and waited for the announcement of the successful attendees......
YESSSS!!!!! I was invited!!!!!
Myself and about 14 other space geeks are going!! We're going to have an awesome time!
The event will be a mix of socialising, presentations by astronomers, and a behind the scenes look at the facility.
For updates on the event, follow the various social media accounts of the participants here, ESAs @Social4Space account on Twitter and the ESA Facebook page. For official event images, there's a Flickr album.
I'll post updates via a mix of this blog, the @OzQube1 Twitter Account, the OzQube-1 Facebook page and my personal @ssshocker Twitter account.