Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Deep space maintenance deep in Australia's bush

December 9, 2009
European Space Agency
The European Space Agency's giant 35m ground stations require regular maintenance and periodic mid-life upgrades to keep them working in tip-top condition, communicating with the Agency's growing fleet of spacecraft millions of kilometres from home.

ESA's first 35m deep-space station at New Norcia, Australia.
Credit: Image courtesy of European Space Agency

This month, a team of ESA experts together with industrial partners has deployed to the hot outback of New Norcia, Australia, location of the Agency's first 35m deep-space station, DSA-1. The team will undertake an intensive, 12-day programme of repairs and upgrades, enhancing technical reliability and boosting the station's capability to track and communicate with sophisticated missions orbiting Earth, Mars and Venus.

Related Articles

The giant 35-metre station was taken off-line on 30 November, after lengthy preparations and rescheduling with other ESTRACK stations to support New Norcia's communications workload. In recent months, the station has been assigned telecommand upload and data download tasks for Cluster, Mars Express, Rosetta, Venus Express and XMM-Newton.

The Agency's core ESTRACK network comprises 13 terminals sited at nine stations in six countries.

"We initially requested 14 days of off-line time for our upgrade work, but all we could get was 12 days due to the high demand. This means we will work extended hours here at New Norcia to finish on time," said Friedrich Mόller-Stute, project officer from ESOC, ESA's European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany.

Improving station reliability and performance

The work will primarily focus on improving the reliability of the station's cooling systems, which moderate the temperature of the two 20-kilowatt high-power amplifiers that are used to boost the strength of signals sent to spacecraft orbiting millions of kilometres away.

In addition to several other repair and upgrade tasks, work will be done to improve the performance of the mechanical systems that enable the giant 35m dish antenna to rotate and elevate. New Norcia station was built in 2002 and could initially provide a highly accurate rotation and elevation capability of 0.4 degrees/second -- so it would make a complete revolution in about 15 minutes.

"The original rotation speed is proving to be too slow, and it is taking too long to rotate to a new pointing position or to 'unwind' back into the starting position. So we will boost the rotation and elevation speed to one degree per second, which will really help," says ESOC's Udo Kugel, one of the project engineers.

New Norcia's mechanical movable structure weighs 580 tonnes, and the antenna and associated terminal equipment comprise one world's largest devices for telemetry, tracking and telecommand (TT&C) applications.

Intensive work deep in the Australian bush

The extended team on site for the project includes engineers from ESA, contractor engineers and technicians from industrial partners in Germany, Canada and Australia, and engineers and support personnel from the station's operators, Stratos, who manage the New Norcia and Perth ESTRACK stations on behalf of ESA.

The long hours required by the ESA project fit right in with the famous 'can-do' approach of Western Australia's hard-working rural population.

ESA and contractor team are 'right at home'

"We already feel right at home with locals. The head of the district volunteer fire brigade gave us a very nice welcome, and thanked us for the water trailer that was furnished by ESA last year to support their efforts at protecting the station and its surroundings. They made good use of it fighting bush fires last week," said Mόller-Stute.

In a telephone call on 30 November from New Norcia, the ESA engineering team reported clear, dry spring conditions with the temperature at a very hot 35C, forecast to rise sharply at week's end.

"The summertime temperatures can easily hit 40C, and it is surprising to see how much this can affect the equipment on site." Conditions at the station, which is unmanned (and auto-controlled from ESOC, in Germany) during routine operations, are austere; in addition to the giant terminal and its base structure, there are just the minimum number of support buildings, including an on-site power station, a control room and several storage and site maintenance sheds.

The site is 130 km North of Perth and approximately 30 minutes by road to the nearest town.

Despite the threat of fire, the location is ideal for tracking spacecraft. It is far from interference from any urban population, the climate is dry and the site is elevated approximately 250 m above sea level; the skies are clear for much of the year.

"Our regular maintenance has to address the strong effects of heat and sunlight, which degrade cables, cable fasteners, pipes and anything made of plastic. The summertime temperatures can easily hit 40C, and it is surprising to see how much this can affect the equipment on site," said ESA's Michel Dugast, project leader and also based at ESOC.

Dugast adds that: "Supporting our science, astronomy and other important missions means that there are very high technical expectations for New Norcia and all the ESTRACK stations. Our planning for New Norcia allows for just 5 hours per year of unplanned off-line time per year. This station really has to perform -- and upgrades like these are crucial for ensuring success."

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Deep space maintenance deep in Australia's bush." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091206185115.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2009, December 9). Deep space maintenance deep in Australia's bush. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091206185115.htm
European Space Agency. "Deep space maintenance deep in Australia's bush." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091206185115.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Space & Time News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA Holds Memorial to Remember Astronauts

NASA Holds Memorial to Remember Astronauts

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) — NASA is remembering 17 astronauts who were killed in the line of duty and dozens more who have died since the agency&apos;s beginning. A remembrance ceremony was held Thursday at NASA&apos;s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Moon Spotted During Earth Flyby

Asteroid's Moon Spotted During Earth Flyby

Rumble (Jan. 27, 2015) — Scientists working with NASA&apos;s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California discovered an unexpected moon while observing asteroid 2004 BL86 during its recent flyby past Earth. Credit to &apos;NASA JPL&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) — Scientists are preparing a group of water fleas for a unique voyage into space. The aquatic crustaceans, known as Daphnia, can be used as a miniature model for biomedical research, and their reproductive and swimming behaviour will be tested for signs of stress while on board the International Space Station. Jim Drury went to meet the team. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mars Rover Opportunity Celebrates 11-Year Anniversary

Mars Rover Opportunity Celebrates 11-Year Anniversary

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) — Eleven years ago NASA&apos;s Opportunity rover touched down on Mars for what was only supposed to be a 90-day mission. Since then it has traveled 25.9 miles (41.7 kilometers), further than any other off-Earth surface vehicle has ever driven. Credit to &apos;NASA&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins