Construction has begun on a new deep space antenna at New Norcia, Western Australia, as part of a multi-million dollar collaboration between the Australian Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA).
The agencies will work together to expand the New Norcia deep space tracking station (pictured), located about 130 kilometres north-east of Perth.
The Australian Government is investing $4 million into the almost $70 million project which has already leveraged roughly $29 million in contracts for Australian suppliers.
The new antenna will support ESA’s deep space missions, working together with antennas based in Argentina and Spain to provide uninterrupted communications with spacecraft exploring the Solar System, visiting asteroids or keeping close watch on our active Sun.
The new infrastructure will feature advanced deep space communication technology, including a cryogenically cooled ‘antenna feed’ which can increase data return by up to 40 percent.
The new antenna is expected to begin operating in early 2025.
CSIRO supports ESA in Australia as the local operator of the tracking station, and in satellite data management and research programs.
Australia and ESA have had treaties in place since 1979 to enable ESA ground stations on Australian soil to track spacecraft and interplanetary missions.
Industry and science minister Ed Husic said the project would strengthen the relationship between Europe and Australia, particularly in scientific endeavours related to space.
Husic said: “This antenna will help deliver uninterrupted communications with spacecraft which are out exploring our Solar System, testing planetary defence and watching our Sun to help protect our planet from hazardous solar activity.
“Through this investment we are creating economic and job opportunities for local contractors, as well as a lure to reverse the brain drain and bring home our best and brightest.”
Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said the project would unlock the exchange of new technical know-how, as Australian suppliers help design, develop and test the antenna.
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