From time to time, all structures require upgrades, especially those that ensure our communication with space. In March, NASA started such upgrades on the Deep Space Network, the agency’s interplanetary switchboard that enables communication with our robotic spacecraft.
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One of the largest antennas in the network – Deep Space Station 43 (DSS-43) in Canberra, Australia – recently received a new X-band frequency cone. Inside the cone there is a powerful state-of-the-art transmitter system and highly sensitive receivers.
These are used to send commands to spacecraft and receive telemetry and science data from robot missions that explore the solar system. The antenna is forty-eight years old and 70 meters (230 feet) wide.
Upgrading was not an easy task. Engineers used a giant crane to maneuver it 3 tons Cone in the middle of the solid bowl after lifting 20 Stories from the ground. The antenna also receives upgrades for its water cooling system and mechanical and electrical devices.
After 40 years, some of the components to be updated have become increasingly unreliable. The antenna has been offline since early March 2020.
The upgrades should be completed by January 2021
This enables communication with spacecraft on the moon and beyond during the earth’s rotation at any time. However, DSS-43 is the only antenna that can send commands to Voyager 2.
Other antennas can receive signals from Voyager 2, but DSS-43 is the only dish that can send Orders to the spaceship. Voyager 2 is more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from Earth and therefore requires a powerful radio antenna to transmit commands. Voyager 2 was launched in 1977.