Canis Major and a 70-meter Antenna from NASA Deep Space Network


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The image above shows the 70-meter antenna from Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex, that seems to point  to the brightest star in the celestial sphere, Sirius. Also visible is the entire constellation of Canis Major.

The Spanish complex of NASA MDSCC – Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex – is located 65 km west of Madrid, close to the town of Robledo de Chavela, and is part of the global network known as DSN, Deep Space Network, that has two other centers in Canberra, Australia and in Goldstone, California, USA. The geographical location of these, approximately 120 degrees apart in length, has been chosen to allow vehicles to maintain contact with a ground station, regardless of the daily movement of the Earth’s rotation. Each Deep Space Network site has one huge, 70-meter (230-foot) diameter antenna. The 70-meter antennas are the largest and most sensitive, capable of tracking a spacecraft traveling tens of billions of miles (kilometers) from Earth. NASA built the 70-meter antenna when ambitious missions began venturing beyond Earth orbit and needed more powerful communications tools to track them. The antenna was designed to receive weak signals and transmit very strong ones far out into space. The dish from Madrid 70-meter antenna, also known as “DSS-63”, was upgraded from 64 meters to 70 meters in 1987, to enable the antenna to track NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft as it encountered Neptune. The stations communicate with the space vehicles through radio waves, which are used to carry messages in both directions. The radio waves used for space communications belong to the region of the microwave whose frequency range is between 30 and 100,000 MHz, and its speed of propagation is the same to that of light, 300.000 km/s.

Received messages can contain television signals, data from measurements made by the scientific instruments on board the vehicle, such as temperature sensors, radiation, magnetic fields, etc… And information that allows us to know the functioning of the instruments that control navigation and engineering of the vehicle itself, such as computers, receivers, transmitters, antennas, power generation systems, etc. These messages use a binary language, and therefore they are series of ones and zeros, turned into electrical impulses, carried by radio waves. Some of the future missions that this gigantic antenna will be in charge to communicate, are: James Webb – Space Telescope; Solar Probe Plus (SPP) Heliophysics; inSight – Mission to Mars and INSPIRE – CubeSats satellites. 

Enter the intricate world of NASA’s Deep Space Network as it provides you an inside look in real-time at how their team communicates and tracks multiple spacecraft within the solar system 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Click Here


PT: A imagem acima mostra a antena de 70 metros do Complexo de Comunicações do Espaço Profundo de Madrid, que parece apontar para a estrela mais brilhante da esfera celestial, Sirius. À direita desta, é também visível toda a constelação Canis Major.

 

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