Partners in space – CSIRO and NASA celebrate 50 years

By February 25th, 2010

Today marks the 50th anniversary of CSIRO's partnership with NASA in solar system exploration. From man taking his first steps on the moon to missions to the edge of the solar system, CSIRO and NASA have been working at the forefront of space science.

Today also marks the start of construction of a new generation of communication antennas at the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex at Tidbinbilla.

Since the early 1960s NASA has contracted CSIRO radio telescopes to augment its network of tracking stations for particular missions as part of its Deep Space Network (DSN).

CSIRO manages the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex (CDSCC) – one of three DSN stations around the world used for communicating with NASA’s spacecraft.

Two new antennas for the DSN have been announced by NASA to be built at Tidbinbilla.

The antennas, know as DSS35 and DSS36, will be 34-metre ‘dish’ constructions know as Beam Wave Guide (BWG) design meaning the antennas have their transmission and receiving equipment in an underground structure which forms the base pedestal on top of which the main antennas structure and dish are supported.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Megan Clark said the 50 year anniversary and the new antennas reinforce CSIRO’s position in space science.

“Space science and astronomy is one of the most inspirational areas of human endeavour”

Dr Megan Clark said.

“Space science and astronomy is one of the most inspirational areas of human endeavour,” Dr Clark said.

“Astronomy and space science also underpins leaps of progress in communications technology.

 ”Australia is one of the key nations in astronomy and CSIRO is central to that capacity. Man’s first steps on the Moon were received by an antenna at Honeysuckle Creek southwest of Canberra.

“Right now the next generation of radio astronomy, the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder radio telescope is under construction in Western Australia building the potential for Australia to host the global Square Kilometre Array telescope in the future.

“We were delighted that NASA is happy with the progress in constructing the first 34m antenna at Tidbinbilla and they have now confirmed a second similar sized antenna.

“This commitment by NASA reinforces the long-term partnership of CSIRO and NASA particularly at a time when we are celebrating 50 years of partnership between NASA and Australia.”

The first antenna to be built at Tidbinbilla, DSS35, will be capable of transmitting across a range of radio frequencies for deep space communication to interplanetary robotic spacecraft.

Over the next 10-15 years the planets align in such a way that the Southern Hemisphere will have the best overall view of the existing spacecraft spread out across the Solar System.

DSS35 will expand the capabilities of CDSCC providing an additional antenna aperture to support these missions, plus the planned and expected growth in deep space missions being launched over the next decade. CDSCC already supports over three dozen individual robotic spacecraft.

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