Every time, all structures require upgrades, especially those that ensure our communication with space. In March, NASA began such upgrades on the Deep Space Network, the agency’s interplanetary switch that enables communication with our robotic spaceship.
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One of the network’s largest antennas – Deep Space Station 43 (DSS-43) in Canberra, Australia – recently received a new X-band frequency cone. Inside the cone is a powerful modern transmitter system and very sensitive receivers.
These will be used to send commands to spaceships and receive telemetry and scientific data from robotic missions exploring the solar system. The antenna is forty eight years old and 70 meters (230 feet) wide.
Doing the upgrades was no easy feat. Engineers used a giant crane to maneuver 3-t cone in the middle of the massive bowl after lifting it 20 stories from the ground. The antenna also receives upgrades to its water coolant system and its mechanical and electrical equipment.
After 40 years of use, some of the upgraded components have become increasingly unreliable. The antenna has now been offline since the beginning of March 2020.
The upgrades are scheduled to be completed in January 2021
This enables communication with spaceships on the moon and then all the time during the earth’s rotation. However, the DSS-43 is the only antenna that can send commands to Voyager 2.
Other antennas can receive signals from Voyager 2, but the DSS-43 is the only dish that can send spaceship commands. Voyager 2 is more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from the earth and therefore requires a powerful radio antenna to transmit commands. Voyager 2 was launched in 1977.