November 02, 2012
The European Space Agency plans an early 2013 introduction for its third deep-space tracking station near Malarque, Argentina.
Equipped with a 35-meter dish antenna and super-cold, low-noise amplifiers, the site in the desert of the Mendoza province will complete a global network that includes the agency’s Deep Space Antenna-1 in New Norcia, Western Australia, and Deep Space Antenna-2 in Cebreros, Spain.
The tracking network features use of a “delta Differential One-Way Ranging (delta-DOR)” technique to establish spacecraft locations to accuracies of a few meters.
ESA plans to offer use of the network to partner space agencies, including NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The network will support ESA’s planned Exo-Mars initiative as well as the Venus Express, Rosetta, Herschel, Planck, Gaia, BepiColombo, Solar Orbiter and Juice missions.
Engineers tracked the Mars Express mission in June to demonstrate operations.
“Our initial in-service testing with the Malargüe station shows excellent results,” says Roberto Maddè, ESA’s project manager for DSA 3 construction, in an Oct. 31 statement. “We have been able to quickly and accurately acquire signals from ESA and NASA spacecraft, and our station is performing better than specified.”