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Deep Space Network of NASA introduces the family to a New Dish

A superior antenna has joined Navigation’s Deep Space Network (DSN) and NASA Space Communications. The new dish helps NASA to link to the space robots, allowing solar system exploration. The antenna is called DSS-56 or Deep Space Station. It is now in operation, ready to convey information with various missions, such as Perseverance rover of NASA as soon as it reaches down on Red Planet next month.

The new antenna is 112-foot-wide, and its construction started in 2017 at Madrid Deep Space Communication Complex in Spain. The current dishes have minimal frequency bands, which they can send and receive. This limits them to communicate with only particular spacecraft. The DSS-56 is the first antenna to utilize the entire range of Deep Space Network’s communication frequencies immediately after moving online. This indicates that the DSS-56 is an all-around dish capable of communicating with all missions supported by the DSN. It can also be used as reinforcement for all Madrid complex’s other dishes.

Badri Younes, who works at the Space Communications and Navigation of NASA as a deputy associate administrator as well as program manager, said that the new dish provides the Deep Space Network with extra real-time dependability and flexibility. He added that the DSS-56 would offer all necessary support for over 30 deep space missions that depend on their successful services. This means that the DSS-56, together with the 34-meter dishes, will play a vital role in providing navigation and communication support for future Mars and Moon missions and also to the crewed Artemis missions.

Thomas Zurbuchen, Science Mission Directorate’s associate administrator at NASA’s centre in Washington, said that the Deep Space Network is essential in what they do in the solar system and connects the Earth with distant robotic explorers. He added that they are trying to improve the network to help expand their capabilities for future human missions to the Moon and Mars. Thomas said that the DSS-56 was developed through international partnership; hence it is expected to benefit all humanity worldwide in exploring deep space.

The DSS-56 was launched on Friday, January 22, in a virtual ribbon-cutting event attended by all international partners who took part in its construction. The event was delayed because of the historic snowfall experienced in Spain. Bradford Arnold, who works at Jet Propulsion Laboratory situated in Southern California as a DSN project manager said that after a long commissioning process, the DSN’s 34-meter antenna is now communicating with their spacecraft. He added that Madrid’s team persisted despite the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions coupled with Spain’s harsh weather conditions. Arnold proudly welcomed the DSS-56 to the global DSN family.