Just What Are Those Deep Space Antennas Looking At?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Just What Are Those Deep Space Antennas Looking At?


You can now follow the status of communications with our deep space missions and explorations of the deepest regions of the universe in near real-time. NASA now has a special site that lets you track what the antennas of the Deep Space Network are pointed at.

At three sites around the globe NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory operates a network of large radio antennas called the Deep Space Network or, DSN. The DSN supports interplanetary spacecraft missions, plus a few that orbit Earth. The network also provides radar and radio astronomy observations that improve our understanding of the solar system and the larger universe.

The DSN is made up of three facilities spaced equidistant from each other – approximately 120 degrees apart in longitude – around the world. These sites are at Goldstone, near Barstow, California; near Madrid, Spain; and near Canberra, Australia. The strategic placement of these sites permits constant communication with spacecraft as our planet rotates – before a distant spacecraft sinks below the horizon at one DSN site, another site can pick up the signal and carry on communicating.

View of the Canberra Complex

The space agency now has an online tool that will let you see what the DSN is up to in real-time - data is updated every five seconds. Which antennas are currently in use? Which spacecraft are talking to us? How quickly is data being received? How long does a signal take to get there, and back?


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The grid of antennas show you the current state of the network. 'Radio Waves' will show you if data is being sent to, or received from a spacecraft. With the radio antennas, this could be happening at the same time sometimes to more than one spacecraft at a time.

The tool also allows you to click on an antenna to see more technical information about the live link between the spacecraft and the ground.

Check it out!


By  33rd SquareEmbed


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