Brussels, 10 Mar 2003
The European Space Agency (ESA) held an inauguration ceremony to mark the opening of its first deep space ground station in New Norcia, Western Australia, on 5 March.
The ground station will enable ESA scientists to send commands to and receive data from crafts in deep space, and will play a major role in the Rosetta and Mars Express missions.
ESA's project manager for the New Norcia ground station, Dr Manfred Warhaut, told CORDIS News: 'Running missions in deep space, such as Mars Express and Rosetta, creates specific requirements. Where in the past we would have used the facilities of our NASA colleagues, we will now communicate with our spacecraft using the New Norcia facility.'
The ground station's antenna weighs over 600 tonnes and is more than 40 metres high. After an initial manned period, the station will be controlled remotely from the European space operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, and the Perth international telecommunications centre.
ESA's Director of Science, Professor David Southwood, explained why the remote site in Western Australia was chosen for the facility: 'This site has excellent weather conditions, sits on the perfect latitude for deep space operations and is sufficiently distant from urban areas so that no other transmission devices disturb [its] transmissions,' he said.
New Norcia is the first of a series of deep space ground stations that ESA plans to build around the world in order to create a European deep space network. The kick-off meeting for the second planned facility in Cebreros, near the Spanish capital Madrid, took place recently. This second ground station, planned for 2005, would support the Venus Express mission, said Dr Warhaut.
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