by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Apr 26, 2017
Thanks to some high-tech improvements, ESA's radio dish in Argentina will be ready to receive the rising torrent of scientific data beamed back by future missions exploring deep in our Solar System.
Since 2012, ESA's deep-space tracking station at Malargue, about 1200 km west of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has provided critical links to some of Europe's most important missions, including ExoMars, Mars Express, Gaia and Rosetta.
The data-gathering capabilities of upcoming exploration missions is steadily increasing, however, and this means a 10-fold growth, each decade, in the amount of science data that must be downlinked from Mercury, the surface of Mars or the enigmatic moons circling Jupiter.
To cater for this need, ESA is investing in a series of significant upgrades for its Malargue station, underscoring the Agency's long and productive partnership with Argentina and that country's strong involvement in space science.
Boosting bitrates from deep space
"This means our station at Malargue will be able to download data from ESA's future Euclid mission, for example, at 150 Mbit/s, 15 times faster than today," says Michel Dugast, ESA's station engineer and project manager for the upgrade.
"It will also support cornerstone ESA missions like ExoMars 2020, BepiColombo and Juice, as well as partner missions from Russia, the US and Japan, among others."
The 18 months of work, valued at about euro 4 million, will start in May.
Signals from Saturn
Malargue station is also playing a critical role in this year's 'aerobraking' by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars. Aerobraking uses the Red Planet's faint, wispy upper atmosphere to slow the orbiter, allowing it to attain its final science orbit using very little fuel.
Extending global ties
"Argentina is not only the host country for our tracking station, it is an important and valued partner in European and South American space development," said Mr Densing.
"I am especially pleased to see this new investment, which cements the country's role as a crucial partner in ESA's future exploration missions, starting in the 20th anniversary year since the inception of the formal cooperation agreement between ESA and Argentina."
Twenty years of Argentina and ESA in space
In 2002, a more general cooperation agreement was signed, in effect until 2023.
Under this, ESA and Argentina's National Commission for Space Activities (CONAE) have organised courses and grants for Argentine students as well as workshops in South America studying applications for Earth observation data, particularly in hydrology, natural disaster monitoring and radar applications.
In 2012, after considering several dozen possible sites, ESA selected Malargue to build its third deep-space station, which joined sites in Australia and Spain to provide the global coverage that helps ensure Europe's independent capability to explore space.
As part of the implementing arrangement with Argentina, 10% of the station's time is available to Argentine scientists and engineers conducting research using the radio spectrum. This provides a unique opportunity to regional research teams.
World heritage location
These include a stable terrain, an arid climate and the absence of radio interference - which can be caused by mobile phone networks - as well as access to power, data and logistics links.
The station is ideally situated in the Parque Cientifico Provincial de Observacion del Espacio Malargue (Malargue Provincial Scientific Park for Space Observation), a largely unspoilt, world-class scientific, geologic and natural region. The park is part of a larger area - la Payunia - that is under consideration for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Brussels, Belgium (SPX) Apr 10, 2017
The Horizon 2020 European funded DEMOCRITOS project concluded its work 6th April 2017 with some key outcomes reported in a workshop at the Delegation of the European Union to the Russian Federation in Moscow. A consortium of European space research interests, DEMOCRITOS is aimed at investigating the demonstration and future prototyping activities required to bring forward technologies for ... read more
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