. 24/7 Space News .
ESA and DLR in joint study to support deep space missions
by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Apr 04, 2019

file illustration only

An existing deep-space dish antenna at the DLR Weilheim site, near Munich, may offer an almost-readymade solution to the problem of providing sufficient ground station capacity to support ESA's current and future deep-space exploration missions.

Now and in the next few years, ESA is sending some of the most advanced spacecraft ever flown to exotic locations like Mars, Mercury and Jupiter, and these missions all have one thing in common: they need plenty of ground station capacity to download their masses of science data and to enable mission controllers to send up commands.

ESA's tracking station network - Estrack
ESA already has three state-of-the-art ground tracking stations - identifiable by their big 35 m-diameter dish antennas - located in Australia, Spain and Argentina. These countries are located at longitudes about 120 degrees apart, so that the three stations can provide global coverage for missions voyaging in virtually any direction in our Solar System.

"The stations were built between 2002 and 2012, and their capacity in transmitting and receiving data will soon be reached, given the ambitious missions like BepiColombo, ExoMars and Juice now being implemented - and the fact that these newer spacecraft can all download tremendous amounts of science data," says Pier Bargellini, responsible for the operation of ESA's ground facilities.

DLR 30 m dish antenna supported ESA missions in the past
With an eye to solving the challenge, engineers at ESA and The German Aerospace Center (DLR) have begun assessing the possibility of using an existing 30 m-diameter dish antenna at Weilheim, 60 kilometres south-west of Munich, to provide some add-on tracking capacity at the European longitude.

This could solve part of the capacity problem on this continent while at the same time reusing existing European infrastructure and reducing the need for costly new construction.

DLR Weilheim features a number of dish antennas with varying sizes and the site is operated 24 hours/day to support near-Earth missions such as TerraSAR-X, TanDEM-X and GRACE Follow On controlled from DLR's German Space Operations Centre at Oberpfaffenhofen. The smaller antennas are also used to support ESA missions orbiting Earth, like Integral.

The 30 m dish antenna supported ESA missions in the past, and is presently used when DLR supports partner agencies, such as downloading data from the Hayabusa 2 mission flown by Japan. It has also recently been used to receive signals from global navigation satellites like GPS and Galileo.

A series of initial tests conducted by DLR and ESA engineers in the past few months proved that the dish and its sophisticated radio equipment could receive signals from current ESA missions, including Gaia and Mars Express.

Engineers from DLR and ESA will continue testing the Weilheim antenna
"Since the 30 m antenna was designed for solar and deep space missions, we are happy to see ESA's interest in bringing it back to its original purpose," says Rolf Kozlowski, head of the DLR Communications and Ground Stations department.

"To integrate the antenna into the ESA network would be a challenging but rewarding task for DLR."

"In addition to the reception functionality, the antenna could be upgraded to add transmission capabilities. Its overall characteristics makes it ideal to support missions at lunar distances or even missions to the Lagrange points."

In addition to supporting future ESA and European missions, upgrading the dish would also enable DLR to expand its use for their own future missions or for those of partner agencies. Such cross-support arrangements are common in the field of spacecraft operations, and are typically done on an hour-for-hour exchange basis or in exchange for sharing a mission's scientific data.

Engineers from the two agencies will continue testing the Weilheim antenna, with the aim of proving its ability to begin serving as a functional communications backup for ESA missions like Gaia and Mars Express.

Joint study to support deep space missions
Joint activities between ESA and national space agencies in the area of communications are excellent examples of how Europe can become even more capable and stronger by developing a 'network of operational centres'. By linking the efforts of control centres operated by ESA and agencies like DLR, and their ground stations, resources can be shared - and European missions, industry and space ventures can benefit overall, making Europe even more competitive and attractive for international partnership in space.

"Upgrading the Weilheim antenna to full deep-space capability is a good idea that promises to support not only ESA but also DLR itself, partner agencies and new commercial space actors," says Rolf Densing, ESA's Director of Operations. "And it will provide an excellent return on investment for European taxpayers."

How we make a space mission
ESA is Europe's space agency, enabling its 22 Member States to achieve results that no individual nation can match. ESA combines space mission development with supporting labs, test and operational facilities plus in-house experts covering every aspect of space, supported through the Agency's Basic Activities.

Related Links
Space Operations at ESA
The latest information about the Commercial Satellite Industry

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

Where space missions are born
Paris (ESA) Apr 01, 2019
A high-resolution radar mission to Earth's 'evil twin' Venus, a spacecraft to detect the most powerful explosions in the Universe and an observatory for the cool, dusty cosmos to investigate the origins of stars: ESA's Concurrent Design Facility has performed feasibility studies of contending candidates for the fifth medium class mission in the Agency's Cosmic Vision science programme, planned for launch in 2032. The Concurrent Design Facility, or CDF, looks like a flight control room, above the m ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

More Delays Ahead for Boeing's New Space Capsule for Astronauts

Russia launches cargo ship with food, supplies for ISS

It takes a team

Boeing delays capsule's first space test flight

US Planning Five Hypersonic Test Programs in Marshall Islands

China completes compatibility test on core parts of rocket engine

India launches PSLV-C45, with spysat and 28 microsats onboard

First 2019 Proton-M Rocket Launch From Baikonur Slated for May

Life on Mars?

Curiosity Captured Two Solar Eclipses on Mars

Mysterious Martian Methane Bursts Confirmed

After the Moon in 2024, NASA wants to reach Mars by 2033

China launches new data relay satellite

Super-powerful Long March 9 said to begin missions around 2030

China preparing for space station missions

China's lunar rover studies stones on moon's far side

Where space missions are born

Inmarsat agrees to $3.4 bn takeover from consortium

OneWeb starts to mass-produce satellites in Florida

UAE announces pan-Arab body for space programme

Indian satellite destruction created 400 pieces of debris, endangering ISS: NASA

US Air Force and Raytheon collaborate to modernize space command and control system

Group teams up to combat growing space debris threat, protect satellites in orbit

Teaching computers to intelligently design 'billions' of possible materials

Surviving A Hostile Planet

Building blocks of DNA and RNA could have appeared together before life began on Earth

Exoplanet Under the Looking Glass

High School Senior Uncovers Potential for Hundreds of Earth-Like Planets in Kepler Data

Europa Clipper High-Gain Antenna Undergoes Testing

Scientists to Conduct Largest-Ever Hubble Survey of the Kuiper Belt

Jupiter's unknown journey revealed

A Prehistoric Mystery in the Kuiper Belt

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.