Two white radio antenna dishes point skyward.

Tidbinbilla is home to NASA's Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex.

Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex: Deep Space Network facility

The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is one of three Deep Space Network stations around the world providing continuous, two-way radio contact with spacecraft exploring our solar system and beyond.

  • 3 December 2009 | Updated 22 February 2012

The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) is located at Tidbinbilla, just outside Canberra, Australia.

The CDSCC is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) which provides continuous radio contact with spacecraft exploring the Solar System and beyond. Similar facilities are located in Spain and the United States of America.

Communication and research

The CDSCC has three operational antenna dishes operating at frequencies from 1660 megahertz (MHz) to 32 gigahertz (GHz). Two new 34-metre beam wave guide antennas are soon to be constructed on the Complex.

The Complex receives data from and transmits commands to spacecraft on deep space missions.

The CDSCC is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

These communications include:

  • initial acquisition following launch
  • during 'cruise phase' as the spacecraft heads for its destination
  • critical support during fly-bys, orbital insertion or landing operations.

The CDSCC is currently supporting more than 40 missions, including:

  • Cassini spacecraft at Saturn
  • Mars missions - including the twin Mars Exploration Rovers
  • Messenger spacecraft travelling to Mercury
  • New Horizons spacecraft travelling to Pluto
  • Voyager 1 and 2, which have been in space for over 30 years.

In 1965, the CDSCC assisted in receiving the first close up pictures of the surface of Mars, taken by the Mariner 4 spacecraft. Since then, the Complex has been involved in hundreds of missions. It also once supported human spaceflight programs, including the Apollo missions to the Moon, the Skylab space station, and the early flights of the Space Shuttle.

The Complex is also involved in radio astronomy research. This includes:

  • detection of objects such as black holes and pulsars
  • radio frequency cataloguing
  • Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI): linking with other radio telescopes.

Funding and operations

The CDSCC is a NASA facility managed by CSIRO on behalf of the Australian Government. It operates through a government-to-government, treaty-level Agreement.

All operational costs are borne by NASA. The Complex's DSN activities are coordinated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Approximately 100 personnel support the 24-hour operation of the Complex.

Find out more about visiting the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex [external link].