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We manage and operate one of NASA's three tracking stations that provide continuous, two-way radio contact with spacecraft exploring our Solar System and beyond.
Located at Tidbinbilla, just outside Australia’s capital city, the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is one of three Deep Space Network stations around the world. The Complex’s sister stations are located at Goldstone in California, and near Madrid in Spain. Together, the three stations provide around-the-clock contact with more than 40 spacecraft, including missions to study Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, comets, the Moon and the Sun.
There are currently four antennas operating at the Canberra station: one 70-metre and three 34-metre radio dishes that receive data from, and transmit commands to, spacecraft on deep space missions. One further 34-metre antenna is under construction.
In 2015 the Canberra station celebrates 50 years of operation. In 1965 it helped to receive the first close-up pictures of the surface of Mars, taken by the Mariner 4 spacecraft. Since then, it has been involved in hundreds of missions, including the Apollo missions to the Moon, the Skylab space station, and the early flights of the Space Shuttle. In August 2012 it carried the signals confirming the landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars, and in 2015 it will have another starring role – receiving some of the first images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft.
The Complex is currently supporting missions, including:
Not all these missions are NASA’s. From time to time the Complex also supports the missions of other space organisations.
The Complex is also involved in radio astronomy research. NASA makes available approximately five per cent of time on the 70-m antenna for research programs, which includes detection of objects such as black holes and pulsars, radio-frequency cataloguing, and linking with other telescopes for high-resolution imaging using a technique called very long baseline interferometry.
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