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Space Communications Antenna Supported Early NASA Missions

Editor's note: DSS 41 at Woomera was one of the three locations where all Lunar Orbiter Imagery was received on Earth between 1966-1967

This 26 meter (85 foot) antenna operated in Woomera (Island Lagoon), Australia at Deep Space Station (DSS) 41, established in August 1960. The Island Lagoon site was the first deep space station to be established outside the United States and the first Australian antenna NASA built.

The station was operated by the Australian Department of Supply and helped support the Ranger and early Mariner missions, as well as communications from the Deep Space Network (DSN) complex in Goldstone, California via a moon bounce. Woomera's antenna ceased operations in 1972.

Today, the Deep Space Network -- consisting of three sites in Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia -- supports space communications for NASA and non-NASA missions that explore the furthest points of our solar system. Each complex currently has a 70 meter (230 foot) antenna, one 34 meter (111 foot) High Efficiency (HEF) antenna, and one or more 34 meter Beam Wave Guide (BWG) antenna. The Deep Space Network is operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year. To support future mission needs, construction is currently underway in Canberra, Australia to add two new 34 meter BWG antennas, Deep Space Station 35 (DSS-35) and DSS-36 by 2018.

Larger image Image Credit: NASA

Madrid Ground Station Crew Says Hello After 46 Years

Dennis Wingo just discovered a message written inside one of the Madrid ground station Lunar Orbiter 5 tapes today - tape M5-87 - recorded on day 233 of 1967 (21 August). It is blurred with time but says "Greetings from DSS-62 (indecipherable) in SPAIN (indecipherable)" DSS stands for "Deep Space Station". Some people put messages in a bottle and throw the bottle into the ocean. These guys used a tape container lid to send us this message. No one has opened this container since 1967.

The DSS 62 antenna was on a polar mount and was 85 feet across. It operated from 27 December 1966 to 30 November 1981. DSN's Deep Space History webpage notes "After NASA declared the station surplus to its operational needs in 1983, it was donated to the Spanish government".

This photo posted by Robert Estalella shows several FR-1400 tape drives (but not the FR-900 drives).

Lunar Orbiter Tracking Stations

Dennis Wingo: We often talk about the ground stations for Lunar Orbiter. Here is a chart that shows the coverage of the DSIF (Deep Space Instrumentation Facility) the precursor of the Deep Space Network (DSN). for Woomera, Goldstone, and Johannesburg. In 1965 when this graphic was created, the Madrid station was still under construction. You can see the overlap between Woomera and Goldstone quite clearly. Out to lunar distance the overlap is even greater. Larger image.

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