One of the world’s most sophisticated satellite tracking stations is nearing readiness in Malargüe, Argentina, 1200 km west of Buenos Aires. The massive, 35 m-diameter antenna will capture precious scientific data from missions voyaging hundreds of millions of kilometres into our Solar System.
The inauguration of Malargüe, set for 18 December, also marks the completion of the Agency’s trio of deep-space antenna – DSA – stations as part of the Estrack network and confirms ESA as one of the world’s most technologically advanced space organisations.
Joining DSA 1 in New Norcia, Australia, and DSA 2 in Cebreros, Spain, DSA 3 Malargüe provides the final leg in ESA’s global coverage for deep-space probes including, today, Mars Express, Venus Express, Rosetta, Herschel and Planck, and, in the future, Gaia, BepiColombo, ExoMars, Solar Orbiter and Juice.
The agreement to build and exploit the station was signed with Argentina on 16 November 2009, for a planned duration of 50 years. The agreement contains benefits, facilities and services to be provided by Argentina. In exchange, ESA will make available to Argentina 10% of the antenna time for their national scientific projects. Argentina's Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE) is responsible for coordinating the use of the 10% of antenna time as provided in the agreement.
The foreboding beauty of the landscape near Malargüe, 1500 m up in clear mountain air, is also famous for the 1972 Andes flight disaster, dramatised in the 1993 film Alive: The Miracle of the Andes. ESA’s station is located just 138 km, as the crow flies, from the crash site in the mountains.
Credits: ESA/S. Marti