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The antenna in New Norcia
Science & Exploration

Operating Venus Express

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ESA / Science & Exploration / Space Science / Venus Express

All communications to and from Venus Express were controlled through one single centre, the Venus Express Mission Control Centre (VMOC), located at ESOC, ESA’s control centre, in Darmstadt, Germany.

Immediately after launch, the antenna dishes at the European deep-space ground stations at Villafranca, Spain (15 m), New Norcia, Australia, (35 m) and Kourou, French Guiana, (15 m) were used for communication and orbit determination.

When the spacecraft was in orbit around Venus, communication with Venus Express was done using the 35 m antenna dish located at the ESA ground station at Cebreros near Madrid, Spain. The 35m antenna in New Norcia was used to support the Venus Radio science experiment (VeRa).

Once in orbit around Venus, Venus Express essentially played on a ‘look-store-downlink’ mission scenario, which was also implemented for the Mars Express and Rosetta missions. The spacecraft collected most of its scientific data during about one hour and a half passage over the pericentre, when the spacecraft was closer to the surface of the planet.

The part of the orbit where the spacecraft is farther from the planet was shared between global remote sensing observations, in situ observations and periods of data transmission.

All data collected during observations were transmitted to Earth for about eight hours a day (one orbit around Venus is one day, or 24 hours, long). Eight hours of transmission corresponded to the downlink of between 100 and 800 megabytes of data, depending on the actual distance between Earth and Venus.

  • From 23:00 hours to 01:00 hours - High (spatial) resolution observations of atmosphere and surface in the Northern hemisphere (near pericentre)
  • From 01:00 hours to 09:00 hours - Communication with Earth and transmission of the scientific data
  • From 11:00 hours to 13:00 hours - Global mapping and study of large scale phenomena in the Southern hemisphere (around apocentre)
  • From 15:00 hours to 23:00 hours - Study of the dynamics of the atmosphere and the cloud systems
  • Various orbital phases - High (vertical) resolution studies of the atmosphere, through solar, stellar and Earth occultation

NB 00:00 hours corresponds to the passage over the pericentre

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