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A new 4.5 m-diameter ‘acquisition aid’ dish antenna is being added to ESA’s existing New Norcia, Western Australia, tracking station, ready to catch the first signals from newly launched satellites.
The new antenna will allow acquisition and tracking during the critical initial orbits of new missions (see Liftoff: ESOC assumes control), up to roughly 100 000 km range. It can also ‘slave’ the much larger 35m dish, which can then be used to retrieve ranging data and telemetry signals – on-board status information – from the newly launched spacecraft.
The antenna was designed for low maintenance and operating costs and can go into hibernation when it is not needed between launches.