3 mins read 20 Jun 2022

Deep Space Antenna Begins Construction in WA

A new deep space antenna is being constructed in Western Australia in a multi-million dollar collaboration between the Australian and European Space Agencies.

The New Norcia deep-space tracking station in Western Australia. Credit: D. O’Donnell/ESA – CC BY-SA 3.0.

Construction has begun on a new deep space antenna in Western Australia as part of a collaboration between the Australian and European Space Agencies. The agencies are working together to develop new infrastructure for the expansion of the New Norcia deep space tracking station in a multi-million dollar team-up. 

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, supports the European Space Agency in Australia as the local operator of the New Norcia deep space tracking station, and in satellite data management and research programs. 

CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall said, “CSIRO has collaborated with international space missions since the early 1960s, developing solutions from this science, inspiring the next generation of scientists and driving innovation through global partnerships.

“This new antenna will support humanity's exploration of our vast Solar System, help build our understanding of our Solar System and the Universe, and create the exciting new jobs of the future in the Australian and international space industry.”

The Australian Government is investing \$4 million into the almost \$70 million project in a project that has already leveraged roughly $29 million in contracts for Australian suppliers. Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo commented on how the project will benefit the Australian space sector. 

“The Australian Space Agency is excited to deepen our relationship with ESA, as we look to continue to grow the local space sector,” he said. 

“This project will extend Australia and Western Australia’s pedigree and heritage in deep space communications, which can be traced right back to the 1950s.

“It will also unlock the exchange of new technical know-how, as Australian suppliers help design, develop and test the antenna.”

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic also agreed that the collaboration is an opportunity for Australia to participate in an international project which will see benefits on home soil. 

“This project will further strengthen the long and prosperous relationship between Europe and Australia, particularly in scientific endeavours related to space. 

“This antenna will help deliver uninterrupted communications with spacecraft which are out exploring our Solar System, testing planetary defence and watching our Sun to help protect our planet from hazardous solar activity.

“Through this investment we are creating economic and job opportunities for local contractors, as well as a lure to reverse the brain drain and bring home our best and brightest.”

The new antenna, located approximately 130 km north of Perth, will support the European Space Agency’s deep space missions. The Western Australian antenna will work with antennas based in Argentina and Spain to provide uninterrupted communications with spacecraft exploring the Solar System, visiting asteroids or keeping close watch on our active Sun. This new antenna will feature advanced deep space communication technology, including a cryogenically cooled ‘antenna feed’ which can increase data return by up to 40 per cent.  

“The new antenna will ensure Europe’s continued autonomous capacity to fly pioneering exploratory missions as well as to support upcoming space safety missions including Hera and Vigil,” said European Space Agency Director General Josef Aschbacher. 

“It will also strengthen ESA’s important relationship with Australia while helping ensure we always get the most science out of every mission.”

The antenna project was announced in 2021, and is expected to begin operating in early 2025.