Contract signed for Rosetta deep space communications
22 September 1998Returning a stream of data while flying alongside a comet almost 900million km from Earth requires a particularly sensitive and reliablecommunications network. The European Space Agency has recently signed acontract which should ensure that the vital information returned by theRosetta spacecraft during its long journey through the Solar System willsafely reach the eagerly waiting scientists.
Canadian company SED Systems has been chosen as the prime contractor for a 35-metre diameter Telemetry, Tracking and Command antenna to be located in Perth, Western Australia. The 500 ton antenna should be operational in August 2001, 17 months before the launch of Rosetta. It will have a pointing accuracy of 0.01 degrees, equivalent to one fiftieth the diameter of a full moon.
Throughout the mission, Rosetta will be operated and controlled from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany. The new Perth antenna will be the main ground station for the Rosetta mission, while the 15-metre dish at Kourou in French Guiana will also be available for near Earth mission phases in support of satellite check-out. NASA's Deep Space Network will be used as a back-up during critical mission phases.
Apart from operations during the 10.5 -year-long Rosetta interplanetary journey, the giant dish will be available for use of other deep space and high elliptical orbit missions. It will be able to simultaneously receive in S-band and X-band wavelengths while transmitting in S-band. Later upgrades will enable additional X-band transmission while simultaneously receiving in S-, X- and possibly high frequency Ka-bands.