23Aug2015

Huge NASA Dish To Be Lifted Into Place Outside Canberra

A massive antenna dish was installed at Canberra’s Deep Space Communication Complex last week after several delays today. Its Good old Australian radio astronomy in a mighty big way.

A giant crane moved the saucer-shaped dish – which stretches 34 metres and weighs 125 tonnes – into place, in a logistical effort which took several hours. However, the big move was postponed several times prior. Not an easy task with a project of this size.

Mr Nagle said weather conditions needed to be just right. “Nice clear skies, virtually no wind and good temperatures,” he said.

A 600-tonne crane was used to lift the dish into place at Deep Space Station 36. It will actually now take another 12 months to completely fit it out.  “It looked like a UFO flying through the air on these massive cranes and these giant cables,” he said. “Then actually very delicately placing it, with very high precision literally down to millimetre accuracy on the top of the 20-metre high framework.”

Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex spokesman Glen Nagle

Pending the right weather conditions, the plan was to install a second antenna piece as well. The dish took about four years to build and is part of a $110 million NASA project at the site. “It will actually now take another 12 months to completely fit it out with all of its power systems, electronics, transmitters and receiver systems,” Mr Nagle said.

“So once the construction part is over it’s then handed over to our technical services and engineering staff who will then spend that time calibrating and putting together the really sensitive electronics.”

Deep Space Station 43 also being upgraded

A similar operation took place in 2013 with the construction of the 34-metre Deep Space Station 35. Mr Nagle said the new antenna would boost the site’s ability to communicate with spacecraft.

“We really need these additional dishes so that over the next 10 to 15 years, when] there are so many more craft designed to go out there … we have the capacity to be able to talk to them at the levels and amount of time that science teams want us to,” he said.

Upgrades were also planned for the site’s big dish, Deep Space Station 43 last week as well. A new four-metre-long ultra-sensitive receiver cone was set to be installed, replacing the previous one which is more than 35 years old.

Deep Space Station 43 is the largest steerable antenna in the Southern Hemisphere at 22 storeys high, with a 70-metre diameter. Source: ABC News

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