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New 35m dish for ESA’s New Norcia station

The current 35m dish at ESA’s New Norcia station will receive a same-sized sibling in 2024. Image courtesy ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

A new 35m, 620-tonne deep space dish antenna will be constructed at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) New Norcia ground station in Western Australia.

To be built in cooperation with the Australian Space Agency, the $70 million dish will be the site’s second 35m dish and fourth antenna overall.

The dish will feature a feed that will be cryogenically cooled to around –263 degrees Celsius and increase data return by up to 40%… able to pick up a signal weaker than that of a mobile phone from the distance of Mars.

ESA is expanding its space communications capabilities to cope with a growing fleet of deep space missions and cross-support obligations with partner space agencies such as NASA and Japan’s JAXA.

The $70m budget will cover antenna procurement, construction and upgrades to buildings and services. The prime contractor will chosen from one of the ESA member states, but a “significant portion” of the outlay will be spent with Australian companies.

The work is due to be completed in 2024.

“We are happy to announce the latest addition to ESA’s state-of-the-art deep space communication network and this important next step in our relationship with the Australian Space Agency,” said ESA director general, Josef Aschbacher.

“The new antenna is not only positive progress in the Agency and ESA’s cooperative relationship, but also an important contributor to the local economy which will help grow Australia’s civil space industry,” added the head of the Australian Space Agency, Enrico Palermo.

The New Norcia station, located 140 kilometres north of Perth, is operated locally by the CSIRO.

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