GALLERY: Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
Not far from the political chatter of the nation’s capital are huge dishes that track and talk to spacecraft at the edge of our Solar System.
Six antennas huddle on the grassy 147ha site at Paddys River in the Tidbinbilla Valley, just under an hour’s drive from Canberra. One is a landscape-dwarfing dish as wide as a 22-story building is tall. Dotted around are three working 34m dishes and one under construction. The CDSCC is owned by NASA, but it is run through the innovation centre at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, as well as by the CSIRO. It is one of three deep-space tracking stations in NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) – the others are in Goldstone, California, and Madrid, Spain. The tracking stations are strategically placed around the globe, so that, as the Earth rotates, they can stay in touch with interplanetary spacecraft 24 hours a day. The DSN provides the vital link to the spacecraft of many nations travelling between the planets and beyond.