Just by upgrading the antennas of its deep space network with a special cooling system, ESA wants to increase their data throughput by 40 to 80 percent. The European Space Agency has now explained this and stated that the first retrofitting has already taken place. The two remaining antennas in Argentina and Australia are to be retrofitted in the coming year, from which the already launched BepiColombo probe and the Mission Juice should benefit. The “clever technology” also increases the range of the 35 meter antennas, which would enable future missions to Uranus and Neptune.
Cooled down to minus 263 degrees Celsius
As the ESA explains, the connections between the antenna and the transmitter or the receiver are cooled down to just 10 degrees above absolute zero (- 263 degrees Celsius) to increase performance. As a result, up to 40 percent more data could be received by some probes, and even up to 80 percent more after further upgrades. At the same time, another antenna is being built at the New Norcia site in Australia in order to be able to maintain contact with the growing fleet of research probes that are far away. The fourth large antenna in ESA’s Deep Space Network will also have a diameter of 35 meters and weigh a total of 620 tons.
The European Deep Space Network was completed in 2012 and currently consists of three large antennas in Argentina, Spain and Western Australia. It enables the space agency to communicate around the clock with the most distant probes and also to determine their precise orbits. Before that, ESA was partially dependent on NASA technology, whose network consists of three antennas with a diameter of as much as 70 meters. Only they can, for example, still make contact with particularly distant probes such as Voyager 2 or New Horizons.