Deep Space Network

The Deep Space Network (DSN ) is a network of satellite dishes, which are used for communication with space probes and satellites, and radio and radar astronomy research purposes.


The Jet Propulsion Laboratory operates for the U.S. space agency NASA currently three major stations:

All three plants are located in hilly, shell-shaped terrain in order to minimize interference from radio frequencies. The strategic placement - the stations are each about 120 °, or one-third of the circumference of the earth away from each other - despite the Earth's rotation allows the constant monitoring of spacecraft. Each station has in addition to smaller antennas at least a 26- m-, two 34 -m and 70 - m antenna.

Previously, there were two other large stations:

  • Woomera, Australia (1959-1972)
  • Hartebeesthoek in Johannesburg, South Africa (1961-1974)

The first major task for the Deep Space stations of the NASA existed in communication with interplanetary space probes such as the Mariner and Pioneer program and with Voyager 1 and Voyager 2


The precursor of the Deep Space Network (DSN ) was founded in January 1958, when the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL ), then began still under contract to the U.S. Army, mobile radio tracking ground stations in Nigeria, Singapore and California to telemetry data of the started of the Army Explorer 1 to receive the first successful satellite of the United States, and to follow its trajectory. NASA was formally established on 1 October 1958 to bring together the differently -developing space programs of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force in a civilian organization.

On 3 December 1958, JPL was transferred from the U.S. Army to NASA and was given responsibility for the design and implementation of lunar and planetary exploration programs with remote-controlled spacecraft. Shortly thereafter led the NASA Deep Space Network as a the a separately managed and operated communications system that would be available to all deep-space missions. This was avoided, that had to be built and operated its own specialized space communications network for each flight project. The DSN was intrinsically responsible for research, development and operation to support all its users alike. Under this concept, it has been a world leader in the development of low-noise receivers, large parabolic antennas, radio tracking, telemetry and command systems, digital signal processing and of deep-space navigation.

In the largest of the DSN antennas occasionally used in emergency situations of spacecraft. Almost all spacecraft are designed so that the smaller ( and more economical ) antennas of the DSN are used in normal operation. But in an emergency are the largest antennas critical. The reason is that an ailing spacecraft could be forced to use less transmit power or that problems with the position control could prevent the use of antennas with high gain antenna. Furthermore, it is important to receive telemetry data as completely as possible in order to determine the state of the spacecraft can and plan for the rescue. The most famous example was the Apollo 13 mission, in which the radio signals were so weak due to limited battery power and the unavailability of the antennas with high gain antenna that they could no longer be received by the Manned Space Flight Network. The use of the largest DSN antennas ( and the radio telescope of the Australian Parkes Observatory ) were crucial in saving the astronauts. Even if it was an American mission Apollo 13, the DSN provides these emergency services in a spirit of international cooperation between the various space agencies and other space agencies to.