What the New Dish Means to NASA’s Deep Space Network Family

Image by tegawi from Pixabay

NASA has a new dish in its Deep Space Network (DSN): Deep Space Station 56, or DSS-56. It is a powerful, 112-foot wide antenna that the Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex hosts now. 

What does the new dish bring to NASA’s network?

Description of the New Dish

The new dish brings more capability to the network. It will act as an interplanetary switchboard that will connect the world to the missions beyond the moon via space robots. After landing on the Red Planet, the new dish will make contact with NASA’s Perseverance Rover, currently on a fact-finding mission on Mars.

You can track all the action from the Perseverance Rover live as it moves around the planet, gathering valuable data. Go ahead, and see for yourself what Mars looks like.

Its Development

The new dish has been under construction since 2017, courtesy of an international partnership. Its launch was in 2021. There was a launch delay due to a historic snowfall that engulfed Spain.

However, the cutting of a virtual ribbon eventually took place, marking the launch of the DSS-56, and solidifying its position in the history books!

The Role of the New Dish

The new dish will complement the existing antennas that have limited receive-and-sent frequency bands. The limitation makes it hard for the antennas to communicate with some space crafts. 

The DSS-56 is one of its kind in NASA’s DSN. After going online, it showed the capacity to support full-range communication frequencies. Given its complementary capabilities, the DSS-56 stands as an all-in-one antenna. It can establish communications to all DSN missions and back up other antennas that the Madrid Complex hosts. 

The DSS-56 also brings additional real-time reliability and flexibility to the DSN. It is proof that DSN endeavors to support over 30 deep space missions that depend on DSN for their success. 

Together with the 34 existing antennas, the DSS-56 makes the DSN a critical player in navigation and communication support for Mars and moon missions, including the Artemis Missions. 

Importance of the New Dish

Notably, the DSN is deemed as critical infrastructure. It connects the earth to the distant robotic explorers. The recent improvements connect the world to the future, now given the new capacity to explore beyond the moon. 

The launch of the DSS-56 initiated a series of complex exercises. Its flexibility required the calibration and testing of larger system suites. 

Bianca Van der Watt

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