Goonhilly Earth Station to link to deep space

Posted on 11 Mar 2018 and read 243 times
Goonhilly Earth Station to link to deep spaceAn £8.4 million investment at Goonhilly Earth Station ( in Cornwall will help to create the world’s first commercial deep-space communications station, capable of tracking future missions to the Moon and Mars.

Under a new project announced by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Goonhilly will be upgraded to enable it to provide deep-space tracking and satellite communication services on a commercial basis. It will be the first time the UK has the capability to communicate directly with deep-space missions.

In the future, Goonhilly will complement the capability of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) world-wide ground-station network, which comprises seven core stations supporting more than 20 earth, observatory, planetary and exploration spacecraft, as well as European launchers.

The ESA will work with Goonhilly to upgrade one of its largest antennas — the 32m-diameter GHY-6 antenna built in 1985 — to meet the high-end performance and technology standards required for deep-space communications, including high bit-rate data links.

The investment will provide a huge boost to Cornwall’s space ambitions. Once the upgrade work is complete, Goonhilly will be able to track and control forthcoming robotic and human missions to the Moon and Mars.

It will take about two years to upgrade the antenna before qualifying tests can be carried out; these will include tracking the Mars Express spacecraft, which has been in orbit around the ‘red planet’ since 2003.

Ian Jones, Goonhilly CEO, said: “We already have a great deal of interest in using the upgraded antenna from our international customer base. This includes space agencies such as ESA, as well as some of the new private space exploration companies.

“The team here at Goonhilly — along with colleagues at the LEP, ESA and the UK Space Agency — have been working incredibly hard to achieve this fantastic outcome. We now look forward to getting on with the upgrade work.”

David Parker, ESA’s director of human and robotic exploration, said: “ESA’s missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond help to answer profound questions about the origins of life and humanity’s place in the universe.

“Upgrading the Goonhilly Earth Station for the new era of space exploration, which involves many countries and organisations around the world, should position it as a key player in this exciting future.”

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