Prompted by the need to communicate with the Voyager spacecraft, NASA makes a giant step forward in Space Communication technology. In order to talk with its mission craft, the agencies enormous communication antenna gets a 6-meter upgrade.

Satellite antenna expansion established communication with NASA’s Voyager

Communication is key to space exploration. The monitoring of spacecraft conditions, as well as the exchange of data from space to Earth, relies heavily on massive communication antennas. Unfortunately, Pddnet reports that NASA’s 64-meter wide antenna in Goldstone, Calif was not powerful enough to reach the Voyager spacecraft in space.

In order to address the concern, NASA had to make an upgrade. The agency was able to increase the range of its Goldstone tower by expanding its width from 64 to 70 meters. The successful feat that re-established communication with the Voyager represented a giant leap in spacecraft communication. The evidence of NASA’s success is visible in the Mojave Desert in California. Inside the agency’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, the huge arcs of the giant antenna dishes peek beyond the rugged hilltops.

The Voyager missions and satellite expansions

The launch of the Voyagers marked the change in the Goldstone landscapes. The satellite dishes used to communicate with the missions had to keep up.

As the Voyagers went farther into space, the Goldstone dishes had to expand as well so as to maintain communication lines and make the exchange of radio wave signals possible.

The construction and expansion of the Goldstone satellites commenced in 1970. The small dishes are now towering over the Californian Mojave Desert, the largest of which is NASA’s new 70-meter wide antenna.

The expansion of NASA’s antennas in Goldstone was adopted by the several Deep Space Networks in Australia, Spain, Canberra, and Madrid. The antennas including their expansions are overseen by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The Voyager mission has contributed significantly to the evolution of NASA’s satellites.

At present, the Voyagers have traveled 10 billion miles from space. Voyager 1 has already passed the heliosphere, the bubble that encloses the Solar system. The immense distance of the Voyagers from Earth required the expansion of the satellites.

Suzanne Dodd from JPL who served as the Voyager’s manager from the year 2010 and the director of the Interplanetary Network Directorate describes the Voyager and the DSN as siblings that grew up together. The journey of the Voyagers has unlocked space knowledge and prompted the development of new technology up in space and here on Earth.