Time To Find Some Aliens: A New Deep Space Antenna Is Being Built in WA

Time To Find Some Aliens: A New Deep Space Antenna Is Being Built in WA
The old Perth antenna. Image: European Space Agency

A new deep space antenna has begun construction in Western Australia, in a collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Australian Space Agency.

The antenna construction is part of an expansion to the Norcia deep space tracking station (which replaced the old Perth station), located about 130 kilometres north of Perth in Western Australia. It’s an almost $70 million project that has received $4 million in funding from the Australian Government, along with $29 million for Australian suppliers.

“This project will further strengthen the long and prosperous relationship between Europe and Australia, particularly in scientific endeavours related to space,” Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic said.

“This antenna will help deliver uninterrupted communications with spacecraft which are out exploring our Solar System, testing planetary defence and watching our Sun to help protect our planet from hazardous solar activity.

“Through this investment we are creating economic and job opportunities for local contractors, as well as a lure to reverse the brain drain and bring home our best and brightest.”

Australia has been focusing a bit on space stuff recently. Just last week, it was announced that NASA would launch three rockets from Arnhem Space Centre in the Northern Territory, and in March, the Australian ‘Defence Space Command’ was launched.

But what will this new antenna do? Well, it’s more of a research centre than an arm of the Defence Force.

The antenna will assist with the European Space Agency’s deep space missions. It’ll work in tandem with antenna’s built in Argentina and Spain to keep in touch with space probes and to observe objects in our solar system.

Additionally, it’ll feature a “cryogenically cooled antenna feed”, which increases data return by up to 40 per cent.

“The new antenna will ensure Europe’s continued autonomous capacity to fly pioneering exploratory missions as well as to support upcoming space safety missions including Hera and Vigil,” Director General Josef Aschbacher from the European Space Agency said.

“It will also strengthen ESA’s important relationship with Australia while helping ensure we always get the most science out of every mission.”

The deep space antenna in Perth will be operational by 2025.