Watch this space in WA

Yves Doat at the antenna in New Norcia.
Yves Doat at the antenna in New Norcia.

The antenna will be used to communicate with rockets and newly launched satellites.

It was opened after ESA had to retire its Perth antenna in Cullacabardee.

ESA ground stations infrastructure and operations head Yves Doat, who is based in Germany, said the antenna at New Norcia would enable the agency to continue its Perth operations.

“We have moved the tracking capabilities from Perth here so it is very important for us,” he said.

The 4.5m-diameter dish joins a 35m antenna, which combine to track satellites launched from the agency’s spaceport on the north coast of South America.

“It is the only location we have in this part of the world,” Mr Doat said.

“We have above WA the separation, the place where the spacecraft gets out of the launcher and that’s where we capture the spacecraft and we can track it.

“It is something that will be critical for our future launch and early orbit phase; this is when we launch new spacecraft into deep space.”

Mr Doat said the antenna provided vital support by driving the large antenna, which was too big to see spacecraft when they were separated from the launcher.

“We use the smaller antenna which we point towards the spacecraft and it drives the big antenna from there,” he said.

“Then with the big antenna we acquire the signal and follow the spacecraft until deep space is reached.”

It will be used to support high profile missions, including ExoMars, the joint mission to Mars with Russia and NASA in March, and BepiColombo, Europe’s mission to Mercury, in 2018.

“I am looking forward for this future mission like ExoMars and BepiColombo; this is fantastic to realise that we are travelling so far away and can follow them. The ground stations are a really fantastic world where we are the gateway to space. Without the ground station all the missions would not fly,” Mr Doat said.

He encouraged people to take an interest in the agency’s work.

“I think it’s important that everyone knows what we are doing,” he said.

“It’s not on every corner that we have installed a deep space station and it’s really a very interesting technology with fantastic results and for us it’s important to share it among the people, whether it’s in Europe or Australia.”

Also read: Cullacabardee antenna retired.