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Proposed Array-Based Deep Space Network for NASA

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3 Author(s)
Durgadas S. Bagri ; California Inst. of Technol., Pasadena ; Joseph I. Statman ; Mark S. Gatti

The current assets of the deep space network (DSN) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), especially the 70-m antennas, are aging and becoming less reliable. Furthermore, they are expensive to operate and difficult to upgrade for operation at Ka-band (321 GHz is shorthand for the allocated 31.8-32.3 GHz. GHz). Replacing them with comparable monolithic large antennas would be expensive. On the other hand, implementation of similar high-sensitivity assets can be achieved economically using an array-based architecture, where sensitivity is measured by G/T, the ratio of antenna gain to system temperature. An array-based architecture would also provide flexibility in operations and allow for easy addition of more G/T whenever required. Therefore, an array-based plan of the next-generation DSN for NASA has been proposed. The DSN array would provide more flexible downlink capability compared to the current DSN for robust telemetry, tracking and command services to the space missions of NASA and its international partners in a cost-effective way. Instead of using the array as an element of the DSN and relying on the existing concept of operation, we explore a broader departure in establishing a more modern concept of operations to reduce the operations costs. This paper presents the array-based architecture for the next-generation DSN. It includes system block diagram, operations philosophy, user's view of operations, operations management, and logistics like maintenance philosophy and anomaly analysis and reporting. To develop the various required technologies and understand the logistics of building the array-based low-cost system, a breadboard array of three antennas has been built. This paper briefly describes the breadboard array system and its performance.

Published in:

Proceedings of the IEEE  (Volume:95 ,  Issue: 10 )