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There is a need to understand NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) coverage gaps and any limitations to provide redundant communication coverage for future deep space missions, especially for manned missions to Moon and Mars. The DSN antennas are required to provide continuous communication coverage for deep space flights, interplanetary missions, and deep space scientific observations. The DSN consists of ground antennas located at three sites: Goldstone in USA, Canberra in Australia, and Madrid in Spain. These locations are not separated by the exactly 120 degrees and some DSN antennas are located in the bowl-shaped mountainous terrain to shield against radiofrequency interference resulting in a coverage gap in the southern hemisphere for the current DSN architecture. To analyze the extent of this gap and other coverage limitations, simulations of the DSN architecture were performed. In addition to the physical properties of the DSN assets, the simulation incorporated communication forward link calculations and azimuth/elevation masks that constrain the effects of terrain for each DSN antenna. Analysis of the simulation data was performed to create coverage profiles with the receiver settings at a deep space altitudes ranging from 2 million to 10 million km and a spherical grid resolution of 0.25 degrees with respect to longitude and latitude. With the results of these simulations, two- and three-dimensional representations of the area without communication coverage and area with coverage were developed, showing the size and shape of the communication coverage gap projected in space. Also, the significance of this communication coverage gap is analyzed from the simulation data.
Aerospace Conference, 2012 IEEE
Date of Conference: 3-10 March 2012