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9th of January 2024
NASA's Deep Space Network turns 60
NASA’s Deep Space Network marked its 60th anniversary on the 24th of December. In continuous operations since 1963, the DSN is what makes it possible for NASA to communicate with spacecraft at or beyond the Moon. More than 40 missions depend on the network, including the James Webb Space Telescope, the Perseverance rover on Mars, and the Artemis I mission to the moon. To ensure spacecraft can always connect with Earth, the DSN’s 14 antennas are divided between three complexes spaced equally around the world – in Goldstone, California; Canberra, Australia; and Madrid, Spain. The network’s roots extend to 1958, when JPL (the Jet Propulsion Laboratory) was contracted by the US Army to deploy portable radio tracking stations to receive telemetry from the Explorer 1 satellite. After NASA was formed in 1958, JPL’s ground stations were named Deep Space Instrumentation Facilities, and they operated largely independently from one another until 1963. That’s when the DSN was officially founded and the ground stations were connected to JPL’s new network control center. The image above shows the radio antennas of NASA’s Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex (CDSCC). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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