NASA's Deep Space Network celebrates its 60th anniversary on December 24. In continuous operations since 1963, the DSN is what makes it possible for NASA to communicate with spacecraft on and off the Moon. The dazzling galactic images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, the cutting-edge scientific data sent back by the Mars rover Perseverance, and the historic images sent back by Artemis I from the far side of the Moon – all arrived at Earth via satellite. Giant radio dish antennas for the network.
Through 2024, these and other historic contributions over the past 60 years will be celebrated through NASA's Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program, which manages and directs the ground-based facilities and services provided by the DSN.
More than 40 missions rely on the network, which is expected to support twice that number in the coming years. That's why NASA is looking to the future by expanding and modernizing this vital global infrastructure with new dishes, new technologies, and new methods.
“The DSN is the heart of NASA — it has the vital job of keeping data flowing between Earth and space,” said Philip Baldwin, acting director of SCaN's Network Services Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “But to support our growing portfolio of robotic missions, and now human Artemis missions to the moon, we need to move forward with the next phase of DSN modernization.”
Fulfill added requests
The DSN, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California for SCaN, allows missions to track remote spacecraft, send commands to them, and receive scientific data from them. To ensure that these spacecraft can always communicate with Earth, the DSN's 14 antennas are divided between three complexes evenly distributed around the world – in Goldstone, California; Canberra, Australia; And Madrid, Spain.