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NASA signs contract for new gen deep space network

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The Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex, located outside Canberra, Australia, is one of three complexes, which comprise NASA's Deep Space Network. A NASA/JPL-Caltech photo.

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA (BNS): NASA has signed a $40.7 million contract with General Dynamics for a new generation of Deep Space Network antennas.

The Deep Space Network (DSN) consists of three communications complexes: in Goldstone; California, Madrid; Spain and Canberra, Australia.

The 70-meter antennas are more than 40 years old and are showing signs of surface deterioration from constant use. Additional 34-meter antennas are being installed in Canberra in the first phase; subsequent phases will install additional 34-meter antennas in Goldstone and Madrid.

The 34-meter beam waveguide antennas are essential to keep communications flowing smoothly as NASA's fleet of spacecraft continues to expand.

NASA expects to complete the building of the first two 34-meter antennas in Canberra by 2016. They will be named Deep Space Stations 35 and 36. Deep Space Station 35 is due to be online in 2014, and Deep Space Station 36 is expected to follow in 2016.

The Deep Space Network is now sending commands to numerous robotic spacecraft, such as NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Saturn explorer Cassini and the two Voyager spacecraft, which are near the edge of the solar system.

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