Tag Archives: spacecraft

Deep Space Network Now (DSN Now)

DSN has recently turned 50 years old

Have you ever wondered how people get the signal to Earth from all the different spacecrafts that we have sent in space, on other planets, orbiters etc. ? NASA has built a network of dishes in different locations around the world that communicate with all these spacecrafts all the time. How? The communication happens with waves within the large electromagnetic spectrum of the light from 1 km long wavelength to just 1 cm – in other words they communicate with radio waves – the same waves as the ones that makes you listen to your radio on Sunday (and not only)! Then the dish serves as a reflector for the radio waves and points them to a receiver just above it, in its center. Radio waves are among the few electromagnetic waves (a fancy word for light) that can go through Earth’s atmosphere! That’s why for more than 50 years now we use radio waves to communicate with our spacecrafts!


As a side note, the Curiosity rover which is on the surface of Mars, communicates with Earth via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) most often. It can communicate directly with Earth if needed via its HGA (High Gain Antenna).


DSN complexes are located in 3 different locations around the world – Madrid, Spain – Goldstone, USA – Canberra, Australia. This is to ensure that we, on Earth, have a constant communication – 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days in the year, with our spacecrafts!


So, why am I telling you all this? Not to impress your geeky friends (they probably already know this if they are geeks), but to inform you that there is a DSN Now website where, now, everybody in the world can enter inside for free and have a look at which antenna is working at the moment and with which spacecraft does it talk. It gives some information of how many light minutes does it take for the signal to reach the spacecraft and come back and some other cool info as well as some images of the communicating dish and spacecraft! How cool is that! Go and check it out now! 🙂

DSN Now website

Here are some images of the DSN Complexes in Madrid:

DSN-Complex-in-Madrid  DSN-Madrid-Complex-Antennas

in Goldstone, USA:

DSN Antennas in Goldstone  DSN Goldstone Mojave desert antenna

and in Canberra, Australia:

DSN Canberra Complex 2  DSN Canberra Complex Antennas

by Tihomir Dimitrov
The Human Adventures in Space Exploration – 03.2014
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