Tuesday, March 5, 2024
Tuesday, March 5, 2024
HomeScienceDSN Experimental Hybrid Antenna Tracks DSOC Laser Downlink

DSN Experimental Hybrid Antenna Tracks DSOC Laser Downlink

Deep Space Station 13 (DSS-13) at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex near Barstow, California, part of the agency’s Deep Space Network, is a 112-foot (34-meter) experimental antenna. which has been retrofitted with an optical terminal (the square instrument below the center of the antenna dish).

Since November 2023, DSS-13 has been tracking the downlink laser from the Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment aboard NASA’s Psyche mission, which launched on October 13, 2023. For the first time, the antenna also received radio frequency signals from the spacecraft as it traveled through deep space on its way to investigate the metal-rich asteroid Psyche.

Figure A is a close-up of the optical terminal, which consists of seven segmented hexagonal mirrors that mimic the light-collecting aperture of a 3.3-foot (1-meter) telescope. As laser photons arrive at the antenna, each mirror reflects the photons and precisely redirects them toward a high-exposure camera attached to the antenna’s subreflector, which is suspended over the center of the dish.

The laser signal collected by the camera is then transmitted through an optical fiber that feeds a cryogenically cooled semiconductor nanowire single-photon detector. Designed and built by JPL Microdevice Laboratorythe detector is identical to the one used at Caltech’s Palomar Observatoryin San Diego County, California, serving as DSOC’s downlink ground station.

Goldstone is one of three complexes that make up NASA’s Deep Space Network, which provides radio communications for all of the agency’s interplanetary spacecraft and is also used for radio astronomy and radar observations of the solar system and universe. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the agency’s DSN.

More information about the DSN is at: http://deepspace.jpl.nasa.gov/.

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