Update 27 May

Today’s update from the MEX team at ESOC on progress of the VMC Schools Campaign, via Spacecraft Operations Engineer Simon Wood. More VMC images are expected to arrive today and tomorrow.

DSA 3 Malargüe

This image, taken in 2012, shows DSA 3 Malargüe station, one the world’s most sophisticated tracking stations used for deep space communications, as it neared inauguration in Malargüe, Argentina. Credit: ESA – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

We had small glitch in the connection to the Malargüe DSA 3 ground station (DSA 3) during yesterday’s data downlink. This happens from time to time, however it is not a problem for us, as Estrack ground stations store all the data received at the station for at least 8 days.

This meant that we were able to recall the missing few minutes of yesterday’s communication pass from the ground station and feed it into the mission control system here at ESOC this morning, so no data were lost.

The last image received in yesterday’s downlink was a nice image of Phillips crater!

First data via Malargüe station: Mars as seen by VMC

Marking its inauguration, ESA’s Malargüe tracking station receives Mars Webcam image.

First data via Malargüe station: Mars as seen by VMC

An image of the enigmatic Red Planet acquired by ESA’s Mars Express on 15 December 2012 was downloaded via ESA’s new tracking station in Malargüe, Argentina, symbolising ‘first data’ and recognising formal inauguration.

Details on the station’s inauguration via ESA web and ESA media.

Malargüe station mosaic

A mosaic depicting ESA’s new 35m deep-space tracking station at Malargüe, Argentina, composed of several hundred low-resolution Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) images acquired by Mars Express.

Malargüe station mosaic

On 18 December 2012, the station downloaded a VMC image from Mars Express orbiting some 328 million kilometres from Earth to mark the station’s formal inauguration and the symbolic transmission of ‘first data’. The image was received at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany, and processed by the Mars Express mission operations team.

Photo mosaic generated using AndreaMosaic, an excellent piece of software!

Mars Express transmits first signal to be received by new ESA station

Great news from the ESA ESTRACK team today!

The first-ever reception of signal took place at ESA’s new 35m deep space station at Malargüe, Argentina, on 14 June. There’s still a lot of work to be done to have the station fully commissioned, but this is an excellent achievement and an important milestone – and the signal came from our very own Mars Express, orbiting the Red Planet some 193 million km away.

First signal received by Malargüe station

First signal received by Malargüe station

Roberto Maddè, the DSA-3 project manager, wrote:

We did a test ‘shadow tracking’ of Mars Express last week on 14 June, around 22:30 UTC.

The signal in L-band is shown in the picture (at left). We measured a signal/noise ratio of about 56 dBHz, which matches the levels obtained by ESA’s existing 35m station at Cebreros during the same pass.

Pointing still needs to be optimised (pointing correction for our test was done manually); these tests are still ‘qualitative’. Some quantitative tests (less news-worthy but more useful to understand whether the station is operating within specs) are being done and look promising. Now, the teams on site are recalibrating the beam waveguide mirrors; we’ll have more tests in two weeks. But we need to calibrate the pointing first.

DSA-3 is set to enter regular service later this year.

You can see DSA-3 ‘live’ via our webcam:

MLG Webcam