Space center set to receive first-ever UK direct message – from Mars
The Goonhilly earth station houses a 32m wide satellite, the GHY-6, which receives transmissions from the orbit of the Red Planet
Scientists at the Helston, Cornwall site said they were tracking and receiving transmissions from probes in Mars’ atmosphere to test GHY-6
And they have now developed the UK’s first commercial deep space antenna that will enable communications on pioneering missions to the Moon and Mars.
The station works with agencies around the world, including Europe, China, United Arab Emirates and America
Ian Jones, CEO of Goonhilly Earth Station: “Converting this antenna to be part of ESA and NASA’s trusted distant space networks has been part of our business plan from the start
“In a sense, upgrading the technology was the easier part – although this in itself was an intensive two-year program, replacing almost every system in the entire antenna – including 10,000 nuts and bolts
“Our team worked alongside colleagues at ESA to implement the sophisticated planning and operations tools needed to support deep space missions
“Now we are fully equipped to support space agencies and private missions to the Moon, Mars and other locations in the solar system, and we can expand this capability as we grow our international network”
Goonhilly has been working with ESA in recent weeks, using Mars Express – a spacecraft on an active mission to Mars – as a test vehicle for their GHY-6 antenna
As the shadow followed Mars Express in this pre-operational phase, Goonhilly also received signals from another global mission – the UAE Space Agency’s Hope Mission
By picking up signals on February 9, Goonhilly was able to report that the United Arab Emirates Space Agency’s Hope mission successfully entered orbit of Mars
In an important month for Mars missions, Hope was followed by CNSA’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission on February 10.
Just a week after these two missions entered orbit on Mars, on February 18, NASA’s JPL Perseverance rover is due to land on the surface of Mars, and the GHY-6 antenna will be pointed at Mars. during the landing attempt
Although not an official downlink, Goonhilly will be able to receive and possibly decode signals from the rover if NASA needs assistance before and during landing.
This will be the first time direct communications from the surface of Mars will be received in the UK
Matt Cosby, CTO, Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd, said: “After completing our calibration tests we are now in the operational readiness training phase for our teams.
“The antenna will be trained on Mars anyway for our ESA Mars Express tests, so it would be remarkable to pick up Perseverance signals as it lands as well.”
Dr Kat Hickey, Senior Business Development Manager, Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd, said: “This is an incredible step forward in the next evolution of space exploration
“With so many forward missions underway and planned for the next few years, we hope that the GHY-6 will be able to sustain in a scientific and commercial capacity, facilitating global access to space”
Work on the GHY-6 has been partially paid for by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Business Partnership, which is investing £ 4m in the project
Mark Duddridge, Chairman of the Partnership, said: “Cornwall is taking a big step forward in the future of space exploration and it’s fantastic to see signals from spacecraft millions of miles away. ground receipts in Cornwall
“Deep space is a growing market and the new capacity at Goonhilly is a major asset for what the UK can offer the global space industry and for Cornwall’s space ambitions
“This is LEP’s biggest investment as we want to seize a global opportunity for Cornwall and the UK, creating well-paying jobs and inspiring a new generation with wonder and curiosity”
Mars, Cornwall, Goonhilly Earth Station, Space
Ebene News – EN – Cornwall Space Center to receive direct message from Mars