Space, ASI’s Sardinia Deep Space Antenna inaugurated
The Sardinia Deep Space Antenna-SDSA, the new centre of the Italian Space Agency-ASI aimed at tracking interplanetary space probes, has become operational.
The SDSA is located at the Sardinia Radio Telescope-SRT: the large radio telescope for the study of the Universe, situated near Cagliari and developed by the National Institute for Astrophysics-INAF in collaboration with ASI, Regione Sardegna and the Ministry of Education, University and Research-MIUR.
“Today is a special day”, said ASI President Roberto Battiston during the event, “We have inaugurated ASI’s first external research unit on the INAF premises in Cagliari with the first observations of radio signals from Cassini captured by the SRT and coming from 1.4 billion kilometres away. With these observations, the SRT has in fact joined the worldwide network of radio telescopes that explore deep space to communicate with the satellites sent to the planets of the Solar System”.
The Sardinia Deep Space Antenna is the result of agreements signed between ASI and INAF and a specific agreement between ASI and the US Space Agency-NASA, under which it will be used in interplanetary missions in collaboration with the US Jet Propulsion Laboratory-JPL.
The ASI-INAF agreements concern, in particular, scientific and technological research activities, infrastructure, equipment and deep space communications and tracking operations. Cooperation between the two Italian research institutions also includes carrying out activities of mutual interest in the sectors of radio science, tracking of space debris and space weather.
“The placement of the ASI Unit on our premises in Sardinia, the result of a fruitful collaboration between the two institutions, and the attention that NASA pays to the performance of the SRT radio telescope and our development laboratories open up great prospects”, said INAF President, Nichi D’Amico.
The end goal of the initiative is to help expand Italy’s ability to observe deep space from Earth.
The first task that the SDSA will undertake is tracking the Cassini probe, the “historic” joint mission between the US, European and Italian space agencies, which, in a few days, will perform its last, great act, heading for Saturn.
As of January next year, the SDSA will officially become operational within NASA’s Deep Space Network – the largest and most sensitive scientific telecommunications system in the world – but it will also provide communications and navigation services for the European interplanetary probes, with a special focus on Mars probes, in view of the human exploration of the Red Planet.