ESA to build a deep space ground station in Cebreros (Spain)

Communicating with ESA’s spacecraft such as Mars Express, or SMART-1,
Rosetta and Venus Express – yet to be launched – will be even easier and
more effective when the new Cebreros ground station, near Avila (Spain),
becomes operational in September 2005.

On 22 July, in Madrid, the Director General of ESA, Jean-Jacques Dordain,
the Spanish Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Fernando Diez Moreno, and
the Spanish Secretary of State for Science and Technology, Mr Pedro
Morenes Eulate, will sign an agreement between ESA and the Kingdom of
Spain that will pave the way for the installation of a new
high-performance deep-space tracking station in Cebreros.

Communicating with spacecraft over very long distances, probes that have
to be controlled remotely, together with their on board instruments, at
distances up to 900 million kilometres from Earth (more than six times the
distance from Earth to the sun) require huge and powerful antennas.

Through its control Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt (Germany), responsible for
all spacecraft operations, ESA already has long experience of dealing with
a large network of ground stations and antennas, including a 35 m
deep-space antenna in New Norcia, north of Perth in Australia.

Back in the 1970s, ESA signed an agreement with Spain to use a satellite
tracking station located at Villafranca del Castillo (Villanueva de la
Canada, Madrid). ESA/Villafranca has now become one of the most highly
specialised spacecraft tracking stations in the world.

To support the new project and allow ESA to take a further step towards a
real European Deep Space Network, the Government of Spain will grant the
European Space Agency a 75-year lease on two plots of land that belong to
the Ministry of Defence. One plot will accommodate the space tracking
facilities and the 35m diameter deep-space antenna. The other will serve
for the calibration tower, used to simulate the signals transmitted by
spacecraft for testing. Construction work is scheduled to start in
September this year.

"The new capabilities of the future antenna at Cebreros will significantly
support the role of ESA in Spain. Moreover, in terms of radio-electric
conditions, the Cebreros environment is perfect, and will give this new
site an important growth potential," according to ESA’s Director of
Technical and Operational Support, Gaele Winters.

The network of antennas in Spain (Cebreros (Avila), Villafranca del
Castillo (Villanueva de la Canada, Madrid) and Robledo (Robledo de
Chavela, Madrid, owned by NASA/JPL), will soon be one of the most
important groups of satellite tracking stations worldwide, due to the
optimum environment free of radio-electric disturbances, and will make a
valuable additional contribution to the scientific and technological
framework of European space activities.