How does NASA use antennas?

When you think about the equipment used by The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) space shuttles, satellites or the international space station, antennas might not be the first thing that come to mind. Groups of them around the world make up the Deep Space Network (DSN) that supports NASA’s spacecraft missions, and the importance of these seemingly simple disc-shaped pieces of equipment should not be underestimated.

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An antenna is made of metal, and it captures and transmits radio electromagnetic waves. The antennas used by Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) have a special bowl shape, and they focus signals at a point called a parabolic antenna. They move up and down and left to right to capture and transmit radio signals. There are more than 65 SCaN antennas around the world that help transmit data to satellites in space and capture data beamed back from those satellites.

A network to communicate with deep space

In order to ensure any satellite in deep space is able to communicate with NASA on Earth, there are three large collections of antennas, or ground stations, that are located approximately 120 degrees apart in America, Spain and Australia, which means that any satellite is able to communicate with at least one station at all times.

These DSN antennas are up to 70 meters wide and need to be big in order to capture even the faintest of signals from deep space and ensure that any communications from Earth to spacecraft are sent clearly and received without issues.

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Antennas for earthly communications

Antennas come in all shapes and sizes, with many of us having a small one on the roof to enable us to watch our favourite television programmes. If you are looking for TV Aerial Installation Swansea One Vision Digital engineers are experts at TV aerial Installation Swansea and can help you determine the best system for your needs.

Many HDTV antennas are actually the same as those designed by NASA scientists, so whether you want get a stronger signal for your favourite TV show or you are planning to communicate with someone in outer space, you would be using essentially the same piece of equipment – a metallic disc – that may be bigger or smaller depending on the size of your roof.

Richard Anderson


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