NASA has entered into a program to replace its 70-meter (230-foot) diameter satellite dishes with a new generation of 34-meter (112-foot) diameter antennas. The project began with a ground breaking ceremony at its site near Canberra, Australia last week. Large antennas at Goldstone, Calif. and Madrid, Spain will also be replaced.
A NASA press release said the new antennas are known as "beam wave guide" antennas and will allow operation on several different frequency bands. The electronic equipment is also more accessible in the new antennas. The new antennas will also include Ka-band capability, which is important for new NASA missions.
NASA expects to complete work on replacing the three antennas at Canberra by 2018. The Canberra ground breaking occurred on the 50th anniversary of United States and Australian cooperation in space tracking operations.
"There is no better way to celebrate our 50 years of collaboration and partnership in exploring the heavens with the government of Australia than our renewed commitment and investment in new capabilities required for the next five decades," said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for Space Communications at NASA.
The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory deep space network Web page has more information on the network, including information on public tours the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex.