European Space Agency Plans Ground Station In Argentina

Making Another ESA Facility In South America, After Spaceport

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced plans for a ground station to be built in South America, assuming negotiations are successful.

The ESA station would be built in Malargue, Argentina, where a 35-meter (114.8 foot) antenna will be installed.

ESA already has facilities in South America, the foremost being the European Spaceport in French Guiana.

The antenna is the first infrastructure to be built in Argentina by ESA.

"The site offers all the features that are required for a long-term ground segment investment. We are very pleased that we could pave the way for promising space missions with the support of the Argentinean authorities," said Gaele Winters, ESA director of operations and infrastructure.

ESA evaluated 35 sites in Chile and Argentina before choosing the Malargue area for the third European deep space ground station as part of the ESA Tracking (ESTRACK) network.

The Malargue site is desert land, free from radio interference and with frequency usage guaranteed in the longer term by Argentina’s National Communications Commission.

ESA’s deep space network currently has two 35-meter tracking stations, one in Cebreros, Spain, and the other in New Norcia, Australia. The third station in Argentina will join these and the seven other 15m stations forming the core ESTRACK network.

The 600-ton dish will complete the 360-degree deep space coverage needed to ensure full telecommunications during mission-critical events and enhance the return of scientific data.

The antenna will become operational from mid-2012 in support of scientific and exploration missions. Finalization of the legal framework with Argentina is anticipated by the end of August, to allow for approval by the ESA Council in October.

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