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  • Satellite Evolution

Goonhilly Earth Station to track NASA Artemis 1 Mission from the UK

Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall, UK, will provide communications support for NASA’s Artemis 1 Mission, due to launch on 29th August, 2022. The site will track the uncrewed Orion capsule and, alongside partner ESA, communicate with a number of small satellites being launched on the mission.

Goonhilly is the world’s only commercial deep space ground station. In 1969 the site was responsible for distributing live satellite feeds of the Apollo Moon landing to people around the world. Now, as organisations across the globe embark on a new dawn of lunar and deep space exploration, Goonhilly is positioned to provide tracking and communication support for key lunar and deep space missions; partnering with both private companies and space agencies.

Over the past year, Goonhilly has supported ESA’s Mars Express, Gaia and Integral missions, communicating with the satellites in deep space as they complete their scientific objectives. Now, the site is strengthening the UK’s position as an international space power through its contributions to NASA’s pioneering Artemis programme.

The first in a series of missions, Artemis 1 will send an uncrewed Orion capsule in orbit around the Moon and back to test systems and procedures ahead of a crewed flight in 2024.

Goonhilly will track the capsule, demonstrating their ability to support future, crewed NASA missions to the Moon and beyond. Their GHY-6 deep space antenna will receive radio signals from the spacecraft, which will travel up to 448,000 km away from Earth over a 6-week period.

Sue Horne, Head of Space Exploration at the UK Space Agency said: “Witnessing the first launch of the Artemis 1 SLS rocket is a landmark moment for the global space community, as we prepare to return humans to the Moon. The rocket will place the Orion spacecraft in orbit around the Moon, which we will be able to track in the UK from Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall.

The operational support work that our colleagues are doing in Goonhilly demonstrates a significant step forward for our capacity to offer commercial lunar communications from the UK. The Artemis programme marks the next chapter of human space exploration, and we look forward to continued involvement as it comes to life.”

A secondary payload of 10 CubeSats will also be deployed to undertake science and technology investigations in order to enhance our understanding of the deep space environment in preparation for humanity’s return. Some hours after the launch, a trans-lunar injection burn will propel the Orion capsule and CubeSats towards the Moon. The small satellites will then be deployed in different directions to begin their separate missions.

Goonhilly is due to track up to 6 of the CubeSats: ArgoMoon, BioSentinel, CuSP, Lunar HMAP, Lunar IceCube & NEA Scout. They will work alongside Estrack (ESA’s network of ground stations) to command, track and download data from the small satellites.

“Our Estrack stations will be critical in determining the CubeSat trajectories, returning their data home and supporting the commanding of the six spacecraft,” explains Lucy Santana, responsible for ESA ground facility services for deep space missions, “we’re very proud to do our bit in returning humankind to the Moon.”

Ian Jones (CEO at Goonhilly Earth Station): “Being asked to participate in this landmark NASA mission as one of the key ground stations is an immense privilege for all of us at Goonhilly. Both NASA and ESA are moving towards a commercial model for lunar communications and Goonhilly is the world’s only facility that is set up, qualified and ready to provide this service.

Our team has worked tremendously hard over the last several years to get us to this position. Our experienced operators have been working closely with the various lunar missions that will be carried onboard Artemis 1. As well as the excitement of returning humans to the moon, this new chapter demonstrates the validity of the commercial business model developed at Goonhilly.”


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