May 10 2017

Deep Space Network Sites Chosen

Over the next 3-4 years we will be working with the Asteroid Tracking Network and the Kerbal Astronomical Society in addition to several companies and private investors to set up 4 new observatories around Kerbin for both optical and radio astronomy, which will also assist us in communicating with spacecraft beyond the Kerbin system. The first, which is already about to begin construction this month after several delays, will be the massive Arekibo Radio Observatory that will reside in the uplift island in the center of Sea Ring Crater. With a dish 200m in diameter (originally planned to be only 180m) it will be the foremost radio telescope on the entire planet and dedicated entirely to this form of astronomical observation. Although it sits in a huge bowl that cannot be moved, the receiver apparatus itself can be translated, allowing it to cover more sky than simply straight up. Arekibo is planned to become operational in mid-2018

Three other observatories will mix both optical and radio astronomy, using smaller dishes that can adjust both their azimuth and elevation to a much wider degree. The first observatory to begin construction will be the Central Observatory in late 2017, slated for completion in late 2018 and fully operational in mid 2019 sporting a massive 10m reflective lens residing at 3.7km. It will initially include both a 60m dish for deep space communication and two smaller & faster-moving 27m dishes for tracking objects in orbit around Kerbin, as we expect the equatorial region to be a high-traffic area for future satellites.

The Southern and Northern Observatories will both begin construction in late 2018 after Arekibo & Central Observatory have begun to tail off their own build work, with completion slated for early 2020 and fully operational by the end of the same year. Each observatory will have a 8m reflecting telescope, a 6m infra-red telescope and a single 27m radio dish to assist with tracking orbiting satellites over the poles of Kerbin in addition to performing radio astronomy. The Northern Observatory will sit at 3.8km while the Southern Observatory will be the highest at 4.1km.

Starting later this year, the Maritime Service will begin to lay undersea communications cables that will be used to connect the various observatories to the major population centers. In the map above you can see the dotted lines that represent the new cables that will be installed, and the solid lines representing the current hardline connections in use. All cabling that takes place over land will be completed in 2018.

We will be leasing all of these facilities as they come online, but work will be done on our end too here at KSC over the next year and a half, starting with a new communication dish for our tracking station arriving this summer. We will then over the next few months arrange them in a triangular formation around the Tracking Station 185m apart. Each dish is 7m in diameter and capable of individually targeting satellites in orbit around any body in the Kerbin system. Beyond that, they will have to be arrayed to gather the signals of spacecraft, meaning they can only communicate with one at a time. This ability will only come sometime in 2018 after we have all the dishes calibrated and the technical details worked out.

Astronomers are very excited for these new observatories, the first to be built on Kerbin since the construction of the year oldĀ  Kerman Observatory above Kravass, sporting a 4m reflector and situated at a dizzying height of 5.7km. Because it is built directly into the mountain above the city, pressurized and controlled by remote operation, although it will no longer be the largest it will still remain the only scope above 4.5km for the foreseeable future.

Here is a look at the various tracking dishes: