Tidbinbilla Tracking Station

Posted on 25 October 2011

If you’re a Sci-Fi fan on a motorhome rental or campervan hire holiday in Canberra, you have to visit the Tidbinbilla Tracking Station. It’s the stuff films were made of, lots of outer space activity and satellites, history and technology, and it’s one of only three such complexes in the world.

The complex is officially known as the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex or CDSCC for short. Situated half an hour from Canberra, the ground station is part of NASA's Jet Propulsion Deep Space Network. One of the most momentous times in the complex’s history was during the Apollo Space program, which landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin along with the Apollo lunar module on the moon; Tidbinbilla was used for tracking the module.

The complex was built during the 1960’s along with two other stations in the Australian Capital Territory, the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station, and the Orroral Valley Tracking Station. Its location, on the Murrumbidgee River, was chosen because of protection against radio frequencies that was given by the Coolamon Ridge, Urambi Hills, and the Bullen Range. Today the complex’s claim to fame is that it’s the only NASA tracking station in Australia still in operation.

Today, the Station has three large antennas, and there are plans to built three more.
For the ‘techies’ who are interested in facts here are more details:

The DSS-34 is a 34 m beam waveguide antenna, a parabolic dish that sends a signal to or from the transmitter or receiver to a movable dish by a beam waveguide. The dish uses radio frequency mirrors to locate the receiving and transmitting equipment underground, rather than on top of the dish.

DSS-43 is a 70 m is the largest steerable parabolic antenna or dish in the Southern Hemisphere.

DSS-45 is a 34 m dish built in 1986.

An in addition, not working but on display, is the DSS-46, a 26 m dish which was built in 1967 and moved from Honeysuckle Creek site 1967. In May 2010, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics declared the antenna a Historical Aerospace Site.

Even if you’re not a deep space fan, the site is still a fascinating place to visit on a motorhome rental or campervan hire trip, and who knows where it might take you!

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