- -6, at Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd
- Intuitive Machines (IM) has announced its entering a long-term agreement with Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd
- IM will use Goonhilly’s services for every stage of its 2022 IM-1 mission to the Moon, from launch and early operations through to transit
In February 2018, Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd announced a project that would see an upgrade of Goonhilly’s largest antenna to enable deep-space tracking and satellite communication services on a commercial basis. This £8.4 million (€9.5 million) investment at Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall, South West England was supported by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency (ESA).
The project has been successfully delivered and the upgrade now completed – creating the world’s first commercial deep-space communications station, capable of tracking future missions to the Moon and Mars. The antenna has undergone months of testing with ESA’s Mars Express, which saw the first transmissions to Mars from UK soil – and the first anywhere in the world by a privately owned company.
Today, a group of local Cornish science students officially opened the antenna with the assistance of the first British ESA astronaut Tim Peake. Now ready to support deep space missions for ESA, NASA, and commercial endeavours, the opening of the GHY-6 ushers in the next era of space exploration from the heart of Cornwall.
Matt Cosby, Chief Technology Officer of Goonhilly Earth Station: “Goonhilly has built an incredible team to complete the upgrade over the last 3 years. Working closely with the European Space Agency the project involved a refurbishment of the Antenna replacing the motors, gearboxes and thousands of bolts on the structure. The complete workings of the communications system has been completely replaced to allow us to seamlessly connect to ESA’s control centre, where they are able to send commands to Mars and receive their data from the spacecraft.”
Pier Bargellini, Head of the Ground Facilities Operations Division, European Space Agency: “As Goonhilly’s antenna transitions from qualification to operation, we look forward to more of our missions using the system. This asset offers the European Space Agency an effective method of increasing our data download capacity and is a step closer to European industry offering commercial deep space services.
Following the upgrade, Intuitive Machines (IM) has announced its entering a long-term agreement with Goonhilly Earth Station. Goonhilly Earth Station will be providing access to the GHY-6 to facilitate communications between the Intuitive Machines lunar mission and the ground. The Intuitive Machines mission will be amongst the first spacecraft to be supported by GHY-6.
Experts in advanced manufacturing, propulsion, automated systems and agile software development, IM will use Goonhilly’s services for every stage of its 2022 IM-1 mission to the Moon, from launch and early operations through to transit. IM’s Lunar Telemetry and Tracking Network (LTN) includes other large parabolic dishes, like the GHY-6, spread across the globe to provide near continuous spacecraft command, control, and communications at lunar distance. This along with IM’s state-of-the-art control center, Nova Control, is a complete service offering to any commercial, or government partners, operating in cislunar space.
Intuitive Machines’ Vice President of Control Centers, Troy LeBlanc PhD: “The addition of Goonhilly’s GHY-6 deep space antenna adds significant data downlink capability to IM’s robust Lunar Telemetry and Tracking Network (LTN). Creating the first commercially available lunar distance communication network is a communications challenge and will require the technical support and expertise that the team at Goonhilly is ready to provide for mission tracking and data downlink services.”