Russia Clarifies Status of SA Space Tracking Station

MOSCOW, April 3 (RIA Novosti) – The space tracking station that is being built in South Africa as part of Russia’s astrophysical project RadioAstron can only be used with the radio telescope, Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day some media reported that next year Russia would be able to receive telemetry from other spacecraft with the help of the South African station.

“The agreement that was signed in South Africa provides for cooperation in astrophysical research under the RadioAstron project. So the ground-based tracking station will work only in the interest of this particular project,” a Roscosmos representative told RIA Novosti.

The RadioAstron space satellite agreement between the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and Roscosmos was signed in late March in the course of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the country.

The Roscosmos representative added that the station could eventually be used in other space projects, but only on the basis of “separate agreements.”

The RadioAstron satellite was launched by Roscosmos in July 2011. It carries a radio telescope that will obtain images and coordinates of various radio-emitting objects.

The goal of the RadioAstron project is to study various types of astrophysical objects in unprecedentedly high angular resolution in the centimeter and decimeter wavelength bands.

The observatory will operate a 10-meter Space Radio Telescope working together with an international network of ground-based radio telescopes in the interferometer mode. It will obtain images of deep space objects with a resolution exceeding that of NASA’s Hubble telescope a thousand times.

RadioAstron will help scientists to study processes inside active galactic nuclei, the elusive “dark matter,” and the structure of the remote regions of our galaxy. It will also help create a precise model of the Earth’s gravitational field.

The project is an international collaboration led by the Astro Space Center of the Lebedev Physical Institute (Russian Academy of Sciences) in Moscow. Other partners include the European Space Agency, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (USA), the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (India) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Australia).

Under the agreement, Roscosmos will provide the hardware for upgrading the tracking station (antenna) for compatibility with RadioAstron, while SANSA will install and maintain the upgraded hardware and operate the tracking station, reported.


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