Longtime Special Officials Responding to Reports of Disturbances on Last Active Deep Space Network Network Station
Citizen-sourced reports from April 26, 2021 are now coming in, stating the last active Deep Space Network (DSN) station, KWAX, went offline. This is no surprise, considering that reports of explosions from the station had been found on multiple Deep Space Network (DSN) data feeds, including Deep Space Communications System (DSCS) transmissions. At this time, there are no solid leads to the cause of this widespread disruption of communication with a network that has served as a lifeline for human and robotic missions exploring the far reaches of the cosmos for more than 25 years.
DSN Station KWAX was installed in 2009. In 2012, DSCS (Deep Space Communications System) provided four DSN feeds, including KWAX’s, to the public for viewing. This was the first time Deep Space Network stations had been turned over to the public to view in this way.
This system, used for relaying spacecraft communications with Earth and delivering digital data to NASA’s Mission Control Center (MCC-Johnson) for further processing, has had its challenges over the years. Just in the past few years, there have been many reports of failure of this critical system to transmit signals and acquire data from spacecraft.
These latest reports of disruptions are a shock to the organization and to those whose careers are tied to the functioning of the DSN station. However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and NASA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) have officially acknowledged the activity of problems with the DSN station and expressed their commitment to working closely with the DSN team, ensuring the best possible communication and information management for all aspects of this critical asset.
Several long-standing Deep Space Network specialists working at DSN Station KWAX have also put out statements to describe the activities taking place, noting that all elements of the station are still transmitting information through DSCS.
“All these delays have been a hassle for all of us, but the reality of our work comes first,” says Dan Sturm, Lead Data Management System Engineer at DSN Station KWAX. “So many questions have surfaced from our teams regarding the exact cause of the failure that it will take time to get some of them answered. I’m confident that in the very near future the DSN team will get all of these questions answered, hopefully including those from our loyal public, in an efficient and timely manner.”
NASA’s team at DSN Station KWAX also has responded to these concerns, citing that they are committed to restoring full service to the Deep Space Network and are working hard to get this completed as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, NASA is fully committed to monitoring all data and transmission efforts on the Deep Space Network. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that DSN operations are now restricted to a maximum data rate of 450 kilobits per second (kbps) because of severe difficulties in obtaining the proper data transmission speed. This is the data speed at which the Deep Space Network is believed to be currently transmitting signals and data to Earth.
As previously reported in late April, NASA is working with DSN leadership to look into the reasons behind these failures and to initiate a thorough examination of the station and its operation.
“Although this problem may be similar to other past failures, these new occurrences have revealed additional problems,” explains Col. John Shannon, DSN Director. “While it has not been officially confirmed as a complete failure, it appears to be beyond our ability to recover. It’s a tough situation and I’m very concerned for all of the people affected, but I have great confidence in the amazing effort that our team of talented, dedicated technicians are putting forth. They will get this system back on track as quickly as possible, possibly with more in-depth analysis on the lessons that they’re learning.”
For more information about NASA’s Deep Space Network, visit:
You can follow current and former members of the Deep Space Network team at http://deepspace.sciencescience.nasa.gov/
This release originally appeared at http://www.nasa.gov/connect/ConnectSiteContentSupport/2016/WebLinkAdjacentThisContactIsNotLikeTheOneOnTheComputerEventType4EvEvidencedOfAC.html
Correction: This story has been updated to remove erroneous references to NASA’s Deep Space Network station.
Pamela Littman, NASA’s Deep Space Network
Shawn Boodram, Space Communications and Navigation Division
NASA’s Deep Space Network
Paul Hammond, NASA/GSFC