WASHINGTONNASA officials broke ground near Canberra, Australia to begin a new antenna-building campaign to improve Deep Space Network communications. Following the recommendations of an independent study, NASA embarked on an ambitious project to replace its aging collection of 230-ft.-wide dishes with a new 112-ft. antenna by 2025. The three 70-m antennas are more than 40 years old and located at the NASA Deep Space Network complexes at Goldstone, CA, Madrid, Spain, and Canberra.

The new antennas, known as "beam-wave-guide" antennas, can be used more flexibly. They allow the network to operate on several different frequency bands with a single antenna. In addition, their electronic equipment is more accessible, making maintenance easier and less costly. The new antennas also can receive higherfrequency, wider-bandwidth Ka-band signals. This band has been required for new NASA missions approved after 2009.

In the project's first phase , NASA expects to complete as many as three 34-m antennas by 2018. The decision to begin construction came on the 50th anniversary of US and Australian cooperation in space-tracking operations. "There is no better way to celebrate our 50 years of collaboration and partnership in exploring the heavens with the government of Australia than our renewed commitment and investment in new capabilities required for the next five decades," states Badri Younes, Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Communications and Navigation at NASA headquarters (Washington, DC). NASA's goal is to integrate communications resources into a more capable network. Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization manages the communication complex near Canberra for NASA.