BAE Systems to provide technology to track space missions at Goonhilly

Gadgets, Space

BAE Systems has announced today (July 17th, 2018) it will supply deep space technology which will allow Goonhilly Earth Station (GES) to communicate with unmanned and robotic missions to the Moon and Mars.

The partnership – announced at the Farnborough International Airshow – will involve close working on the current deep space programme with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the development of a global network in the next four years.

BAE Systems will supply the satellite station at Goonhilly, Cornwall, with two Tracking, Telemetry and Command Processor (TTCP) systems which will allow the station to track and communicate with a wide range of spacecraft including future manned and robotic missions to the Moon and Mars.

The TTCP provides uplink and downlink services to support the spacecraft. The uplink transmits commands that control the spacecraft and the downlink receives data including critical spacecraft health information, images, video and other scientific and engineering information.

Key features of the TTCP equipment include:

A fully digital and flexible Software Defined Radio (SDR) able to support data rates from 1 bit per second to 300 megabits per second from multiple spacecraft simultaneously, with 50 times the processing power of current technology.

Tracking functions able to determine the spacecraft distance to around 10 cm at ranges of billions of km.

Doppler measurement functions able to determine the spacecraft’s velocity away from or towards the ground station to an accuracy of around 0.01 mm/s for speed in excess of 50 km/s.

Flexible, high bandwidth digital receiver that enables networking with other ground stations to increase the performance of signal reception. The unprocessed received data can also be sent to other stations for further complex analysis.

Proven in service at ESA Deep Space Ground stations and currently used to support ESA missions such as Gaia, Lisa Pathfinder and Exomars, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) missions such as Dawn.

Says Nick James, BAE Systems lead engineer for the project:

“BAE Systems has developed a highly precise space communications and tracking system designed to support spacecraft operating both near the Earth and in deep space. The technology receives and converts faint radio signals from spacecraft into data that mission controllers use to monitor and control the spacecraft.

“The highly flexible system is able to handle differing ESA and NASA requirements and protocols, which makes it an ideal choice to support Goonhilly in future space missions.”

Adds Ian Jones, Goonhilly CEO, said: “We have a great deal of interest in using Goonhilly’s upgraded antenna from our international customer base, including space agencies and some of the new private space exploration companies. This system will ensure that we can support missions for a number of space agencies.” 

This represents the first time TTCP has been purchased by a private company and is also now operational in the ESA Deep Space Network.

Chris Price
For latest tech stories go to