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Ground control arrives at Leicester

Scientists at our University are a step closer to controlling their own satellite missions now that a new satellite ground station dish has been installed on campus.

The University oversaw the visually impressive installation of a satellite ground station, a facility which orbiting spacecraft use to transmit their data back to Earth, on the roof of its Physics and Astronomy Building in April. The roof has been reinforced in preparation to receive the system.

The installation process was completed in two parts: the base first, then the reflecting dish, and by the end of the day the iconic ‘satellite dish’ profile was visible in the University skyline. The installation of the electronics, which will make finally make the station operational, will come at a later date.

Dr Nigel Bannister from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, who has worked to bring the ground station to a reality for the past seven years, said: "The ground station gives us a completely new capability to conduct research relating to space mission operations, space weather, and a range of other fields. Leicester has a long and illustrious track record in space mission involvement, and the ground station adds a new capability which we’re in an excellent position to exploit.

"From the teaching perspective, it’s very rare for students to have direct access to facilities like this, to receive and analyse data coming from satellites in real time as they pass overhead, and to be able to explore concepts like orbital mechanics in a practical way using real spacecraft."

Above: The base of the ground station is craned onto the Physics and Astronomy Building roof.

The dish will allow the Department to provide data reception and command transmission capability for future missions that it is involved in. These missions are likely to include small satellites built at Leicester, designed to study the Earth’s aurora and the way that the stream of particles from the Sun (called the “solar wind”) affects important systems on Earth, such as communications and satellite navigation systems.

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