Signals from a speeding satellite

Soaring high above Earth as they speed through space, satellites are difficult
targets to track, said ESA in a paper issued on 7th March. Now a new approach
developed in Europe is helping ground stations to acquire signals faster and
more accurately than ever before.

Says Magdalena Martinez de Mendijur, a systems engineer at ESA’s Operations Centre in Germany: “If the antenna is not pointed perfectly, or if the satellite zips by out of its field of view before acquisition, the signal could be missed altogether.”

Upgraded station in Spain

That’s where SARAS – a Spanish acronym for ‘Fast Acquisition of Satellites and Launchers’ – is making a huge difference. The system mounts a circular array of eight small radio-frequency sensors around the rim of an existing dish antenna.

New antenna array