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BAPI Sensors aid NASA in search for ET

BAPI’s sensors may not have made it into space as yet, but they are now helping the US Government in its study of the solar system and cosmos and even in its search for ET.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of NASA, recently chose BAPI’s immersion sensors for integration into its Deep Space Network systems. Specifically, the sensors will be used in the guidance platform mechanism for the giant antennas in the California desert. What exactly is the Deep Space Network?

The DSN is NASA’s international array of giant radio antennas that support interplanetary spacecraft missions and deep space communications. The DSN consists of three facilities spaced equidistant from each other around the world. These sites are at Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia. The strategic placement of these sites permits constant communication with spacecraft as our planet rotates.

Each of the 70-meter wide by 33-story high antenna structures are mounted on a giant turntable that rotates around a huge “bull gear”. The gear and turntable is lubricated with a layer of oil 1/100th of an inch thick. A water jacket is then used to keep the correct viscosity of this super thin layer of lubricant. And that’s where the BAPI sensors fit in.

The temperature of the water jacket is critical because even small changes can alter the viscosity of the oil. The BAPI immersion sensors and thermowells are used to monitor the temperature of the water and thus maintain the proper viscosity of the oil. Incorrect water temperature would result in metal on metal contact between the antenna base and the turntable/bull gear, and the resulting damage would shut down the system.

BAPI’s sensors were chosen for this critical location because of the their reputation for both accuracy and reliability. Failure of this system is not an option for NASA.

The antennas of the Deep Space Network are an indispensable link to explorers venturing beyond Earth. They provide the crucial connection for receiving never-before-seen images and scientific information from our solar system and beyond as well as guiding orbiting spacecraft to keep them on track and out of harm’s way.

Next time you look up at the stars and wonder just what is out there, remember BAPI is playing a part in protecting the equipment that helps us find out.

by Brian Thaldorf,
BAPI Key Account Specialist

The Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California