Indra Espacio of Spain has been contracted by the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop the first Telemetry and Command Control Station (TT&C) in Europe capable of operating simultaneously in X- and Ka-bands, for implementation in future Deep Space missions. This need to change the frequencies used to control and receive scientific missions' data from traditional S-band to new X- and Ka-bands is due essentially to the interference that satellite links suffer from other land or mobile-based communications. To do so, Indra will be in charge of modifying and improving the satellite tracking station, VIL-4 at Villafranca del Castillo (Madrid).
The new station is expected to be used first in the SMART-1 experimental exploration mission to the moon, the launch of which is planned for 2003 or 2004. In this mission it is intended to test new technologies for Deep Space scientific missions, such as ionic propulsion and the use of X- and Ka-bands.
Such missions impose very strict aiming accuracy requirements (the maximum allowable error is of 0.001°), which necessitate the incorporation of an antenna monitoring system with novel error compensation algorithms. Because of this, the project represents a very important technological challenge, in order to provide the accuracy and complexity required.