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The ISRO web page Ground Segment says:

SRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) will be providing support of the TTC ground stations, communications network between ground stations and control center, Control center including computers, storage, data network and control room facilities, and the support of Indian Space Science Data Center (ISSDC) for the mission. The ground segment systems form an integrated system supporting both launch phase, and orbital phase of the mission.

Launch Phase:

  • The launch vehicle is tracked during its flight from lift-off till spacecraft separation by a network of ground stations, which receive the telemetry data from the launch vehicle and transmit it in real time to the mission computer systems at Sriharikota, where it is processed.

  • The ground stations at Sriharikota, Port Blair, Brunei provide continuous tracking of the PSLV-C25 from liftoff till burnout of third stage of PSLV-C25.

  • Two ships carrying Ship Borne Terminals (SBT) are being deployed at suitable locations in the South Pacific Ocean, to support the tracking of the launch vehicle from PS4 ignition till spacecraft separation.

Orbital Phase

  • After satellite separation from the launch vehicle, the Spacecraft operations are controlled from the Spacecraft Control Centre in Bangalore.

  • To ensure the required coverage for carrying out the mission operations, the ground stations of ISTRAC at Bangalore, Mauritius, Brunei, and Biak are being supplemented by Alcantara and Cuiaba TTC stations of INPE, Brazil, Hartebeestoek TTC station of SANSA and the DSN network of JPL, NASA.

enter image description here

ISTRAC, ISSDC, INPE, SANSA, DSN... I only recognize DSN, and probably ESA has a host of tracking stations as well.

Question: Is there a source, or a few sources, that together will describe all of the "main" ground stations used for telemetry, tracking of transmissions (not radar) and communications with deep space missions from launch to transit to destination? Trying to list every site here would be huge and non SE-compliant. Instead, let's identify a few sources which together provide a handle on what will likely turn out to be several dozens of sites.

Once again, please ignore radar tracking. I'm only asking about stations that receive tones, data, telemetry, returned coherent signals etc. from the spacecraft.


note: From time to time radio telescopes are used as well. These do not need to be counted here, but anecdotal examples include Green Bank, Arecibo, and Giant Metrewave Telescope:

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    $\begingroup$ At this time, deep space explores only NASA. Therefore, the question is limited only to Deep Space Network, DSN. Nevertheless, India has ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC). If you look into the depths of history, then mention recall the Soviet Deep Space network. $\endgroup$ – A. Rumlin Feb 8 '19 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ @A.Rumlin that's too narrow. Answers should not be limited to missions active on one specific day only. Rosetta's end of mission was only two years ago, there's at least one upcoming mission to Mars by ISRO and there's the Roscosmos ExoMars Rover in 2020. Ground stations don't get built and torn down again after each mission. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 8 '19 at 5:55
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting new thing that is happening for data collection, an open source network of ground stations for data collection only, have a look at it. network.satnogs.org $\endgroup$ – MyTwoCents Feb 8 '19 at 9:00
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    $\begingroup$ @uhon But not in the case of the Soviet Union. Or some old NASA stations from the 1960s flickr.com/photos/martintrolle/albums $\endgroup$ – A. Rumlin Feb 8 '19 at 9:08
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Since we're limiting the scope here to ground stations interfacing with 1. deep-space missions that are 2. used by major space agencies, I'm going to take a moment to set up a few definitions before delving into the main discussion at hand.

Scope/definitions

Deep space

The term 'deep space' has been subject to a fair amount of quibbling in the past: the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) defines the boundary as being 2 million km from Earth (see here), whereas NASA JPL has cited geostationary orbit (at 35,000 km from Earth) as being the baseline for DSN's functionality (with the stipulation that DSN is sub-optimal at communicating with spacecraft closer to Earth). Depending on who you agree with, the Moon and Earth-Sun Lagrangian points L1 and L2 may or may not be considered 'deep space'; the ITU, at the very least, does not permit use of its Deep Space Bands for missions that are less than 2 million km from the Earth. Since this question asks about international space agencies, and not just NASA, I'll opt for the ITU's definition for the purposes of this post.

Major space agencies

As addressed in this article by the ESA, use of ground stations is often shared between agencies as part of international cooperation efforts, and thus there is certainly a 'core' ground stations that see more use than others of their ilk. However, in defining the scope of which of the other ground stations to mention, I'd like to clarify what I'm taking 'major space agency' (in the context of this question) to mean. For the sake of this post, I will opt for a broad definition and consider 'major space agencies' as referring to any national/governmental space organizations which have launched craft that operate past the ITU-defined deep space boundary. This includes, at minimum, the following space agencies: NASA (United States), ESA (the European Union), JAXA (Japan), ISRO (India), CNSA (China), and the former Soviet space agency.

There are, of course, a number of other agencies involved in helping maintain and support the use of these ground stations - the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems, which writes guidance on space communications, has a substantial list of members (as can be seen from this document here) that extend beyond the list provided here.

The list (in alphabetical order by affiliated agency)

Communicating with deep-space missions prior to reaching deep space

Most deep-space antenna networks are not optimized for communicating with objects in low Earth orbit, etc. (see the JPL article linked in the 'deep space' definition section); thus, in the early parts of a mission's trajectory, ground stations like the Near Earth Network(NEN) or the Space Network(SN) would be used for communication, with communications switched over to ground stations optimized for deep-space later in the trajectory.

While the NEN and SN are NASA's preferred networks for communicating with missions that are closer to Earth, most of the other major space agencies listed above have their own ground station networks. I don't believe there is a comprehensive list of all of the near-Earth ground stations in use by all the world's agencies (since there are quite a few more of those than there are deep-space stations), but until a brave soul puts one together I believe the list above is a good guide to the major players. (For what it's worth, the ESA and ISRO links should mention the locations of those agencies' near-Earth antennas along with their deep-space ones).

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Thus, if we include in the review the entire history of the space age: 1. Deep Space Network https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Deep_Space_Network Established October 1, 1958

  1. Komandno-Izmeritelniy Kompleks SSSR (KIK SSSR) Established September 3, 1956 http://kik-sssr.ru https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_Deep_Space_Network

  2. Chinese Deep Space Network https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Deep_Space_Network

  3. Indian Deep Space Network https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Deep_Space_Network Established October 17, 2008

  4. European Space Operations Centre https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Space_Operations_Centre Established September 8, 1967

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  • $\begingroup$ It was the forerunner of DSN which was established 1958. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Feb 11 '19 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm... I'm looking for more than a few links to Wikipedia. but at the same time it's not appropriate for me to ask for a comprehensive list of all ground stations. Does each of those links at least contain a list of ground stations? If not, then perhaps links to lists of stations are more suitable than links to Wikipedia. Worst one is the link to European Space Operations Centre which seems to miss the target completely. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 11 '19 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ "Question: Is there a source, or a few sources, that together will describe all of the "main" ground stations used for telemetry, tracking of transmissions (not radar) and communications with deep space missions from launch to transit to destination? Trying to list every site here would be huge and non SE-compliant. Instead, let's identify a few sources which together provide a handle on what will likely turn out to be several dozens of sites." $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 11 '19 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ For example for early years for space age: The Mercury Control Center (MCC), the Coastal Sentry Quebec (CSQ) tracking ship (located at 28.5 deg N, 130 deg E), and Grand Canary Island (CYI) were the only stations able to receive TV. svengrahn.pp.se/radioind/Mercury/TV_coverage_15_May.jpg svengrahn.pp.se/radioind/Mercury/MercuryRadio.html $\endgroup$ – A. Rumlin Feb 12 '19 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ For more distant space, large radio observatory antennas were used at the dawn of the space age. $\endgroup$ – A. Rumlin Feb 12 '19 at 16:59

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