Workers at NASA’s Deep Space Network complex in Goldstone, Calif., have been making precise, laser-assisted measurements to ensure a flat surface for pouring new grout as part of a major renovation on the 70-meter-wide (230-foot-wide) “Mars antenna.”
While officially dubbed Deep Space Station 14, the antenna picked up the Mars name from its first task: tracking NASA’s Mariner 4 spacecraft, which had been lost by smaller antennas after its historic flyby of Mars.
This work represents the first time network engineers have redesigned and replaced the hydrostatic bearing assembly, which enables the antenna to rotate horizontally. To accomplish this, they lifted the entire rotating structure of the giant antenna for the first time.
The hydrostatic bearing assembly puts the weight of the antenna on three pads, which glide on a film of oil around a large steel ring.
The ring measures about 24 meters (79 feet) in diameter and must be flat to work efficiently. After 44 years of near-constant use, the Mars antenna needed a kind of joint replacement, since the bearing assembly had become uneven.