The X-band Acquisition Aid (AAP) software is a low-cost acquisition aid for the Deep Space Network (DSN) antennas, and is used while acquiring a spacecraft shortly after it has launched. When enabled, the acquisition aid provides corrections to the antenna-predicted trajectory of the spacecraft to compensate for the variations that occur during the actual launch. The AAP software also provides the corrections to the antenna-predicted trajectory to the navigation team that uses the corrections to refine their model of the spacecraft in order to produce improved antenna-predicted trajectories for each spacecraft that passes over each complex.

The software provides an automated Acquisition Aid receiver calibration, and provides graphical displays to the operator and remote viewers via an Ethernet connection. It has a Web server, and the remote workstations use the Firefox browser to view the displays. At any given time, only one operator can control any particular display in order to avoid conflicting commands from more than one control point. The configuration and control is accomplished solely via the graphical displays. The operator does not have to remember any commands. Only a few configuration parameters need to be changed, and can be saved to the appropriate spacecraft-dependent configuration file on the AAP’s hard disk.

AAP automates the calibration sequence by first commanding the antenna to the correct position, starting the receiver calibration sequence, and then providing the operator with the option of accepting or rejecting the new calibration parameters. If accepted, the new parameters are stored in the appropriate spacecraft-dependent configuration file. The calibration can be performed on the Sun, greatly expanding the window of opportunity for calibration. The spacecraft traditionally used for calibration is in view typically twice per day, and only for about ten minutes each pass.

This work was done by Michael J. Britcliffe and Martha M. Strain of Caltech and Michael Wert of ITT for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at under the Software category.

The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Daniel Broderick of the California Institute of Technology at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Refer to NPO-47004.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
X-Band Acquisition Aid Software

(reference NPO-47004) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the February, 2011 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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