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The primary purpose of the Cape Canaveral Spacecraft Monitoring Station (DSS 71) was to verify, by means of radio-frequency communications, spacecraft performance and telecommunications compatibility with the Deep Space Network during the prelaunch checkout, the launch countdown, and the initial postlaunch (until disappearance over the eastern horizon) phases of a mission. Information on position, velocity, and frequency obtained by this station during the postlaunch phase was transmitted in real time to acquiring Network stations at Ascension Island, Johannesburg, and/or Madrid.
The early Pioneer and Ranger lunar missions were monitored at the Cape with equipment housed in mobile vans. In March 1965, a more permanent facility (shown in the photo) was built at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station near the industrial complex where spacecraft are prepared for mating with the launch vehicle, and approximately 1.6 kilometers (one mile) from the Atlas-Agena, Atlas-Centaur, and Thor-Delta complexes, from which spacecraft were launched in the 1960s.
Because of the short ranges and high angular-tracking rates during the launch phase, the station used two 4-foot-diameter paraboloidal reflector antennas mounted on the roof of the facility. One was used for prelaunch activities and the other was manually steered by means of an optical tracking aid during the launch phase.
After budget constraints led to the closure of DSS 71 in 1974, the building was transferred to the Air Force, while its equipment was integrated into the Merritt Island Launch Annex (MILA) station operated by the Goddard Space Flight Center at the John F. Kennedy Space Center.
DSN Picture Album.