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After the landing of the Viking spacecraft on Mars in 1976, the principal thrust of solar system exploration shifted to missions to the outer planets; i.e., Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. It thus became important to modify the Deep Space Network to reflect the new mission set. The first step in this process was to convert a subnet of 26-meter antennas to 34 meters. This new diameter was chosen as a practical engineering limit that could use most of the existing structure of the 26-meter antennas. The choice was made to convert the Spain and Australia 26-meter antennas that were collocated with 64-meter antennas, and the newer of the two 26-meter antennas at the Goldstone Echo site.
The montage opposite shows various stages of the conversion. The photo in the upper left is the Goldstone antenna at the Echo site in its final stage of completion; the new dual S-X feed cone is being installed. The photo in the upper right shows the Robledo antenna raised on four new 10-foot concrete pillars. The reason for raising the antenna was to allow it to clear the ground when the extended reflector was tilted at the horizon; this was also the case at Goldstone. A new quadripod was constructed to support the new reflector and its positioner. The photo also shows the crane lowering the subreflector into position. The photo lower center shows the completed antenna at Tidbinbilla. Unlike the antennas at Goldstone and Robledo, this antenna was left in its original position; however, two trenches 12 feet deep were constructed in order to allow the extended reflector to clear when it was positioned at horizon.
The conversions were completed in 1979.
DSN Picture Album.