Currently, NASA is going all guns blazing for improving its ground stations that are being utilized as the backup system for the purpose of maintaining the communication linkup with the International Space Station(ISS). Currently, the primary way of communicating with the ISS is the space network of NASA. The process of communication mainly depends upon a constellation of Tracking as well as Data Relay satellites in the geostationary orbit. For the purpose of back up the agency also keeps a system of ground stations which is responsible for receiving and transmitting very high-frequency radio waves. To be precise the system uses two main frequencies- VHF1 and VHF-2
As per the data released by NASA, the main objective of VHF1 is to communicate with the ISS for emergency audio only. While the main objective of VHF2 is to communicate with Soyuz in case of out of range of Russian VHF ground stations which helps to ensure proper communication is established at the time of every orbital movement with the ISS as well as Soyuz aircraft.
As per the NASA press release, the up gradation would involve improving on the electronic components as well as enhance the features of new software for the purpose of tracking the station and the Soyuz. Further to this arrangement, the space agency has also mentioned that new antennas will be deployed at the ground stations so that parallel operations for both VHF1 and VHF2 are possible. This is done to ensure that if one communication channel fails another one will be there for continued operations.
Mark Severance who is the human spaceflight communications and tracking network director has rightly mentioned that maintaining the communication channel between the ground station and the crew at the outer space is very important for the success of any mission. This communication network is also very essential for the safety of the crew members. He also added that the VHF network of NASA along with the network of Russia is meant for doing this only.
NASA has got two VHF ground stations- one of them are located at Wallops Island in Virginia while the other one is located in NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Centre which is located in California. This is mainly done to cover the maximum area over North America. These ground stations are managed by Goddard Space Flight Centre in NASA, while the Russian VHF ground stations are positioned all across the country.