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New NASA VGOS Antenna Installed and Passes Site Acceptance Test at McDonald Observatory

NASA and University of Texas Team at McDonald Geodetic Observatory in front of new NASA VGOS Antenna, March 3, 2019 (Photo, courtesy Univ. of Texas)
"Photo of the NASA visitors, and the University of Texas team at the McDonald Geodetic Observatory, Fort Davis, Texas, in front of the new NASA VLBI Geodetic Observing System (VGOS) antenna, on March 3, 2019 (Photo courtesy of the University of Texas)."

The NASA Space Geodesy Project (SGP) has taken the next step in expanding the NASA Space Geodesy Network (NSGN) with the procurement of a VLBI Global Observing System (VGOS) 12-m radio telescope for a new core site located at the McDonald Observatory, near Fort Davis, Texas. Intertronic Solutions Inc. completed the installation of the antenna early in February 2019. An engineering room-temperature feed, developed and installed by MIT/Haystack Observatory, was used to support the pointing tests. On February 15, 2019 several extragalactic sources were observed. The antenna successfully passed the Site Acceptance Test (SAT) on February 20, 2019. A cryogenic, broad-band signal chain will be installed in April 2019. Afterwards the station will begin commissioning activities, and later in the year will being participating in VGOS test sessions, organized in coordination with the International VLBI Service for Geodesy and Astrometry (IVS).

Contact Stephen Merkowitz ( for more information.

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The laboratory performs broad research, in the areas of Earth time variable and static geopotential and geomagnetic fields, Earth orientation, surface deformation, characterization and change, tides, land ice mass evolution, global and regional sea level, and airborne and spaceborne laser altimetry. The laboratory also supports many NASA missions in fundamental and core capabilities including satellite radar and laser altimetry precise positioning, pointing, ranging, timing, geolocation and calibration and validation. The laboratory is a leader in the design, development, implementation and application of airborne and spaceborne geodetic laser altimeter technology and instruments including NASA’s Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor (LVIS) and the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation Lidar (GEDI). The laboratory is the home of the Space Geodesy Project which encompasses the management, development, operation and maintenance of NASA’s Space Geodetic Network that is comprised of the four major space geodetic observing systems: Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR), Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), and the Doppler Orbitography and Radio-positioning by integrated Satellite (DORIS) system. It is also home to the Crustal Dynamics Data Information System dedicated to the archive and distribution of space geodesy related data sets; as well as the home to GEODYN, NASA’s state-of-the-art geodetic parameter estimation and precision orbit determination system.

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Scott B Luthcke
Chief [61A]
Terence J Sabaka

General inquiries about the scientific programs at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center may be directed to the Center Office of Communications at 1.301.286.8955.

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