NASA officials broke groun near Canberra, Australia on Wednesday, beginning a new antenna-building campaign to improve Deep Space Network communications.
The agency's goal is to integrate all NASA communications resources into a unified, more capable network.
The new antennas, known as beam wave guide antennas, can be used more flexibly, allowing the network to operate on several different frequency bands within the same antenna, NASA said.
Officials said the new network will allow for less maintenance while making use of higher-frequency, wider-bandwidth signals to carry more information.
In the first phase of the project near Canberra, NASA expects to complete the building of up to three 34-meter antennas by 2018.
The decision to begin construction came on the 50th anniversary of U.S. and Australian cooperation in space tracking operations.
There is no better way to celebrate our 50 years of collaboration and partnership in exploring the heavens with the government of Australia than our renewed commitment and investment in new capabilities required for the next five decades, said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for Space Communications and Navigation at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization manages the communication complex near Canberra for NASA.