Construction of a new deep space antenna that is set to contribute to space exploration will commence at the sleepy, monastic town of New Norcia from Thursday. The joint project between the European Space Agency and the Australian Space Agency will see the construction of the 620-tonne NNO-3 antenna at the ESA’s New Norcia Deep Space Ground Station, 140km north of Perth. The project will create more than 100 jobs during construction. ESA director general Josef Aschbacher said the new antenna will ensure Europe’s continued autonomous capacity to fly exploratory missions and support upcoming space safety missions. Mr Aschbacher said the project will also strengthen ESA’s relationship with Australia. ASA head Enrico Palermo said the company looked to continually grow the local space sector. “This project will extend Australia and Western Australia’s pedigree and heritage in deep space communications, which can be traced right back to the 1950s,” Mr Palermo said. “It will also unlock the exchange of new technical know-how, as Australian suppliers help design, develop and test the antenna.” The antenna will support numerous ESA missions and form part of a network which provide communication links between spacecraft and the European Space Operations Centre in Germany. Newly appointed Federal Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic said the project will build skills that are important in developing Australia’s space sector. “Having projects like this here (in WA), it gives a signal to Australians that... we’re valuing the skills that are being developed on home turf,” he said. “They don’t need to go offshore to pursue their ideas or develop their businesses, and the commercial and economic advantage of that is a big deal for the Australian economy, especially in WA.” Construction of the new antenna is slated for 2024 and will be operational from 2025.