MILA was a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Tracking Station located on Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Merritt Island Florida. The name "MILA" is an acronym derived from the Merritt Island Launch Annex to Cape Canaveral, which was the previous name of the area that eventually became Kennedy Space Center.




1966: The station was established by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center as one of the 17 member ground station Manned Space Flight Network to provide earth orbital support to the Apollo program. The first active mission support was the reception of television via S-Band during the Apollo/Saturn-203 mission, launched July 5, 1966 to study the performance of the liquid hydrogen fuel in the S-IVB during the boost stage to verify on-orbit restart capability.


Shortly afterward the station was equipped with a complete set of remote-site flight controller consoles in order to train Johnson Space Center engineers during prelaunch testing of the Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM) and Lunar Module (LM). These consoles were used until the end of the Apollo Program in December, 1972.


When S-band transmitters were added to NASA's Delta and Atlas/Centaur Expendable Launch Vehicles, MILA began to support those programs as well as continuing that for Apollo/Skylab and Apollo/Soyuz Test Project.


1972: The Fort Myers, Florida Space Tracking and Data Acquisition Network (STADAN) station was closed, and its systems relocated to the MILA station to enhance support to unmanned scientific satellites using Very High Frequency (VHF) signals. Around this same time, the Manned Space Flight Network became the Ground Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network (GSTDN).


1974: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Deep Space Network Compatibility Station (DSS-71) at Cape Canaveral was closed and its systems relocated to the MILA station. This facility was renamed MIL-71 and provided support to planetary and deep space missions conducted by the Pasadena Mission Control Center. The first mission supported by MIL-71 was the Helios-1 sun probe launched December 10, 1974.


1978: As the need for ever increasing real-time data rates to mission control centers rose to 224 kilobits per second and higher, the first Domestic Satellite (DOMSAT) Earth Station was established for the JPL "SEASAT" ocean survey program launched June 27, 1978. The DOMSAT Earth Station relays communications between locations in the U.S. using stationary satellites instead of land lines. (There were three DOMSAT Earth Stations at MILA until they were replaced by fiber optics systems. One Earth Station located at KSC is currently in use.)


1979: In order to provide S-band communications around the Space Shuttle solid rocket booster plume (which contains aluminum perchlorate, and strongly attenuates high frequency S-band signals), a "wing site" tracking station was constructed some 40 miles north of MILA at New Smyrna Beach's Ponce DeLeon Inlet (PDL). The PDL wing site communicates with the MILA base station via a three-hop microwave system with towers at Shiloh and North Wilson.



1980: The MILA Relay System (MRS) was constructed to enable KSC area users to communicate via the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) in stationary orbit above the Atlantic Ocean. The MRS relays S-band and Ku-band signals for prelaunch verification of the user's compatibility with the space-based TDRS network. This "Bent Pipe" radio frequency MRS is unique in design, and is the only one in existence. (The first TDRS was launched April 4, 1983 on STS-6.) The use of the VHF system to support unmanned satellites was terminated, and the system removed.


1986: An additional S-band antenna system called the Two-In-Flow Antenna System was added to support KSC operations simultaneous with use of the other S-band tracking antennas. (This was subsequently displaced by the UHF Quad Helix system.) During this same time period, the GSTDN was gradually reduced, because of the growing use of the TDRS system, until only 2 stations remain, MILA/PDL and Bermuda (BDA).


1990: A distributive processing Telemetry and Communications Data System (TCDS) replaced the Apollo/Skylab era data equipment. This system contains over 30 microprocessors communicating over 4 parallel Ethernet links.


1992: An Ultra High Frequency (UHF) voice system with cross dipole antenna was added to PDL to be used as a backup to the S-Band Forward Link during the time MILA is blocked by the Solid Rocket Motor plume.


1995: Fiber Optics replaced Satellite communications between control centers. The three DOMSAT Earth Stations at MILA were removed.


1996: An Ultra High Frequency (UHF) voice system with Quad-Helix Antenna was added to MILA to backup the UHF Teltrac Antenna in case of a Return To Landing Site Abort. This system displaced the Two In Flow S-Band Antenna.


1998: Work Station controlled electronic equipment is being installed at MILA as part of the MILA/Bermuda Reengineering project. Walls that previously separated the Comm and USB sections have been removed to house the new equipment.


2011: MILA Tracks its Last Launch and Landing - On July 21, 2011 after the landing of STS-135 MILA supported its last mission. It served as the primary voice and data link during the first 7 1/2 minutes of each Space Shuttle flight and the final 13 minutes of each shuttle landing. It was replaced with a new tracking site in the KSC industrial area called the Kennedy Uplink Station (KUS) which will be used for all future manned missions from KSC. KUS is managed by the Goddard Spaceflight Center (GSFC).




Spacecraft Communicating Antennas


Two 9-meter (30-foot) diameter S-Band dish antennas used to track moving space vehicles.


Two 3-meter (10-foot) diameter dish antennas used primarily to relay data between KSC projects and the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). One antenna, on top of the 140-foot "TDRS Relay" Tower, points to a TDRS user and is connected to the other antenna which points to the TDRS in stationary orbit.


Two UHF tracking antennas, a Teltrac and a Quad Helix, used for voice communication with the Astronauts in the Space Shuttle Orbiter. These antennas are slaved to one of the S-band tracking antennas to point at the Space Shuttle Orbiter during Ascent, Orbit or Landing.


Two 1.2-meter (4-foot) diameter dish antennas used by MIL-71 to communicate with Deep Space Network payloads during KSC processing. One antenna is for S-band, the other for X-Band, and they are mounted near the top of the 140-foot "TDRS Relay" tower. When MILA was decommissioned, MIL-71 was relocated to the Mission Operations Support Building (MOSB) at Kennedy Space Center and is maintained in a caretaker status between launches. It is implemented as needed to simulate a 34-m Beam Waveguide (BWG) station for pre-launch testing and DSN compatibility. MIL-71 RF interfaces connect via fiber optic links to various launch support facilities and project control centers via NISN ground communications circuits.


A 4.3 meter (15 foot) diameter dish S-band antenna connected whenever a 9 meter antenna is removed from service for refurbishment.



Support Antennas


Two 1.2-meter (4-foot) S-band and a smaller Ku-band antenna on top of the 140 feet high Collimation Tower located about 3/4 mile north of the station. These antennas are used to calibrate and test the steerable antennas.


One 1.8-meter (6-foot) Microwave antenna on the Collimation Tower to communicate with the Ponce DeLeon (PDL) tracking station. The three-hop microwave link between MILA and PDL makes use of microwave repeater towers at Wilson and Shiloh.


Two stationary Discone UHF Antennas used to monitor the moveable UHF tracking antennas.


One Short-Wave Antenna for monitoring the U.S. Bureau of Standards calibrated timing station (WWV from Boulder, Colorado).





Locations of Some KSC/CCAFS Gates


Gate 2



Gate 2B

NASA Parkway East (just west of HDQTRS Building)


Gate 3

NASA Causeway West (SR405)


Gate 4

Kennedy Parkway North (just south of Beach Road)


Gate 1 (South Gate)

Phillips Parkway (just north of SR528/A1A)


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Last Updated October 21, 2011 09:25:51 EDT
Jim Dumoulin (Redacted)