Peregrine Falcon Nalla Helps Keep Space Antenna Clear Of Birds

The Cebreros space antenna needs to stay free of birds, and they're helped by another avian companion.

Nalla the peregrine falcon helps keep a space antenna clean.
Nalla, a female peregrine falcon, with her handler, Adrian Rubio Botello.

If you have a giant space antenna, don? be surprised if birds are drawn to it. That? what is happening at the European Space Agency? Cebreros tracking station that? near Madrid, Spain, which often attracts birds, who use it as a toilet or try to build a nest on it. Needing to keep the space antenna clean, the team at the tracking station decided to employ the services of another bird: A peregrine falcon.

That falcon? name is Nalla, pictured here with her handler, Adrian Rubio Botello, and she helps keep the space antenna clean. Using her “persuasive abilities?as researchers at the tracking station call it, she keeps the other birds away. With her help, the Cebreros tracking station is free to keep communicating to missions voyaging almost 500 million miles away.

In 2015, the European Space Agency is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Estrack, the Agency? ground station network. The Cebreros tracking station is part of that too. According to the ESA:

Estrack provides the indispensable communications link to spacecraft that are helping us to learn about our planet, our Solar System and our Universe.

Over four decades, Estrack has expanded globally and today employs cutting-edge technology to link scientists and mission controllers with spacecraft orbiting Earth, watching our Sun, studying stars and voyaging deep into space.

Estrack has stations on three continents, all remotely operated from the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. 

The network is now tracking more than a dozen science and Earth observation missions, including Swarm, the Sentinels, Rosetta, Gaia and Mars Express.

That a bird is helping out with that is cool in our books. What do you think of Nalla, the peregrine falcon helping researchers in her own way? Let us know in the comments.

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