A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket blasts off from Space Launch Complex-41 with NASAs Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-K) payload. This was the first of 13 ULA launches scheduled for 2013, the 35th Atlas V mission, and the 67th ULA launch.
Photo courtesy United Launch Alliance
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The first of NASA’s three next-generation
Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS), known as TDRS-K, launched
at 8:48 p.m. EST Wednesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in
“TDRS-K bolsters our network of satellites that provides essential
communications to support space exploration,” said Badri Younes,
deputy associate administrator for Space Communications and
Navigation at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It will improve the
overall health and longevity of our system.”
The TDRS system provides tracking, telemetry, command and
high-bandwidth data return services for numerous science and human
exploration missions orbiting Earth. These include the International
Space Station and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
“With this launch, NASA has begun the replenishment of our aging space
network,” said Jeffrey Gramling, TDRS project manager. “This addition
to our current fleet of seven will provide even greater capabilities
to a network that has become key to enabling many of NASA’s
TDRS-K was lifted into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V
rocket from Space Launch Complex-41. After a three-month test phase,
NASA will accept the spacecraft for additional evaluation before
putting the satellite into service.
The TDRS-K spacecraft includes several modifications from older
satellites in the TDRS system, including redesigned
telecommunications payload electronics and a high-performance solar
panel designed for more spacecraft power to meet growing S-band
requirements. Another significant design change, the return to
ground-based processing of data, will allow the system to service
more customers with evolving communication requirements.
The next TDRS spacecraft, TDRS-L, is scheduled for launch in 2014.
TDRS-M’s manufacturing process will be completed in 2015.
NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation Program, part of the Human
Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the agency’s
Headquarters in Washington, is responsible for the space network. The
TDRS Project Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in
Greenbelt, Md., manages the TDRS development program. Launch services
were provided by United Launch Alliance. NASA’s Launch Services
Program at the Kennedy Space Center was responsible for acquisition
of launch services.
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