Nasa's New Communications Satellite Launched (Video)
An Atlas V rocket, operated by United Launch Alliance, successfully launched NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-K) payload at 8:48 p.m. EST on January 30 from the Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral. It is the first of three new generation communication satellites for the orbital operations of NASA.
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"With this launch, NASA has begun the replenishment of our aging space network," said Jeffrey Gramling, TDRS project manager at NASA. "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 scientific discoveries."
NASA established the TDRS project in 1973 to provide around-the-clock and around-the-Earth communications providing tracking, telemetry, command and high-bandwidth data return services for numerous science and human exploration missions orbiting Earth, like the International Space Station, or the Hubble Space Telescope.
The new generation of 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.