NASA's New Tracking and Data Relay Satellite Debuts

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), an agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research, launched a new Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) last Wednesday 8:48 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The said spacecraft is NASA's eleventh TDRS to be used for communications with the International Space Station and to relay more images from the Hubble Telescope. Also, according to NASA, such spacecrafts will "provide tracking, telemetry, command and high-bandwidth data return services for numerous science and human exploration missions orbiting Earth."

"TDRS-K bolsters our network of satellites that provides essential communications to support space exploration. It will improve the overall health and longevity of our system," said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for Space Communications and Navigation at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The letter K designation (TDRS-K) is currently the spacecraft's name that will be changed into TDRS-11 once it reaches its destination. Launched by United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Atlas V Rocket after the three-month test phase, the spacecraft is expected to be on its intended location (22-300 mile-high) in approximately two weeks. Its operations, though, will take place in a couple of months.

Jeffrey Gramling, TDRS project manager said "With this launch, NASA has begun the replenishment of our aging space network.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."

Also, according to NASA, "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."

TDRS-L, the next-generation TDRS spacecraft, is expected to launch next year.


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