NASA has launched the Next-Generation Communications Satellite after about 11 years

The Atlas V rocket with the TDRS-K spacecraft aboard at the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida (Credit: NASA)NASA has launched the first of three next-generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS), known as TDRS-K, into space on Wednesday night from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, after about 11 years. The next TDRS spacecraft, dubbed as TDRS-L, is planned to be launched by next year while the TDRS-M’s manufacturing process will be completed by 2015.

Actually the TDRS project was established about 40 years ago. TDRS-A was launched in 1983 and the last TDRS i.e. TDRS-J was launched 11 years ago in 2002.

TDRS-K was launched into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, which you can see in the picture, from Space Launch Complex-41. Small thrusters on TDRS-K will spend the next 10 days circularizing the spacecraft’s orbit at an altitude of 22,300 miles.

It will be in three month testing phase before acceptance of the spacecraft for further evaluation before putting the satellite into service.

“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.”

This system will give various science and human exploration services such as tracking, telemetry, and command and high-bandwidth data orbiting around the Earth. The International Space Station, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the agency’s fleet of Earth observation satellites are among the users of the TDRS.

“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 scientific discoveries.”