NASA, United Launch Alliance, Boeing help launch third-generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellite

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., 31 Jan. 2013. NASA officials launched a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS)-K spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida last night.

TDRS-K, which will be renamed to TDRS-11 when it becomes functional, is the eleventh TDRS satellite NASA has launched, and it the first of NASA’s third generation of tracking stations.

The third-generation satellites are manufactured by Boeing’s Satellite Systems division. Boeing won the NASA contract for TDRS-K and -L in Dec. 2007; in Nov. 2011, NASA ordered the TDRS-M third-generation satellite.

 The events that transpired during the launch include:

  • TDRS-K was perched atop a two-stage United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket. 
  • During tanking operations, the Atlas booster was filled with 48,860 gallons of liquid oxygen and 25,540 gallons of RP-1 fuel.
  • The Centaur upper stage was loaded with 4,150 gallons of liquid oxygen and 12,680 gallons of liquid hydrogen.
  • The Centaur upper stage separated from the TDRS-K spacecraft, releasing it in a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

The TDR-K carries small thrusters that will spend the next 10 days circularizing the spacecraft's orbit at an altitude of 22,300 miles. From that position, the TDRS-K will be able to relay signals from NASA spacecraft orbiting the Earth to ground stations.

The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) Project is providing follow-on and replacement spacecraft necessary to maintain and expand the Space Network, according to NASA.

The TDRS communications satellite is part of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) used by NASA and other United States government agencies for communications.

TDRSS replaces a worldwide network of ground stations used to support NASA's manned flight missions and unmanned satellites in low-Earth orbits. Objectives include: increasing the length of time that these spacecraft are in communication with the ground and improving the amount of data that can be transferred.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages all the TDRSS satellites.


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