NASA accepts third generation TDRS into network

Aug 19, 2013
This is TDRS-k, ready for launch. Credit: Boeing

NASA has accepted ownership of its newest Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) from Boeing after successfully completing in orbit testing. TDRS-K, will be renamed TDRS-11 upon entry into service.

"This is a major step in replenishing an aging TDRS fleet which is essential in providing communications to support space exploration," said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for Space Communications and Navigation at NASA Headquarters. "We look forward to the launch of two additional satellites in the next few years to complete the replenishment program."

The TDRS fleet provides communications support to an array of , as well as several launch vehicles. The network has provided critical real-time communication with NASA's human spaceflights since early in the Space Shuttle Program. TDRS network operations continue to provide support for International Space Station activities.

"The acceptance of this spacecraft is the result of many years of hard work by dedicated team members at NASA and Boeing," said Jeffrey Gramling, TDRS project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "This next generation of spacecraft ensure network continuity for at least another decade."

Goddard is home to the TDRS Project Office, which is responsible for the development and launch of the communication satellites. The Boeing Company headquartered in Chicago, Ill., is the private contractor for the TDRS K, L and M satellites. TDRS is the space element of NASA's Space Network, providing the critical communication lifeline for NASA missions. 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 NASA's Space Network.

The TDRS fleet now consists of eight satellites with ground stations at White Sands, N.M. and Guam. NASA's upgrade to the network includes modifications to those ground terminals.

The TDRS Project was established in 1973 to provide continuous communications to NASA's critical low Earth-orbiting science and human spaceflight missions. When TDRS-1 was launched from shuttle Challenger in 1983, TDRS spacecraft were the largest, most sophisticated ever built. TDRS-1 provided NASA an exponential increase in data rates and contact time communicating with spacecraft.

NASA continued adding TDRS spacecraft (the first seven were built by TRW, later to become Northrop Grumman) until 1995. TDRS-2 was lost during the Challenger accident in 1986. From 2000 to 2002, NASA added three spacecraft to the fleet, establishing the second generation. The H, I, and J, satellites were built by Hughes (later to become Boeing) and continue to operate along with members of the now aging first generation. TDRS-1 was retired in 2010 and TDRS-4 in 2011.

On Jan. 30, TDRS-K was launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Before this year's launch it had been 10 years since NASA last added a TDRS to the network. These next-generation satellites are being built at Boeing's Space & Intelligence Systems in El Segundo, Calif.

TDRS-K, L, M, together with the other spacecraft that continue to operate well beyond their design life, will ensure NASA's critical missions will be supported into the 2020's. The launch of TDRS-L is slated for January 2014 and TDRS-M will be ready for launch in December of 2015.

Explore further: Heavy metal frost? A new look at a Venusian mystery

More information: tdrs.gsfc.nasa.gov/
www.nasa.gov/SCaN

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA to upgrade vital communications link

Oct 06, 2012

Technicians and engineers are completing final system checks and spacecraft inspections on the first of NASA's third-generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS). Boeing Space Systems will ship TDRS-K ...

NASA launches communication satellite

Jan 31, 2013

NASA launched a new communication satellite Wednesday to stay in touch with its space station astronauts and relay more Hubble telescope images.

All systems go for next communication spacecraft

Nov 21, 2011

The most recent evaluations of NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) project confirmed all systems go for a third generation upgrade of the orbiting communications network. TDRS-K is scheduled for ...

TDRS spacecraft pass system level reviews

Feb 22, 2010

NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) K-L program completed its Critical Design Review (CDR) and Production Readiness Review (PRR) in El Segundo, Calif. on Feb. 19.

Recommended for you

MAVEN studies passing comet and its effects

53 minutes ago

NASA's newest orbiter at Mars, MAVEN, took precautions to avoid harm from a dust-spewing comet that flew near Mars today and is studying the flyby's effects on the Red Planet's atmosphere.

How to safely enjoy the October 23 partial solar eclipse

1 hour ago

2014 – a year rich in eclipses. The Moon dutifully slid into Earth's shadow in April and October gifting us with two total lunars. Now it's the Sun's turn. This Thursday October 23 skywatchers across much ...

How to grip an asteroid

1 hour ago

For someone like Edward Fouad, a junior at Caltech who has always been interested in robotics and mechanical engineering, it was an ideal project: help develop robotic technology that could one day fly on ...

Image: Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

3 hours ago

It was 45 years ago when astronomer Klim Churyumov and Svetlana Gerasimenko, one of his researchers, unwittingly began a new chapter in the history of space exploration.

Extreme ultraviolet image of a significant solar flare

4 hours ago

The sun emitted a significant solar flare on Oct. 19, 2014, peaking at 1:01 a.m. EDT. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is always observing the sun, captured this image of the event in extreme ultraviolet ...

Heavy metal frost? A new look at a Venusian mystery

23 hours ago

Venus is hiding something beneath its brilliant shroud of clouds: a first order mystery about the planet that researchers may be a little closer to solving because of a new re-analysis of twenty-year-old ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Rutzs
3 / 5 (2) Aug 20, 2013
Would be nice if the article gave a little more detail about the comparison between the three generations of communications satellites. Details such as bandwidth, and new capabilities.
Rutzs
1 / 5 (1) Aug 20, 2013
Double post, can't delete. Srry.