Image: Tracking and Data Relay satellite prepared for launch
Inside the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Fla., NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, or TDRS-L, spacecraft has been encapsulated in its payload fairing. It is being lifted by crane for mounting on a transporter for its trip to Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The TDRS-L satellite will be a part of the second of three next-generation spacecraft designed to ensure vital operational continuity for the NASA Space Network. TDRS-L is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex 41 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 9:05 p.m. EST on Jan. 23, 2014, the start of a 30-minute launch window.
The current Tracking and Data Relay Satellite system consists of eight in-orbit satellites distributed to provide near continuous information relay contact with orbiting spacecraft ranging from the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope to the array of scientific observatories.