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Upgrading NASA’s Vital Communications Link |

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 from its satellite assembly facility in El Segundo, Calif., to Cape Canaveral, Fla., in November. The December launch of TDRS-K will be aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is home to the team responsible for building and launching these satellites. Once in orbit, the new satellite will become part of NASA’s Space Network, which incorporates a fleet of TDRS spacecraft. Currently, seven first- and second-generation satellites are connected in real-time to a series of ground stations and data facilities. This network provides the critical communications lifeline for NASA missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station.

NASA established the TDRS project in 1973 to provide around-the-clock communications to the agency’s most critical missions in low Earth orbit. The TDRS design also increases the data rate of the space-to-ground communication service. The resulting system is a set of geosynchronous relay satellites distributed around the globe. Ground terminals complete the system, connecting scientists and engineers on Earth with satellites in orbit. continue reading

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