Image above: The TDRS-K spacecraft stands inside a processing hangar in Titusville, Fla., awaiting packaging for launch into orbit 22,300 miles above Earth. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

Image above: An artist concept of the TDRS-K spacecraft in orbit with its assortment
of antennas and a pair of solar arrays to provide electricity. Credit: The Boeing Co.

TDRS-K Offers Upgrade to Vital Communications Net


NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System will get an upgrade this month when the agency launches the first of a new generation of communications satellites to connect spacecraft to the ground stations that support them.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 is due to loft the TDRS-K spacecraft Jan. 29 on a course to geosynchronous orbit where the spacecraft will have a wide view of Earth. From that position, the spacecraft will pick up signals from NASA’s fleet of Earth-orbiting science spacecraft, including the International Space Station and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and relay them to ground stations.

The advanced spacecraft, also known as TDRSS for the whole system or TDRS for an individual spacecraft and its greater capacity is needed to keep the communications network on pace as NASA’s fleet of research satellites has increased.

“It has some higher bandwidth speeds,” said Diana Calero, mission manager for NASA’s Launch Services Program, or LSP, based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “We have some aging satellites, so we need some new spacecraft to go in there and carry some more of the bandwidth.”

Read more: NASA – TDRS-K Offers Upgrade to Vital Communications Net.

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