NASA launches new communications satellite

31 January 2013
By Sofia Mitra-Thakur
Mobile version
Share |
The Atlas V rocket with the TDRS-K spacecraft aboard at the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (credit NASA)

The Atlas V rocket with the TDRS-K spacecraft aboard at the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (credit NASA)

An unmanned Atlas V rocket blasted off this week to put the first of a new generation of NASA communications satellites into orbit, where it will support the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope and other spacecraft.

The 191-foot (58-metre) rocket launch is the first of 13 planned launches in 2013 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station just south of NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

Once in position 22,300 miles (35,900 km) above the planet, the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, known as TDRS and built by Boeing, will join a seven-member network that tracks rocket launches and relays communications to and from the space station, the Hubble observatory and other spacecraft circling Earth.

"TDRS-K bolsters our network of satellites that provides essential communications to support space exploration," said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for Space Communications and Navigation at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"It will improve the overall health and longevity of our system."

Two other TDRS spacecraft were decommissioned in 2009 and 2011 respectively and shifted into higher "graveyard" orbits.

A third satellite was lost in the 1986 space shuttle Challenger accident.

NASA used its space shuttle fleet for launching the satellites until 1995, then switched in 2000 to unmanned Atlas rockets, manufactured by United Space Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

With six operational satellites and a seventh spare, NASA can track and communicate with spacecraft in lower orbits, such as the space station, which flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

Before 1983 when the first TDRS was launched, NASA relied on ground-based communications, occasionally supplemented with airplanes and ships, which was expensive to maintain and provided only a fraction of the coverage of an orbiting network.

Three second-generation TDRS spacecraft were launched from 2000 to 2002.

This week's launch was the first of three planned third-generation satellites needed to replace aging members of the constellation.

"It's been a long time since we launched the last one," NASA's TDRS project manager, Jeffrey Gramling, said at a news conference before the launch.

Most of the spacecraft are well beyond their 10-year design life, he added.

"With this launch, NASA has begun the replenishment of our aging space network," said Gramling.

"This addition to our current fleet of seven will provide even greater capabilities to a network that has become key to enabling many of NASA's scientific discoveries."

Initially developed to support the space shuttle and space station programs, the TDRS network now serves a variety of NASA spacecraft and commercial users such as Space Exploration Technologies and foreign space agencies flying cargo ships to and from the station, a $100 billion research laboratory staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts.

The new spacecraft, which cost between $350 million and $400 million, will take about 10 days to reach its intended orbit. It will then go through a three-month checkout before it is put into service, Gramling said.

The 12th and 13th TDRS satellites are targeted for launch in 2014 and December 2015.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1604

"Should the UK's engineers be in or out of Europe? The IET sets out its official position on the EU referendum this week - will you agree?"

->

E&T jobs

  • Solutions Engineer

    Bristol Water
    • United Kingdom
    • £41,000 - 49,000

    We serve a population of over one million people and all the associated businesses in an area of 1,000 square miles centered on Bristol.

    • Recruiter: Bristol Water

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Mechanical Engineer

    Bristol Water
    • United Kingdom
    • £41,000 - 49,000

    We serve a population of over one million people and all the associated businesses in an area of 1,000 square miles centered on Bristol.

    • Recruiter: Bristol Water

    Apply for this job

  • Software Renewals Manager

    BAE Systems
    • Preston, Lancashire, England
    • Negotiable

    Software Renewals Manager Would you like to work in a resourceful and developing role within IT Services? We currently have a vacancy for a Software Renewals Manager at our site in Preston Channel Way. As a Software Renewals Manager, you will be responsi

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Technical Manager

    Aggregate Industries
    • Hulland Ward, Ashbourne
    • Attractive salary plus comprehensive benefits

    A key Technical Manager role driving product improvement and compliance with Aggregate Industries, market leader in Construction Solutions.

    • Recruiter: Aggregate Industries

    Apply for this job

  • Field Application Engineer

    Intel
    • Madrid

    Responsible for giving product presentations to the customer describing how Intel products provide the optimum solution to their application.

    • Recruiter: Intel

    Apply for this job

  • Engineers and Scientists

    European Patent Office
    • Munich and The Hague
    • See job description

    We are looking for Engineers and scientists in various technical fields for our locations in Munich and The Hague.

    • Recruiter: European Patent Office

    Apply for this job

  • Director of Product Management

    EMS Recruitment Group
    • West Yorkshire
    • Circa £70,000 PA + car allowance, excellent benefits including lucrative bonus scheme

    Our client is the undoubted world leader in their field. A highly innovative and progressive specialist electro-mechanical product manufacturer....

    • Recruiter: EMS Recruitment Group

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Engineer

    Premium job

    Scottish Prison Service
    • Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh
    • £40,654 to £48,579 plus annual supplement of £10,000

    Build Your Engineering Career. The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is an Agency of the Scottish Government, working in partnership.....

    • Recruiter: Scottish Prison Service

    Apply for this job

  • Sales Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Precision Microdrives
    • London (Greater)
    • £25,000 - £30,000 starting salary, inclusive of on-target commissions.

    Precision Microdrives (PMD) is a fast growing technology company that designs, produces and trades miniature electro-mechanical mechanisms

    • Recruiter: Precision Microdrives

    Apply for this job

  • Installation and Commissioning Engineer

    Premium job

    Crest Solutions
    • Corby
    • Competitive

    You will be involved in installation, commissioning & servicing of printing and machine vision related solutions.

    • Recruiter: Crest Solutions

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T