[Satellite TODAY 10-08-12] NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is completing final testing and inspections on the agency’s third-generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS), where the first satellite, TDRS-K, is scheduled to be launched in December, NASA announced Oct. 8.
“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,” NASA said in a company statement. “This network provides the critical communications lifeline for NASA missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station.”
The TDRS project, established by NASA in 1973, was created to provide constant communications to the agency’s most critical missions in low Earth orbit, while also increasing the data rate of space-to-ground communication service. The first TDRS was launched in April 1983, and first generation spacecraft continued to be launched by NASA until 1995. NASA then added three second-generation TDRS between 2000 and 2002. In recognition of the aging fleet, NASA engineers are currently working to replenish the fleet with the new, third-generation of TDRS satellites.
NASA plans to launch three, next generation satellites aiming to maintain the TDRS constellation’s reliability and operational continuity: TDRS-K, TDRS-L scheduled to launch in 2013, and TDRS-M planned to launch in 2015.