[Satellite TODAY 01-31-13] NASA has successfully launched a new Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) Wednesday. The spacecraft is the agency’s 11th TDRS and will be used for communications with the International Space Station and to relay more images from the Hubble Telescope.
Currently, the new TDRS carries the letter K designation (TDRS-K), but once it starts operations it will be dubbed TDRS-11. The satellite, launched by ULA’s Atlas V rocket, will reach its intended 22,300-mile-high orbit in approximately two weeks. Once in place, testing will begin and carry on for a few months.
NASA expects to have at least seven of these satellites simultaneously working in orbit at all times. The TDRS-K will make eight at the current time. Additionally, the agency has already scheduled the next launch for the TDRS-L next year. The first TDRS was launched in 1983 and was recently retired along with the fourth.