NASA has announced that the first of the three next-generation tracking and data relay satellites, or TDRS, known as TDRS-K, has been launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
"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."
The TDRS system provides tracking, telemetry, command and high-bandwidth data return services for numerous science and human exploration missions orbiting Earth. These include the International Space Station and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the company said.
The TDRS-K spacecraft includes several modifications from older satellites in the TDRS system, including redesigned telecommunications payload electronics and a solar panel designed for more spacecraft power to meet S-band requirements. Another design change, the return to ground-based processing of data, will allow the system to service more customers, the company added.