NASA completes next-gen communications satellite launches

August 21, 2017 //By Jean-Pierre Joosting
The third and final in a series of next generation NASA communications satellites, the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) has successfully been placed into orbit following separation from an United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.

According to ground control, the satellite is in good health at the start of a four-month checkout in space by its manufacturer, Boeing. NASA will conduct additional tests before putting TDRS-M into service early next year. When ready, TDRS-M will become part of NASA's Space Network providing navigation and high-data-rate communications to the International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope, rockets and a host of other spacecraft.

"The TDRS fleet is a critical connection delivering science and human spaceflight data to those who can use it here on Earth," said Dave Littmann, the TDRS project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "TDRS-M will expand the capabilities and extend the lifespan of the Space Network, allowing us to continue receiving and transmitting mission data well into the next decade."

The mission of the TDRS project, established in 1973, is to develop, launch and deliver data communications relay spacecraft to support NASA's Space Network, which provides high-data-rate communications and accurate navigation. The TDRS-M spacecraft is effectively identical – in both function and performance – to the TDRS-K and -L spacecraft launched in 2013 and 2014, respectively.