Atlas V carries communications satellite for NASA into orbit

Atlas V carries communications satellite for NASA into orbit

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NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System will get an upgrade as the agency launched the first of a new generation of communications satellites at 8:48 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral.

The TDRS system provides a critical communications link to Earth for the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope and many satellites.

From their vantage points in geosynchronous Earth orbit, TDRS satellites stay in contact with primary ground facilities at the White Sands Complex in New Mexico and an additional station in Guam.

The first satellite in the TDRS constellation launched in 1983 aboard space shuttle Challenger.  A total of nine TDRS spacecraft have been deployed, with seven still operating. The addition of the TDRS-K spacecraft will help ensure the continuity of this mission-critical network.

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