Designed for 15 years of operations, NASA's TDRS-K climbs through darkened Florida skies toward geosynchronous orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V-401. Image Credit: NASA-TV.
The first of a new generation of NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellites roared into geosynchronous transfer orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket late Wednesday -- the first addition to the aging seven spacecraft communications constellation in a decade.
The Atlas V 401 with Centaur upper stage lifted off at 8:48 p.m., EST, rising from Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on an easterly trajectory. Two burns of the Centaur over the first one hour, 46 minutes of flight achieved the intended 2,680 by 22,238 mile high transfer orbit.
“We’ve got a customer quite thrilled to have a healthy satellite in orbit,” said Tim Dunn, the NASA launch director.
Following the transfer period and several weeks of checkout, TDRS K will be eligible to join the 30-year old NASA Space Network satellite fleet supporting near continuous voice, telemetry and high data rate communications with International Space Station astronauts, the Hubble Space Telescope, a growing fleet of U. S. Earth observing spacecraft operated by
multiple agencies and other astronomical observatories.
The high winds associated with a cold front approaching Central Florida remained below launch constraints. During the countdown, the launch team worked around faulty sensor readings from the inner tank liquid oxygen fill and drain valve assembly.