NASA's next-generation track tracking and communications network has been completed, with the sixth and last data relay satellite (TDRS) on track. The satellite made by Boeing took off with the Atlas V carrier rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida and will be in a four-month trial run after entering the track and then into the official service phase.
In the first decades of the space age, the communication and tracking of important tasks was entirely dependent on the ground station. The TDRS project was established in 1973 to provide NASA with a space network for the use of orbiting satellites to allow the ground to continuously track the International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope, launch vehicle, and high data rates with low Earth orbit spacecraft communication.
The first satellite TDRS-1 was launched in 1983, TDRS-M and the other five are the latest in the series, the first of which was launched in 2000. NASA says the TDRS network is a key link for providing scientific and human aerospace data to experts on Earth. The latest TDRS satellites will expand their capabilities and extend the life of the space network, enabling NASA to continue to receive and transmit mission data over the next decade.