Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System offers upgrade to vital communications net

Date:
January 27, 2013
Source:
NASA
Summary:
NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, also known as the Space Network, will get an upgrade this month when the agency launches the first of a new generation of communications satellites to connect man of NASA's spacecraft to their control centers and mission data centers.

The TDRS-K spacecraft stands inside a processing hangar in Titusville, Fla., awaiting packaging for launch into orbit 22,300 miles above Earth.
Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, also known as the Space Network, will get an upgrade this month when the agency launches the first of a new generation of communications satellites to connect man of NASA's spacecraft to their control centers and mission data centers.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 is due to loft the TDRS-K spacecraft Jan. 29 on a course to geosynchronous orbit where the spacecraft will have a wide view of Earth. From that position, the spacecraft will provide communications with NASA's fleet of Earth-orbiting science spacecraft, including the International Space Station and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The advanced spacecraft, known as TDRS, is needed to ensure the communications network is able to provide critical services to user spacecraft in the next decade.

"We have some aging satellites, so we need new spacecraft to go in there and help carry more of the data," said Diana Calero, mission manager for NASA's Launch Services Program, or LSP, based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The processing for this mission included the standard in-depth reviews but also took into account extra engineering sessions to investigate whether the underperformance of an upper stage engine during an earlier, non-NASA launch would occur during the TDRS ascent, said Tim Dunn, NASA launch director. The Centaur upper stage used by the Atlas V uses an engine similar to the one that underperformed during a Delta IV launch last year.

"Our engineers and analysts from the Launch Services Program, working alongside the United Launch Alliance engineers, we've been methodically reviewing data and working very closely on flight clearance for the TDRS-K mission, so that's been our biggest challenge to date," Dunn said.

The TDRS spacecraft is large and looked impressive as it stood with its large steerable antennas folded over top of each other inside a processing hangar at Astrotech in Titusville, Fla. The spacecraft, built by The Boeing Company in El Segundo, Calif., arrived in Florida on Dec. 18 on an Air Force C-17 transport plane. Following testing, fueling and launch preparations, it was positioned inside a two-part payload fairing and taken to Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Onboard thrusters will provide the final propulsion to reach geosynchronous orbit following separation from the Centaur upper stage.

"The antennas are furled and they have a certain amount of days that they can stay furled," Calero said. "If they pass that, then the antennas, when they're deployed, they can actually degrade in space and so we have to play close attention to how long they stay furled. So it was really challenging trying to schedule the shipping of the spacecraft with the moving launch date. We're still watching it very closely."

TDRS-K will be the 11th TDRS launched by NASA since it began building the space-borne network in 1983. The most recent spacecraft launched in 2002 on an Atlas IIA.

Orbiting about 22,300 miles above Earth, positioned roughly over Hawaii, TDRS-K will use its antennas to receive and transmit signals from a wide range of spacecraft to Earth in several frequency bands.

Even rockets carrying spacecraft carry TDRS-compatible communications gear and transmit telemetry during ascent through the orbiting network instead of ground stations, an advancement that saves money by not having to field specialized aircraft and ships or maintain a string of remote stations to monitor a launch.

The number of TDRS satellites required to serve NASA's orbiting fleet of scientific spacecraft has grown from the original architecture of two to six to service the requirements of a diverse set of users.

"All the Hubble images come through TDRS, all the video that we see from the space station and the astronauts and the video we saw from the shuttle, it all comes through TDRS, and then we have all the Earth-orbiting satellites, all that data comes through TDRS," said Paul Buchanan, deputy project manager for TDRS.

The communications constellation replaced the ground stations positioned on Earth so NASA could communicate with astronauts in orbit. That system allowed contact only when the spacecraft passed within range of the antennas, however. With TDRS satellites in place, controllers have near-constant contact with spacecraft.

"If you roll back in history maybe 30, 40 years, back in Mercury days and Apollo there were no TDRS satellites for communication so you had outages between the ground stations," Buchanan said. "We didn't want the outages, we wanted continuous (communications), so that's what motivated the desire for the Space Network."

"We've had to decommission two spacecraft in the last few years due to the electronics degradation after 20, 25 years," Buchanan said. "We're launching now for an immediate need and replenishment schedule."

When their service life is up, the TDRS satellites are boosted about 250 miles higher into what's called a disposal orbit.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA. "NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System offers upgrade to vital communications net." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130127102835.htm>.
NASA. (2013, January 27). NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System offers upgrade to vital communications net. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130127102835.htm
NASA. "NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System offers upgrade to vital communications net." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130127102835.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) Chinese researchers have expanded on Cold War-era tech and are closer to building a submarine that could reach the speed of sound. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) An acute coal shortage is likely to be aggravated as India's supreme court declared government coal allocations illegal, says Breakingviews' Peter Thal Larsen. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins