NASA and United Launch Alliance Prepare to Launch Atlas Rocket

  • Jan 23, 2014 3:50pm GMT

NASA and United Launch Alliance are making final preparations to launch an Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite L (TDRS-L) at 9:05 p.m. EST from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

TDRS-L will become the 11th member of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System orbiting Earth.

The constellation of satellites orbiting Earth at 22,300 miles revolutionized communications for the nation's space agency by allowing nearly continuous transmission of information during a mission. Before the TDRS network was established, NASA relied on a patchwork of ground stations based around the world to stitch together coverage zones. Astronauts and Earth-orbiting scientific spacecraft would relay messages only when they passed over or near one of the ground stations.

Working in conjunction with the other TDRS satellites, TDRS-L will convey signals, information and commands from ground controllers to the International Space Station and NASA's diverse assortment of scientific satellites including the Hubble Space Telescope.

"The TDRS constellation brings back all of the data and video that we see every day from the International Space Station," said Tim Dunn, NASA launch director. "TDRS also supports all of the data from the Hubble Space Telescope and all of our low Earth orbit NASA science missions."

The latest TDRS spacecraft is identical to one launched a year ago, TDRS-K. Both are the third generation of TDRS spacecraft and are part of a replenishment program for NASA's Space Network overseen at the agency's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland.

Live coverage of the launch will be carried on NASA TV.