My husband and I finished repairing and reinstalling a water-damaged pantry cabinet today. With that in mind, I’m just going to do a quick post about TDRS-L getting put it its own sort of cabinet prior to launch.
TDRS-L is the latest of NASA’s tracking and data relay satellites, which sit in geostationary orbit and provide uninterrupted communications relays for all NASA spacecraft and also for some military customers. They are big, with twin dish antennas to pick up the signals and send them along to the next spacecraft in the constellation or to the ground. Placed around the world on the geosynchronous ring, 22,000 miles up, these are able to assure continuous communications for any spacecraft in Earth orbit without the need for a global network of ground tracking stations. And they are quite beautiful when all packed up for launch, with the twin satellite dishes curled up and folded like the wings of a huge insect.
TDRS-L is the second of the third generation TDRS satellites. Once on orbit, it will be redesignated TDRS-12. Since the first element was launched in 1983, only three spacecraft have been lost; TDRS-1 was decommissioned in 2009, TDRS-4 was decommissioned in 2011, and of course TDRS-B (which would have been TDRS-2) was lost aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. The final element will be TDRS-M, to be launched in 2015.
For more information on the TDRS program, visit the TDRS home page at Goddard Space Flight Center.