NASA, Industry to Collaborate on Space Communications by 2025

An artist rendering of a NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) in orbit. TDRS provides a vital communications link between ground facilities and the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope and a host of Earth science satellites. The agency would decommission TDRS to enable commercial providers to support future near-Earth communication mission requirements. (Credits: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — NASA selected six American satellite communications (SATCOM) providers on April 20 to begin developing and demonstrating near-Earth space communication services that may support future agency missions.

For more than a year, the agency has been evaluating the feasibility of employing commercial SATCOM networks for near-Earth operations as it works to decommission its near-Earth satellite fleet. This approach would allow NASA to focus more time and resources on its deep space exploration and science missions.

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New Ground Station Brings Laser Communications Closer To Reality

Illustration of the LCRD payload transmitting an optical signal to OGS-2 in Haleakala, Hawaii. (Credit: NASA)

by Matthew D. Peters
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Optical communications, transmitting data using infrared lasers, has the potential to help NASA return more data to Earth than ever. The benefits of this technology to exploration and Earth science missions are huge. In support of a mission to demonstrate this technology, NASA recently completed installing its newest optical ground station in Haleakala, Hawaii.

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ULA Chalks Up Another Successful Atlas V Launch

Atlas V launches a TDRS spacecraft into orbit. (Credit: ULA)
Atlas V launches a TDRS spacecraft into orbit. (Credit: ULA)

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Jan. 23, 2014 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully launched NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-L) payload at 9:33 p.m. EST today from Space Launch Complex-41. This was the first of 15 ULA launches scheduled for 2014 and the 78th ULA launch for ULA in just over seven years.

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Atlas V to Launch TDRS Spacecraft This Evening

 NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, or TDRS-L, spacecraft is moved into position for mating atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 41. (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)
NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, or TDRS-L, spacecraft is moved into position for mating atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 41. (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

The next element in the communications network that links NASA’s ground controllers to orbiting spacecraft is ready for launch Jan. 23 following several weeks of preparations.

TDRS-L will become the 11th member of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System orbiting Earth following its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Liftoff is scheduled for Jan. 23 during a launch window that opens at 9:05 p.m. EST.

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