TDRS L readied for mid-January launch

By Justin Ray
Spaceflight Now

The next-generation NASA science-relay satellite is being prepped for shrouding in the bullet-shaped nose cone that will shield it during launch Jan. 23.

At the commercial Astrotech processing campus in Titusville, the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite L, or TDRS L, is being readied to join NASA's constellation of communications satellites 22,300 miles above Earth.

The craft will be encapsulated next Wednesday, Jan. 8 and then moved across the river to Cape Canaveral on Monday, Jan. 13 for mating to its Atlas-Centaur rocket.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 will carry the spacecraft on a two-hour flight to geosynchronous transfer orbit, the normal dropoff point for communications satellites. From there, TDRS L will maneuver itself into a circular orbit and undergo months of testing before being declared operational.

TDRS satellites date back to 1983 to establish communications with the space shuttle. The system has grown over the years to provide coverage to the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's low-Earth orbiting satellite fleet and International Space Station.

Liftoff is planned for Jan. 23 at 9:05 p.m. EST.

Photo credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Scriptunas Images

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