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NASA launches last of its longtime tracking satellites

NASA launches last of its longtime tracking satellites
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NASA launched a new satellite on Friday morning, aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral. The launch occurred at just before 8:30 AM ET, after a brief delay from its original planned launch due to a minor technical issue with the booster that was promptly corrected by the launch team.
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NASA launches satellite to relay data from Hubble, ISS and other spacecraft
Posted 2 hours ago by Darrell Etherington (@etherington)

NASA launched a new satellite on Friday morning, aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral. The launch occurred at just before 8:30 AM ET, after a brief delay from its original planned launch due to a minor technical issue with the booster that was promptly corrected by the launch team.

The satellite, TDSRS-M, will make its way to orbit and then add its capabilities to the existing TDRS constellation, which includes nine other satellites. The role of these geosynchronous spacecraft is to provide data back to Earth from the Hubble space telescope, the International Space Station, and a range of other spacecraft set out on exploratory missions in relatively close proximity to Earth. The expanding constellation is now better able to provide a near-continuous stream of data from those craft to Earth-based research and observation facilities.
NASA has been launching TDRS satellites since 1983. The 22,300-mile-high constellation links ground controllers with the International Space Station and other low-orbiting craft including Hubble.

"It's like our baby," said NASA's Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation.

"People have invested their soul and their sweat into making it happen" over the decades, Younes said on the eve of launch. "This spacecraft has served us so well."

This latest flight from Cape Canaveral was delayed two weeks after a crane hit one of the satellite's antennas last month. Satellite maker Boeing replaced the damaged antenna and took corrective action to prevent future accidents. Worker error was blamed.

The rocket and satellite cost $540 million.

Once the countdown finally reached zero, the 191-foot (58-meter) tall Atlas V, which was in the 401 configuration (four-meter fairing, zero solid rocket boosters, and a single engine Centaur upper stage), rose into the Florida skies away from Space Launch Complex 41 atop a column of flame produced by the first stage’s RD-180 engine.
Space shuttles hoisted the first-generation TDRS satellites. The second in the series was aboard Challenger's doomed flight in 1986. It was the only loss in the entire TDRS series.
TDRS-M is third generation. NASA's next-generation tracking network will rely on lasers.

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