“The Space Network is important, not only to NASA. It’s a national asset,” said Badri Younes, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN).
The 3,500-kg (7,700-lb.) TDRS-K was designed for a 15-year lifetime.
After the acceptance period, NASA plans to reposition TDRS-K to 171 deg. W. Long. for another two to three months of initial operations with active spacecraft that will set the stage for a decision on whether to keep the new satellite active or designate it as an on orbit spare, Gramling says.
Of the 10 first- and second-generation TDRS spacecraft launched since 1983, two were retired in mid-2010 and early 2012. The second TDRS satellite, nestled aboard the shuttle Challenger, was lost when the winged ship broke apart following liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986.
The TDRS-K launch marked the 35th flight of the ULA Atlas V, and the first of 13 missions planned for 2013 by the seven-year-old Boeing/Lockheed joint venture, according to Vernon Thorp, ULA’s program manager for NASA missions.