Spaceflight Insider

TDRS-L transported to SLC-41 in preparation for Jan. 23 Launch

The TDRS-L spacecraft started the last leg of its land journey a little before 2 a.m. EST. Today's move was one of the final steps on the road to launch. Photo Credit: Jacques van Oene / SpaceFlight Insider

The Tracking and Data Relay satellite L (TDRS-L) took a small step today, Monday, Jan. 13 toward a launch date later this month atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. The spacecraft, ensconced in its protective fairing, was moved from where it was processed, at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility located in Titusville, Florida – the Vertical Integration Facility or “VIF” adjacent from SLC-41.

This morning’s activities began in the very-early morning hours with the spacecraft beginning to move at 1:52 a.m. local time. The distance between the Astrotech facilities and SLC-41 is about 12 miles, however the spacecraft is moved very slowly with the journey taking several hours to complete, arriving at the VIF at 5:19 a.m. EST.

Technicians out at the VIF worked quickly and before long TDRS-L was atop the Atlas V launch vehicle by 9:55 a.m. EST. Throughout the day, these engineers worked to establish connections between the satellite and the rocket. Next steps include an integrated test, electrical tests to ensure that both spacecraft and launch vehicle are communicating with one another.

ULA and NASA continue to work toward adding TDRS-L to the constellation of TDRS spacecraft on Jan. 23. If all goes according to plan, TDRS-L will ride the venerable Atlas V launch vehicle aloft at 9:05 p.m. EST that day. ULA has a 40 minute launch window in which to get TDRS-L off the ground and into the sky. Once in geosynchronous orbit, TDRS-L will become known as TDRS-12. This series of communications satellites celebrated its thirtieth year of operations in 2013; the first TDRS satellite (TDRS-1) was deployed during STS-6 on space shuttle Challenger’s first mission, in April 1983.

It took several hours to get the encapsulated spacecraft to CCAFS' Horizontal Integration Facility. Photo Credit: Jacques van Oene / SpaceFlight Insider

It took several hours to get the encapsulated spacecraft to CCAFS’ Vertical Integration Facility. Photo Credit: Jacques van Oene / SpaceFlight Insider

 

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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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