Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) will celebrate 30 years since the deployment of the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) on April 4, 1983.
The original concept of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) started in 1975 when the Apollo-Soyuz mission conducted a relay demonstration with the Applications Technology Satellite (ATS)-6 and an antenna outside of Madrid, Spain. The relay demonstration proved successful with over 50% coverage in a single relay. At that time, the entire network could only provide 15% coverage.
The early designs for the Space Network (TDRS would be the space segment of the Space Network) included only two operational spacecraft at 41W (TDRS East) and 171W (TDRS West) and one on-orbit spare. The spacecraft was located in geosynchronous orbit at 22,300 miles above the Earth operating on S- and Ku- bands. The ground segment would be located, as it remains today, in White Sands, New Mexico. With these two spacecraft, tracking and data acquisition coverage increased from 15% to over 85% and the need for numerous ground stations around the world diminished.
As the number of customers for TDRS grew in the 1990's, so did the need for 100% coverage. The Guam Remote Ground Terminal and four more spacecraft were added to the operations in the late 1990's and early 2000's. The second generation TDRS also had Ka-band added to provide coverage for a broader array of missions.
In 2010, after 27 years of service, the groundbreaking TDRS-1 was retired. The spacecraft outlived its original 10 year lifespan and provided services that were thought unimaginable, such as: pole-to-pole phone calls and daily service to the South Pole. TDRS-4 was retired in 2012 after 24 years of service. It too outlived its 10 year lifespan.
After three decades of unsurpassed service, upgrades to the White Sands equipment and TDRS fleet have begun. The first of the third generation spacecraft, TDRS-K, was successfully launched on January 30, 2013; TDRS-L will be ready for launch in early 2014. Once these upgrades are finished in the mid 2010's, the Space Network will have capabilities to provide services to customers well into the 2030's.
› NASA's TDRS Era Began During Challenger's Maiden Voyage
› TDRS-1 Retirement (YouTube Video)
› NASA Retires First Data Relay Satellite after Stellar Career
› NASA Space Network to Begin New Design Phase for Ground Segment
› Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) Mission
› Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS)