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TDRS-K Ready for Flight
The first spacecraft in the next generation of space communications is ready to take its place in NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, or TDRS.
The nearly 4,000-pound TDRS-K satellite will join several predecessors that provide communications between Earth and the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope and many satellites.
A powerful, two-stage Atlas V rocket, built by United Launch Alliance, will deliver TDRS-K into geosynchronous orbit more than 22 thousand miles above Earth's surface.
The rocket's Centaur upper stage arrived at Florida's Port Canaveral in October 2012 aboard ULA's Delta Mariner barge.
From there it was transported a few miles north, to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Less than one month later, a massive Ukrainian Antonov-124 aircraft delivered the rocket's first stage, which then joined the upper stage in the operations center.
In December, the TDRS-K satellite arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center inside an Air Force C-17 aircraft.
The spacecraft was taken to the Astrotech payload processing facility in nearby Titusville, where it was unpacked to start final prelaunch testing and preparations.
As 2013 began, the first stage of the Atlas V rocket was raised to vertical in the Vehicle Integration Facility near Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 41.
Shortly after, the Centaur upper stage was lifted into position and attached to the first stage.
The TDRS-K satellite was encapsulated in its protective payload fairing on Jan. 16.
Long before sunrise on Jan. 20, the payload departed Astrotech for the ride to Space Launch Complex 41, where it was secured to the waiting Atlas V.
Now launch is close at hand . . . and soon TDRS-K will begin its mission, ensuring the critical lifeline of space to ground communications support will be available for years to come.
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