On 30 January an Atlas V successfully launched a NASA data relay satellite from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The satellite has reached its target orbit and its controllers have confirmed good signal reception.
The Atlas V flew in 401 configuration, with a 4m payload fairing, no solid-fuel rocket boosters and a single RL-10A-4 engine in the upper stage. The launch marks the 35th for the Atlas V, and the 14th for the 401 configuration.
The next Atlas V launch is scheduled for 11 February from Vandenberg AFB, California.
The Boeing-built Tracking Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-K) is the first of three third-generation data relay satellites, which are used to eliminate blank spots from NASA's data relay capabilities. Before the TDRS constellation, NASA relied on ground stations scattered throughout the world, which are unable to communicate with all orbiting satellites around the clock.
TDRS-L is scheduled for launch in 2014, and TDRS-M in 2015.
Source: Flight International