The first of three Hughes-built new generation NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) was launched from Cape Canaveral aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Atlas 2A booster on 30 June. The launch of the TDRS-H satellite was the first of two ILS launches in 24h. The second was a Proton DM carrying a Sirius satellite.

The TDRS fleet provides communications capacity to Space Shuttles in orbit, the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as classified National Reconnaissance Office satellites. Communications are via high-speed, two-way S, Ku and a new Ka-band system.

The TDRS I and J satellites will be launched in 2002 and 2003, respectively. The new TDRS series feature improved multiple access performance. Design features also include a pair of 4.57m (15ft)-diameter carbonfibre mesh reflectors, which furl for launch and spring back to their original shape once in orbit.

From 10 July, orbit raising manoeuvres were used to boost the spacecraft to a geosynchronous orbit, where TDRS-H will be designated TDRS-8. It will undergo acceptance testing at 151°W.

Source: Flight International