Upgrade for data relay satellite

The nation's civilian space agency has put in place its technology upgrade strategy for the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRS) through 2013, assuring the future of communications links among NASA's ground controllers and various earth-orbiting spacecraft.

NASA's technology development path for the orbital data system calls for the launch of two new satellites, the TDRS-K in 2012 and the TDRS-L in 2013, systems integrator Boeing said.

The upgraded TDRS will provide tracking and data communication services to orbiting craft such as the International Space Station, the space shuttle, the Orion crew exploration vehicle, and their respective control and data processing facilities.

The technology upgrade also calls for modifications to the ground terminals located at the White Sands Complex, which provide the main two-way communications links to the TDRS birds, Boeing said. Boeing will rely on team partner General Dynamics to modernize the facility, which is located near Las Cruces, N.M.

Three existing TDRS satellites, also built by Boeing, now provide bandwidth for use by the manned orbiting spacecraft, the company said. This latest contract between NASA and Boeing carries a value of $695 million or $1.2 billion if the agency exercises all options.

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