Next generation NASA communications satellite aloft
Atlas 2A lifts off with TDRS satellite
(CNN) -- NASA's most advanced communications satellite roared into space on Friday. The orbiter will provide vital communications links for space shuttles, the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope and other spacecraft.
Once deployed, the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite will become known as TDRS-8. It is the first of three advanced TDRS satellites slated to replenish an existing orbiting fleet, which has provided communications links between spacecraft and ground controllers since 1983.
"The average age of the existing fleet is more than 10 years, which is beyond the mission design lifetime," said Anthony Comberiate, manager of the $395 million TDRS-8 project.
Space agency managers had postponed a scheduled Thursday liftoff to check an engine on the Atlas 2A rocket that carried the satellite into space.
A part on a similar engine experienced an anomaly during a test at a manufacturing facility, a NASA spokesman said. But the rocket that blasted into orbit with the TDRS onboard checked out fine.
The Lockheed Martin rocket lifted off shortly before 9 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral, Florida. A boat in the launch danger zone off the Atlantic coast delayed lift off for 18 minutes.
The U.S. Air Force had issued extensive warnings to prevent watercraft from entering restricted waters where solid rocket boosters or malfunctioning rockets could splash down.
NASA plans to launch the other new TDRS satellites in 2002 and 2003.
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Tracking & Data Relay Satellite Project
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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