Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NASA retires 'queen' of tracking satellite fleet


More than a quarter-century after a hard-luck launch aboard the shuttle Challenger, the pioneer of NASA's constellation of tracking and communications satellites is being retired from service.

Named TDRS 1, the satellite's last traveling wave tube amplifier recently failed, rendering the craft unable to support most of its users' Ku-band data relay and telemetry needs, according to Roger Flaherty, the Space Network project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

"We are going to relocate TDRS 1 and that relocation process will start on or about the 21st of October," Flaherty said.

TDRS 1 is currently located in a geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles above Earth. At that altitude, satellites' orbits match the speed of Earth's rotation, causing spacecraft to hover over a specific geographic region.

Now positioned at 49 degrees west longitude, TDRS 1 will soon be moved to a nearby temporary slot for final decommissioning activities, according to NASA.

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