data relay satellite system

1983 - Aboard OV-099 Challenger, Astronauts Story Musgrave and Don Peterson perform the shuttle program’s first EVA during mission STS-6. One can see clearly the hand-holds integrated into the payload bay for Astronauts to utilize on spacewalks. 

STS-6 was Challenger’s maiden flight, launching 3 days earlier on April 4th. The first Tracking and Data Relay System satellite (TDRS) was also deployed during STS-6.

Tracking and Data Relay Satellite ready for launch from Cape Canaveral

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-L) spacecraft on board arrives at the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 41. Liftoff is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 23 at 9:05 p.m. EST, the opening of a 40-minute launch window. Live coverage on NASA TV begins at 6:30 p.m.

The TDRS-L spacecraft is the second of three new satellites designed to ensure vital operational continuity for NASA by expanding the lifespan of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) fleet, which consists of eight satellites in geosynchronous orbit. The spacecraft provide tracking, telemetry, command and high bandwidth data return services for numerous science and human exploration missions orbiting Earth. These include NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station. TDRS-L has a high-performance solar panel designed for more spacecraft power to meet the growing S-band communications requirements. TDRSS is one of NASA’s three Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) networks providing space communications to NASA missions.

Image credit: NASA/Daniel Casper