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NASA Communication Satellite Damaged Weeks Before Atlas V Launch

17 July 2017, 10:08 pm EDT By Allan Adamson Tech Times
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The antenna of NASA's TDRS-M communication satellite was damaged while it was being packed for launch. The accident may cause changes in the timeline of the mission set for launch on Aug. 3.

  ( Boeing | NASA )

NASA's Tracking Data Relay Satellite, or TDRS-M, was supposed to launch into space aboard United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug. 3.

TDRS-M Antenna Damaged Three Weeks Before Satellite's Launch

An incident that occurred on Friday, July 14, however, damaged an antenna on the next -generation communication satellite.

A statement from NASA released on Saturday, July 15, said that the accident happened inside a payload processing building near Cape Canaveral while the satellite was being packed for its scheduled launch.

A day prior to the incident, NASA said that the Atlas V rocket is already being prepared at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 weeks before its scheduled flight.

"The first-stage booster was transported to the launch complex and lifted into position yesterday," NASA said on July 13. "The Centaur upper stage will be installed today atop the first stage."

Officials have not provided further details but the mishap may delay the launch. NASA said that the mission team is conducting assessments of the damage and the launch schedule.

It is not yet clear if the incident will change the mission timeline but a 40-minute window for launch of the satellite aboard Atlas V rocket is scheduled to open at 9:02 a.m. on Aug. 3.

"The mission team is developing a plan to assess flight acceptance and the schedule forward. These additional activities are under evaluation for a planned TDRS-M launch Aug. 3, 2017, on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida," NASA said in a statement.

TDRS-M's Role In Space Missions

The TDRS-M was designed, built, and tested at Boeing's satellite development center in El Segundo, California.

Adding TDRS-M to the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System fleet will provide NASA's Space Network (SN) the capability to support space communication for another 15 years.

The U.S. space agency uses TDRS satellites to provide communication links between spacecraft that are in orbit, which include the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station, and ground controllers.

"The Space Network is critical to numerous NASA missions that are fundamentally changing the way we think about science," said TDRS development manager Bill Marinelli, of NASA's Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program office.

"By expanding the fleet of satellites that support communications from these missions, TDRS-M will enable NASA to continue scientific exploration and discovery for years to come."

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