NASA targeting Aug. 20 for Atlas V launch of damaged TDRS-M satellite

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A NASA communications satellite damaged during final preparations earlier this month has received a new date for launch on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The United Launch Alliance rocket will take NASA’s final Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, labeled TDRS-M, to orbit on August 20 from Launch Complex 41 during a 40-minute window that opens at 7:56 a.m.

The mission was originally scheduled for the morning of August 3 before the spacecraft sustained antenna damage on July 14 at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville. The $408 million Boeing-built TDRS-M was fueled and in the upright position when a crane operation caused damage to the Omni S-Band antenna, a NASA official said Monday.

“We had a little challenge there with a crane operation, so we have to do a remove and replace for an omni antenna,” said Greg Williams, of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, during a NASA Advisory Council conference call.

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The replacement operation was scheduled for Monday.

A second issue, likely caused by an electrostatic discharge at the launch site, was being evaluated on July 20, according to NASA, and involved mechanical ground support equipment.

The TDRS network, operated by NASA, supports space communications to and from the ground for missions and launch vehicles. It provides scientists, engineers and managers with a link to spacecraft such as the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope.

The last TDRS mission, named TDRS-L, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on an Atlas V rocket in January 2014.

TDRS-M will be ULA’s first mission since an Atlas V rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in April with an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft bound for the International Space Station with supplies and science experiments.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter at @EmreKelly and on Facebook at Emre Kelly.

 

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