May 28, 2018
Jennifer Donaldson, Gregory Heckler, Cheryl Gramling, Benjamin Ashman, Marco Toral, Christopher Carson, Jeremy Lyon

In the summer of 2017, the third and final spacecraft of the 3rd generation of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from Complex 41 on the Eastern Test Range. Finishing final testing and integration in the first quarter of 2018, the TDRS-M communication and navigation satellite completes a constellation that began service in the early 1980s. The 3rd generation of spacecraft, TDRS-K, L, and M, not only provided beneficial systems engineering lessons in handling anomalous Radio Frequency and Doppler interference as well as integrating new spacecraft into an aging ground support infrastructure, but also supplies NASA with a valuable test bed for new operational concepts and technologies useful in defining the future architecture of the NASA Space Network. This paper presents an overview of the TDRS-K, L, and M missions, including transfer orbit, Level 5 bus and payload testing, and finally NASA-led Level 6 testing, which includes active TDRS System (TDRSS) users. Highlights include relevant testing results, commissioning challenges, and lessons learned. The final discussion includes a brief overview of future NASA communication and navigation technologies and network architectures.