Our Mission

The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) project is responsible for defining the spacecraft’s functional, operational and performance requirements, and overall management of spacecraft development and ground system upgrades at White Sands Complex in New Mexico.

After the project approves the contractor’s satellite and ground system design, the contractor proceeds with fabrication and assembly, proceeding to the point at which each unit or component is environmentally tested before integration onto the bus or payload modules. Once spacecraft integration is complete, additional environmental testing is conducted to ensure it can survive launch and the environment of space before shipping to the launch site. The whole project team supports launch and on-orbit testing before handing the spacecraft over to the Space Network for operations.

History

The concept behind the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) was born out of NASA's effort to rely less on international ground stations and create long-duration and widely available space communication coverage. Using ground-based communications systems, spacecraft could only connect with antennas on Earth for about 15 minutes per connection, at set times in their orbits. A space-based network provides continuous communications services and increases the amount of data that can be received from NASA's critical low-Earth-orbiting missions. Read more

Technology

The third generation of TDRS spacecraft will improve the constellation’s ability to support higher data volumes and increase transmission rates. The project team also made changes to the third generation to allow greater flexibility in coverage, including the ability to tailor services for each customer.  These improvements were critical to keeping pace with the evolving capabilities of user spacecraft.

TDRS Background
Continuing the critical lifeline of space-based communications systems.