NASA’s First TDRS Satellite Retires After 27 Years

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NASA’s first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS), launched in April 1983 aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger’s maiden voyage, was shut down June 27, marking the end of its 27 years of service.

TDRS-1, built by a division of TRW since acquired by Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp., worked with eight additional satellites to facilitate communications with near-Earth orbiting spacecraft, including the space shuttle. TDRS-1 eliminated a dead zone over the Indian Ocean where previously there was no communication, providing full coverage for the space shuttle and other low Earth orbiting satellites, NASA said in a release announcing the spacecraft’s retirement from service.

NASA reassigned TDRS-1 in 1998 to support the National Science Program’s Antarctic research program.

“TDRS-1 paved the way for this incredible space communications system,” Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for space operations, said in a statement. “The remaining TDRS satellites, and the new satellites that will be online within three years, will carry on these critical capabilities for many NASA missions, including science and human space flight.”

The first six TDRS satellites were built by TRW. The next three were built by Boeing Defense, Space & Security. In 2007, NASA awarded Boeing a $695 million contract to build two new TDRS satellites slated to launch by 2013.

TDRS-1 arrived at its final destination approximately 36,000 kilometers above the Earth on June 13. NASA shut down the satellite June 27 after stabilizing its orbit and depleting its remaining fuel.