The rocket which will launch the TDRS-L satellite into orbit tonight in Florida was moved to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Wednesday. NASA says engineers and technicians then connected the propellant, coolant and data lines used by ground controllers to check the rocket systems before the launch and during the countdown. Prior to the move to the launchpad Wednesday, the TDRS-L satellite had been prepped and placed into a payload fairing at Astrotech Corporation in Titusville. The encapsulated satellite was then moved to the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where it was lifted atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
Preparations at Astrotech
Earlier this month, this writer spoke with Astrotech’s Bret Perkins, who explained that years of planning have gone into tonight’s launch. “We spend years planning for the arrival of the spacecraft [at Astrotech, and once it has arrived] we do some testing on the spacecraft to verify that when it transported it didn’t get damaged…then we go right into fueling the spacecraft – which ends up being close to half its weight – then once the spacecraft is fueled and checked out, the batteries are charged, then it’s ready to go into the fairing. Once we get it into the nose fairing, it will be transported inside the fairing out to the launch pad where there’s already an Atlas booster on the launch stand and [the TDRS-L] will be the last thing added to the top of the rocket…We’ll do integrative testing on the rocket to make sure the spacecraft is talking to the rocket, and all those connections are good, and then we’ll do a few practice countdowns….”
After the launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station tonight, the satellite will join NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, which provides communications between Earth and spacecraft such as the International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope and other NASA orbiting observatories.
The launch tonight is set to take place at 9:05 p.m., though there is also a 40-minute launch window opportunity.
Click here to visit NASA’s TDRS website.
Click here to visit the Astrotech website.
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