NASA on 31 January 2013 launched a new communication satellite to stay in touch with its space station astronauts and relay more Hubble telescope images. An unmanned Atlas V rocket blasted into the starry night sky carrying the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) from Cape Canaveral. This is the 11th TDRS satellite to be launched by NASA. The space agency uses the orbiting network to communicate with astronauts living on the International Space Station. The first TDRS spacecraft flew in 1983.
This newest third-generation TDRS carries the letter K designation. Once it begins working, it will become TDRS-11. It will take two weeks for the satellite to reach its intended 22300-mile-high orbit. Testing will last a few months. NASA estimates the satellite costs between 350 and 400 million US Dollars. Another TDRS spacecraft, L in the series, will be launched in 2014.