Atlas V rocket carrying NASA communications satellite launches

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A United Launch Alliance rocket launched a NASA communications satellite into orbit Friday, completing its 120th consecutive successful mission. Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's TDRS-M satellite lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 8:29 a.m. ET. The network consists of TDRS satellites that transmit data to and from ground stations on Earth for NASA missions and expendable launch vehicles.

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The satellite, TDSRS-M, will make its way to orbit and then add its capabilities to the existing TDRS constellation, which includes nine other satellites. "TDRS-M is going to be critical to the future operation, and the future of the space network", said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for SCaN. "In fact, the TDRS-K and TDRS-L spacecraft, launched by ULA in 2013 and 2014 tracked today's launch" said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Government Satellite Launch. The satellite was repaired, but the mishap set the launch back by about two weeks.

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Boeing conducted spacecraft integration and testing earlier this year at its satellite factory in El Segundo, California. An antenna on the satellite was damaged last month at a processing facility in Titusville, Florida. The TDRS project office at Goddard manages the TDRS development program. This mission will mark the 72nd Atlas V rocket since its inaugural launch in 2002.

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The Atlas V 401 rocket is known as the workhorse of United Launch Alliance's fleet, having previously flown 35 missions.

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