Launch of the latest NASA data relay satellite TDRS-M probably will be delayed. Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, manufactured by Boeing, suffered for serious damage during last preparations before encapsulation last Friday.
Launch was planned originally for 3rd August 2017 and was contracted for United Launch Alliance. ULA decided to use their proven Atlas V rocket and launch weighing over 3450 kg satellite from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral. Company planned to use Atlas V in 401 configuration with no boosters, 4 m wide payload fairing and single RL-10 engine installed at Centaur upper stage. Satellite built on Boeing BSS-601HP satellite bus was designed to improve communication between ground control stations, International Space Station and various NASA satellites.
On June 23 satellite was delivered from Boeing’s factory to the Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville. Satellite passed last tests and should be fueled with propellant and to be moved later to SLC-41 for encapsulation. On July 13, satellite was showed to the audience before final assembly and fueling. Unfortunately on July 14 during standard closeout activities one from antennas (Omni-S antenna) of the satellite was seriously damaged. Incident was officially confirmed by NASA but no further details on launch date change were given in the statement.
Omni-S antennas are installed on the bottom of the satellite and are facing to Earth. Their task is to send to Earth telemetry data, tracking and receive commands from ground control centers. Omni-S are one of the smallest from set of different antennas at TDRS-M.
TDRS-M represents third generation of data relay satellites which have been launched by NASA since 1983. It is thirteenth TDRS satellite launched by NASA and third designed and manufactured only by Boeing (previous were result of cooperation between Hughes and Boeing and first seven were designed and manufactured by TRW).