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how TDRS allows humanity access to the universe


This week I am traveling to cape canaveral to watch a launch of the TDRS satellite. I can't tell you how excited I am to have been selected by NASA to attend. The TDRS satellite system is how we communicate with space vehicles out in space. The system acts as a liaison between earth and virtually every space vehicle (satellite or otherwise). It essentially works by relaying the signals sent by space vehicles back to earth by providing a continuous link for the spacecrafts to use. You can think of it like a space phone operator. No matter where you are in the world, you can always pick up the phone and call "0" and an operator will help you phone home (provided you speak the same language). The TDRS system works the same way but for spacecraft. All a space vehicle has to do is dial TDRS and tell TDRS who it wants to talk to and TDRS does the rest. Or for my more technically inclined readers, what TDRS does is provide "line of sight" for spacecraft.  In order for communication systems to work they must have "line of sight" , meaning that both devices must "see" each other in order to communicate. So because the TDRS systems has multiple satellites in various orbits around the earth, it provides a virtual net that allows any object in space to have "line of sight" with at least one TDRS satellite. I learned about the program during my research on the challenger film. It turns out the Space Shuttle Challenger was chosen to deliver the first two TDRS satellites into orbit. The first satellite was delivered successfully but the second was destroyed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. More on the TDRS program here. I am honored to have been chosen by NASA to see the launch this week and can't wait to be apart of it. I know it will inform my writing and allow me to check an item off my bucket list.

TDRS ground station: These dishes communicate with the TDRS satellites.

TDRS ground station: These dishes communicate with the TDRS satellites.