NASA has returned to Boeing [NYSE: BA] for its next-generation series of Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS), continuing the communications satellite line that began with the launch of TDRS H in 2000 and, coupled with Boeing's other work for NASA, spans more than four decades. Valued at $695 million, $1.2 billion if all options are exercised, the contract calls for two spacecraft and increases Boeing's satellite backlog to 27 spacecraft. The TDRS-K satellite will be ready for launch in 2012, and TDRS-L will be ready for launch in 2013.
"This contract includes the design and manufacturing of the TDRS K series satellites as well as upgrades to NASA's TDRS system ground terminals, and builds upon Boeing's long and successful history with NASA," said Howard Chambers, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. "Three Boeing-built TDRS satellites are currently providing critical services to NASA and the nation's space program, and we are committed to delivering satellites that expand the communications relay needs of NASA and its teams. Space-based communications assets are critical to the infrastructure of manned spaceflight systems, and TDRS plays an important role."
The satellites incorporate a modern design based on flight-proven performance. The three previous TDRS satellites were based on Boeing 702-class electronics, which are still the standard for the newest spacecraft Boeing is building today. Additionally, Boeing has modernized the technologies in the payload, power and propulsion subsystems to current state-of-the-art technologies being used in other Boeing-built spacecraft.
Boeing offered the best choice for mission suitability with low risk that will expand the capabilities of NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. This communication signal relay system provides tracking and data acquisition services between Earth-orbiting spacecraft, such as the International Space Station, the space shuttle, the Orion crew exploration vehicle, and their respective control and data processing facilities.
Boeing has teamed with General Dynamics, which will update and modify the existing TDRS system ground terminals, located near Las Cruces, N.M. The ground terminals, known as the White Sands Complex, are the primary two-way communications link between the TDRS satellites and the ground-based elements of the TDRS system communications network.